Poverty in the suburbs is often out of sight, out of mind. But between 2000 and 2015, the low-income population of DuPage County grew by 78 percent, to a total of 170,000 people.
Unlike urban poverty where people often live in one concentrated area, suburban poverty is widespread, making the problem less visible, but still prevalent.
“Every single month is a critical balancing act for these families. That causes major trauma for the parents and the children, they never feel secure,” said Candace King, Executive Director of the DuPage Federation on Human Services Reform.
But some local organizations help support families who can’t make ends meet themselves, like Loaves & Fishes, which gives away food to those in need.
“When they’re making those choices, they often cut corners on food, both in quantity and quality,” said Mike Havala, CEO of Loaves & Fishes Community Services. “So by us providing nutritious food such as fresh produce and dairy, that actually helps break the cycle of poverty.”
Another organization that gives assistance to those in need is DuPagePads. They provide overnight shelter, food, and long-term support to the local homeless population – estimated at over 600 adults, veterans, and children, in DuPage County.
“The people I can see coming to our overnight sites, I can see the hope that is lacking in their eyes,” said Carol Simler, President and CEO of DuPagePads. “And so, to come to a place where they feel safe, and that people care about them, because we believe, when someone believes in you, everything can change.”
While the assistance that nonprofit organizations provide is invaluable, they can’t address the problem systematically.
The DuPage Federation believes that social safety net should be stronger, but gridlock in Springfield has made it weaker than ever.
“Many of our healthcare providers that serve that population are not getting paid, nor are other human service providers,” said King. “The safety net is being held together by scotch tape and glue.”
The rise of suburban poverty in DuPage is part of a national trend. Between 2000 and 2011, the poor population in suburbs throughout the United States grew by 64 percent.
Naperville News 17’s Blane Erwin reports.