Arizona child poverty rates edging downward

Program that supports the high school graduation and continued success of homeless youth. Briana Otanez/ Arizona Sonoran News

Albert Alan lived in poverty as a teenager. This past May 2017 graduated with three degrees from the University of Arizona.

Alan knew that education was his honorable way out of destitution.

Alan is now a medical student at UA with hopes his medical degree will allow him to be voice of the undeserved.

“When I was homeless I had no access to healthcare. I saw first hand the dark side of America and knew that America was better then this,” said Alan.

Alan, a Latino, is just one of millions nationally who experienced homelessness as a child. Eighty-six percent of children living in poverty are minorities.

Students visit the “mini-mall” that provides basic needs such as food, clothing, and school supplies. Briana Otanez/ Arizona Sonoran News

African American 22 percent, Asian American 13 percent, Latino 24 percent, Native American 33 percent, White 14 percent.

About 15 million, one out of five, of children in the United States live below the federal poverty threshold, according to the NCCP, National Center for Children in Poverty.

As of 2016 almost one out of four children, or 176,000, in Arizona live in extreme poverty according to The Arizona Community Action Association (ACAA) and The Coalition on Human Needs.

Regardless of having a rapid decrease in poverty over the last two years Arizona continues to have one of the highest national poverty rankings, according to U.S Census Bureau data.

Arizona is ranked 43rd among the 50 states for child poverty. Arkansas, Kentucky, Alabama, and West Virginia follow not too far behind.

It is becoming more difficult to reach those living in extreme poverty to work with and help overcome it. Increased time spent in poverty lowers their chances of exiting poverty.

The situations in how a child reaches poverty are never identical but the circumstances may have the same outcome. Situations such as a single parent home, a large family with three or more children, or living with someone who has a disability are all scenarios in which a child can merge into a life in poverty poverty.

More then 62,000 children throughout Arizona find themselves displaced and unaccompanied every year. Briana Otanez/ Arizona Sonoran News

The American Physiological Association states that poverty is connected with negative conditions such as poor academic achievement, school dropout rates increasing, abuse and neglect, behavioral and emotional problems, physical health problems, and developmental delays.

The ACAA is advocating, educating, and partnering to prevent and alleviate poverty. It holds a series of workshops that address about the root causes of poverty and to help people escape it.

Celeste Plumlee, director or community education, began managing these workshops given for community groups, non-profit organizations’ and government agencies throughout Arizona.

“There are many programs throughout the country that are designed to give people resources to help them step out of poverty, but the Poverty and Justice Program is more helping people in the community understand the systematic origins of poverty and what we might do as a society to allow people to live with dignity and the resources they need,” said Plumee.

“The intention is to help people understand the experience of poverty and the necessary steps to take as a community in order to end it,” said Plumlee.

One of their programs, Poverty and Justice Project, connects families who are passionate about social justice and solving the problem leading towards poverty.

Now Alan is able to help people who are in the same position he was once in. He works with community food banks to help donors give more time and help to undeserving people across Arizona.

“I’m trying to do what UA has done for me,” said Alan.

Briana Otanez is a reporter for the Arizona Sonoran News, a service from the School of Journalism with the University of Arizona. Contact at 

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