Census data says increasing number of single mothers in Utah living below the poverty line

Posted at 10:08 PM, Dec 03, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-04 09:12:52-05

RIVERTON, Utah -- Tamara Kay Nelson of Riverton had always been a stay-at-home mom, but a recent divorce pushed her back into the work force so that she can support her three kids.

“It’s kind of like two full-time jobs,” Nelson said.

Annie O’Connor of Sandy is facing the same struggle after her divorce as she tries to make ends meet and plan ahead for the future of her 10-year-old son, Franklin.

“It’s hard to find work with the kind of hours that I can actually work. Daycare. It’s just a lot of stress; A lot to put on one parent,” O’Connor said.

According to the latest census numbers, more single mothers like Nelson and O’Connor are falling below the poverty line in Utah. As Deputy Director for Voices of Utah Children, Terry Haven analyzes these numbers closely.

“You're looking at almost a 40 percent poverty rate, and if you look at those households with just children under five, it raises to almost 50 percent,” Haven said.

Even though the numbers are increasing from year to year, the data shows single mothers in Utah are doing better than single mothers nationwide, which is a hopeful sign for Haven.

“What it does is tell me it’s not an insurmountable problem," Haven said. "Unlike other states where the poverty rates are off the chart, our poverty rates, we can do something about them."

Something is already being done thanks to programs like People Helping People. Both Nelson and O’Connor are taking advantage of their one-on-one coaching sessions, where they get resume feedback and access to resources, which can help them land a stable job.

“Just to be able to stand on my own two feet by myself,” Nelson said.

And help them to feel hopeful about their future.

“I see a lot of potential,” O’Connor said.

Lawmakers are also considering some solutions, such as a state-earned income tax for working families and a bill that would provide more funding for public preschool services.

If you are interested in seeing what People Helping People has to offer, there will be an open workshop on Saturday December 5 at the Salt Lake office, which is located at 205 North 400 West.