CLEVELAND, Ohio (Reuters) - At Toledo Catholic Charities’ family shelter, there hasn’t been an open spot in three years -- a sign of chronic problems in the Ohio city which placed first in the nation for rising poverty rates.
“Ten years ago we saw more of the chronic homeless in our shelters,” said Rodney Schuster, executive director of Catholic Charities. “Now it is families and people who want sustained employment but there’s none out there.”
A Brookings Institution report released Thursday listed Toledo and two other Ohio cities in the top 10 metro areas with the “greatest increases in concentrated poverty.”
Toledo saw a more than 15 percent increase in the concentration of poor people living in the city’s poorest neighborhoods in the past 10 years. The Youngstown area ranked third with a change of 14 percent and Dayton had a 10 percent increase in concentrated poverty, taking the ninth-place spot.
Also on the list were the cities of El Paso, Texas; Jackson, Mississippi; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; and Detroit, Michigan.
The Brookings Institution, an independent research group, based its findings on 2000 U.S. Census data and the American Community Surveys conducted by the Census Bureau from 2005 to 2009.
At least 40 percent of the individuals in extreme poverty areas live below the federal poverty line, defined as an annual income of $22,314 for a family of four, the report found.
Schuster says he sees a growing need in Toledo soup kitchens and shelters. “The need has grown -- both services and demand for services.”
Barbara Grandowicz, director of operations for the Toledo Northwest Ohio Foodbank, said she wasn’t surprised at Toledo’s ranking. In the first six months of this year, the Foodbank saw a 14 percent increase in clients serviced. That’s 34,000 people and 124,000 pounds of food.
She saw demand start to increase in 2007. “What has affected me the most is when we see donors become clients,” Grandowicz said.
Dayton, which has lost population in the last decade, last month rolled out a plan to be more welcoming to immigrants. Supporters of the plan say immigrants are more likely to start small businesses and buy homes.
The report also found high-poverty neighborhoods exhibit higher use of public assistance and trail behind the general population on educational attainment, dropout rates, single-mother households, and male attachment to the labor force.
State and local government revenue fell 22.1 percent in 2009 from 2008, while spending rose nearly 5 percent, the Census reported on Monday. Education and public welfare made up 43.2 percent of that spending.
The report found that after “substantial progress” against concentrated poverty during the booming economy of the late 1990s, the economically turbulent 2000s saw much of those gains erased.
Schuster said he has seen poverty move beyond the urban center to what previously have been considered working-class areas. The report backs his observation.
“Poor local labor market conditions may have pushed up poverty rates across a more demographically and economically diverse set of neighborhoods than traditional ‘underclass’ areas,” the Brookings report found.
Additional reporting by Lisa Lambert; Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Jerry Norton