January is Poverty in America Awareness Month. According to the U.S. Census, the official U.S. poverty rate in 2010 was 15.1 percent. For the fourth year in a row, the rate of poverty in the United States has increased. The numbers translate to 46.2 million people living below the poverty line, with 22 percent of all U.S. children living in poverty. The 2011 Poverty Guidelines state that an income of $22,350 or less is officially considered poverty for a family of four. Families living with such restricted financial resources are forced to make hard decisions every day, such as whether to pay for food or utilities. There are resources to help.
Home and Shelter
A roof over one's head is one of the most basic needs. However, millions of people in the United States are either homeless or fear for the security of their current home. If you or someone close to you are in need of shelter, visit these sites to learn how to get help.
Homeless Shelter Directory
This website offers a comprehensive directory of homeless shelters around the country. You can also find a list of soup kitchens in your area. The organization encourages visitors to donate and volunteer at local shelters. Why not take a look to see what you can do in your area?
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
The HUD website is a wealth of information on housing issues. You can check out resources by state and can learn more about issues by topic. There is also a list of HUD's homeless and housing programs.
The Affordable Housing Network
PublicHousing.com is a website that houses thousands of affordable housing options for renters across the country. This organization can even help those in need raise money for their housing deposit.
Find help paying your rent at RentAssistance.com. You can search this site's database by state to find government and non-profit programs that will help to pay rent for those who qualify.
Food and Nutrition
One of the worst feelings a parent can have is not being able to adequately feed their children. Fortunately, there are a variety of sources across the nation to help put food on the table.
National School Lunch Program
The NSLP is a federal program through the United States Department of Agriculture that provides low-cost or free nutritionally balanced lunches to children whose families meet predetermined guidelines. Check out the site or ask for an application at your child's school. Some schools even have free breakfast programs.
Emergency Food Programs
This helpful list from the Homeless Shelter Directory gives information for food pantries, soup kitchens, and other emergency food programs by state. It's a good place to find ways to obtain much needed food in your community.
According to the Feeding America website, "Our mission is to feed America's hungry through a nationwide network of member food banks and engage our country in the fight to end hunger." Indeed, this organization covers a broad spectrum of resources and information on fighting hunger in America. For those in need, there are links to food banks, public assistance programs, and Feeding America's own programs. There are also numerous ways to help. Visit their site to find out how to get involved.
Clothing and Health
Children grow so fast. It can be hard for any family to keep them in clothes, but for families living at or below the poverty line, the task seems nearly impossible. Obtaining healthcare is also a seemingly insurmountable problem for many families today. Here are some resources:
The Salvation Army
The Salvation Army has been doing good in all areas of life for years. They provide various charities to those in need. They are well-known for their stores in which people can donate clothing and household items, and these things can be purchased at low cost. They also have housing and homeless services that can give temporary or long-term assistance for those needing a place to stay. The Salvation Army is always open to donations and is a worthy option for giving your assistance.
Freecycle is a wonderful way to get clothing, household items or just about anything for free. Sign up in your area and check out what others are listing to give away. This service allows people with stuff to get rid of to connect with those looking for specific items.
Health Resources and Services Administration
This offshoot of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services manages federally funded health centers across the country. Those without insurance pay what they can afford based on their income. They provide medical care, prescription drugs, prenatal care, immunizations, and dental. Stop by the site to see if there are any centers near you.
Remote Area Medical
RAM has a team of volunteers that provides medical, dental, eye, and even veterinary care to people without insurance who are living in remote areas of the United States. All services and supplies are donated. This is an organization that gives help, but could surely use assistance as well.