Utah poverty up, wages down

Posted at 5:41 PM, Sep 12, 2012
and last updated 2012-09-13 13:33:04-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- The U.S. Census Bureau has confirmed what Utah non-profit agencies have experienced on the ground: an increasing number of Utah families are suffering in poverty, creating a domino effect at every level of social service agency need.

"Over the last five years we've had a 260 percent increase in families," Celeste Eggert of the Road Home Shelter in Salt Lake City said. "Just this past July we had 92 new families move into shelter in a single month and that's the highest number of new families we've ever had move into the shelter before."

The U.S. Census Bureau's statistics show Utah's median household income has dropped about $1,200 from 2010 to 2011. Median income for Utah households is down about $7,000 from it's high in 2008.

The national rate edged up about $700 dollars in the past year.

Nationally, poverty rates also held steady at about 15% while Utah's poverty rate continues to rise. It rose from 10% to 11% from 2010 to 2011. In 2008, Utah's poverty rate was 7.6%.

The Utah Food Bank serves all 29 Utah Counties, seeing similar, and sometimes more severe trends in different areas of the state.

We also see areas that are a surprise to other folks," said Ginette Bott of the Utah Food Bank, "Washington County for example. We have recently seen a high number of homeless children in Washington county going to public school."

The Food Bank has a low inventory, but they planned ahead, having experienced a similar spike in need last year. They report that summer months are more difficult because children eat breakfast and lunch at home instead of at school.

"The Road Home's unprecedented numbers are leading to a possible unprecedented action: "This year we're actually looking at opening the emergency shelter on October first, solely because of the increase in families we're seeing at this time," said Eggert.