On my way home I needed to pick up some items and dashed in a liquor store and about half way through I found myself crying! A homeless man asked me what the problem was and I said, “They are going to pull the plug on my dad tomorrow and I can’t even contact the doctor to talk to him about it!” The homeless man, said “Oh, you need to call 211, they will help you.”
And I said “They can’t possibly help me with this.” The homeless man said “Oh yes, they help with just about everything!” So the next morning I called 211 and someone on the line said they would help me. He called somewhere on my behalf with me and right after that the doctor called and we made a plan for my dad to recover…he is 81 years old now, in a wheelchair, but I have my dad… and I have 211 to thank.
Kids hit hard in recent economic downturn
Inland Valley Daily Bulletin
By Mediha Fejzagic DiMartino, Staff Writer
The number of children in San Bernardino County who live in poverty is on the rise, according to 2011 Kids Count Data Book, released today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
In 2009, 24 percent of children lived in families with incomes below the federal poverty line -- up from 16 percent in 2007.
"This problem, for most part, is invisible," said Gary Madden, a director of 211 San Bernardino County, a 24/7 call center with a database of thousands of resources in the county offered free or at low cost. "Most of these people are not the under-the-bridge-homeless. These kids are still going to school, parents struggling. They are the invisible ones who need help."
Los Angeles County and state figures also show an increase, but a less dramatic one -- state poverty levels jumped from 17 percent to 20 percent, while county's figures rose from 21 percent to 23 percent.
The Kids Count data confirmed what Lindsee Ellison, a help desk coordinator for Foothill Family Shelter, has experienced on a day-to-day basis.
"We've seen a 200 to 300 percent increase in families just walking in to get food and diapers," Ellison said. "A lot of people lost their jobs, their homes went into foreclosure or they were renting a place that went into foreclosure."
In October 2008, the number of people the shelter assisted was 180. A little more than a year later, 626 people asked for help from the agency which serves Upland, Ontario, Pomona, Montclair, Claremont and Rancho Cucamonga.
"It was unbelievable," Ellison said. "Thankfully it was the holiday season so we got a lot of donations, too."
The Data Book also showed that in 2009 a third of children in the state -- 3.2 million -- lived in families with no parent with full-time, year-round employment.
Last year, an estimated 1.2 million or 13 percent of children in the state were living in households where at least one parent was unemployed, and nearly 1 million or 7 percent had been impacted by foreclosure since 2007.
National figures show that in 2010, 11 percent of children had at least one parent that was unemployed and about 4 percent of them had been affected by foreclosure since 2007.
The cause of a such rapid increase in San Bernardino County poverty rates can be attributed to migration in or out of the area, or a severe shock to a local industry, according to Michael Steinberger, an associate professor of economics at Pomona College.
"The severe shock to construction in the area, and the associated decrease in employment, seems a likely main contributor," Steinberger said.
The 211 San Bernardino County center received 70,000 calls for help last year, 65 percent of people needing assistance with the basics such as food, rent or utilities, Madden said.
"Also gone up are number of people in each household. Many families are doubling up to save money," he said. "But the intensity of their desperation is the most significant change. They often say `I never asked anyone for help before and now I have no idea what am I going to do.' It's very hard to hear that."
People who call for help are usually the ones whose unemployment is running out, "they've submitted 100s of applications and still can't find a job that pays enough to support the middle class (standard of living)," Madden said.
"The San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools said (his agency) has family liaisons who keep track of kids who are homeless. They've counted 20,000 children who live in non-appropriate housing. And those are the ones we know about."
Madden attributes the problem to the housing market tumble, followed by a demise in construction industry - the unemployment rate in the Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario area was 14.2 percent in June.
While dealing with weak labor market, there is help out there, if only everyone who needs it would ask, Madden said.
There are 241,000 people living in the county that qualify for CalFresh Program -- which is formerly known as food stamps -- but are not applying for it.
"That's $500,000 of money that the taxpayers paid that is not going into our local economy," he said. "People don't want to be on welfare, but it's not. It's federal money matched with some state funds. It can infuse cash and boost our economy.
"We are taught to be self-sufficient. We tend to feel shame if our income is disrupted, even if it's not our fault."