In the County of Alameda, one in six people rely on the food banks. Of those, half are children.
Extrapolating for our city, likely conservative numbers for the West End, we are looking at a full 38% of our children relying on the food bank for survival. This number makes sense: 34% of our kids are enrolled in the Free Lunch programs at our schools. Remember: it’s typical for more kids to need the meals than are registered for the program.
1/6 x 70,000 = 11,800, 11,800/2 = 5,900, and 5,900 = 38% of the 15,576 children in our city.
Since 2000, the US has been undergoing a shift in the geography of poverty: in the year 2000, 53.1% of the SF Bay Area’s poor lived in suburbs. Now? It’s over 59%…and growing. The current Great Recession is only fueling this trend (source: Brookings Institute). That 59% is a number that was generated before we knew about the spike in gas prices and the upcoming spike in food prices next week.
The thing is this: we don’t have the foreclosures that other cities have. Alameda should be able to bear this recession a lot better than other cities. So why are we failing?
We do not pay attention to the actual demographics of our city. As a city, we do not address the poverty here. Our median family income is half of that of other SF Bay Area cities. We have very, very few local jobs (the school is our largest employer). We have the highest school parcel tax in the state, and we have an unending hospital tax. The residential real estate has lost up to 30% of its value. And did you know that the average age in Alameda is 38? And only 13% of us are over 65? The 2009 US Census tells us that 9.5% of Alameda families living below the US Poverty Line–that’s nearly 7,000 people….and growing.
Yet most Alamedans perceive our city as having a well-off (wealthier) population that is largely retired. This is simply not true. We are primarily working families and individuals in the prime of our lives that need a well-run city that promotes and healthy economy and a safe environment in which to live and work.
Alamedans tend to think of poverty as something that happens someplace else. Not true. Every trend, fact, and statistic indicates that more families and individuals are slipping towards poverty. More poverty means more of the things we’ve been ignoring becoming front and center to our lives.
I live on a pretty nice street in Alameda. A bevy of wonderful neighbors. Yet here, I’ve seen family poverty. If you look closely in your own neighborhood, you probably have too. Sometimes it goes hand-in-glove with crime (mostly drug dealing which spawns other crimes). Sometimes it does not. But even a few resident criminals on a block can impact all the other households in the area. I’ve noticed that in wintertime, the druggies are pretty low profile, but come spring, it appears they lose their heads, become emboldened and more visible.
In my neighborhood, we’ve had up to 3 drug houses within a one-block range at a single time. Wintertime, as I said, is usually pretty quiet. But once springtime threatens to arrive, OMG. One house was shut down two years ago; it had been a drug house since the 1950s! The adult children who inherited the home continued this, dealing drugs all night long. CPS took many of their children away. The boarded-up house remains empty, the yard overgrown, littered with trash…blight that affects everyone. Another drug house has a beautiful garden out front. People in the 3rd drug house moved away. But then just the other day, the adult children who inherited an old house on St. Charles—from the crusty old guy who used to pee at will (!) in the front yards near Pagano’s on Lincoln—were pulled out of their home by CHP and APD teams working together looking for two men with warrants. They pulled out four naked men and lined them up on the sidewalk; then went after others hiding like cockroaches in the closets. That same day there was a kerfuffle on Bay at Eagle, several APD cars, fire engine and the rest. The next day, we had a murder on Buena Vista not far from Starbucks and Walgreens in the West End.
Between the crime, the AFD failures to protect us (care for some friable asbestos and crude oil in your lungs anyone?), and hospital nearly killing me combined with their strategies to make money from ensuring ambulance care inequities, the corruption in the hospital and city leadership, the impending bankruptcy of our city….I swear, over these past five years since I moved to Alameda, I’ve felt like the woman who moved from NY to North Carolina when she said: “I thought I’d bought a home in Pleasantville. I never imagined in my wildest dreams that stuff like this would happen”.
…poverty is the chief cause of immorality and crime. Theft, violence, hatred, cruelty, all result from poverty.” – His Holiness The Dalai Lama