Baltimore Today

TANF was the last major welfare reform passed by the United States government, nearly 16 years ago. What is the state of poverty today? Has TANF succeeded, or should the United States seek to once again reform a system that seems to let so many of its citizens fall through the cracks? Today, about 1 in 4 Baltimore residents lives in poverty, a startling statistic. What can be done to reduce this number? While the answer to this remains unclear, here is some information about TANF that will hopefully provide some insight into the benefits, and shortcomings, of America’s current welfare policy.

ABC News clip titled, “Aug. 22 1996: Clinton’s Welfare Reform”

The graph below illustrates the dramatic decrease in impoverished families receiving government assistance, from 1979 to 2009. Does this mean more people are climbing out of poverty, or does it mean that more families are falling through the cracks?

Poverty in the Media:

Baltimore We Love You

“Baltimore, We Love You” is a social media project sponsored by Amnesty International UMBC and The Roosevelt Institute Campus Network. This project uses film to promote awareness of poverty in affects Baltimore city. This project highlights homelessness, immigration/refugee, worker labor rights and victims of abuse, and project leaders have been collecting stories on film to develop a feature length documentary.

The Rich and the Rest of Us is the next step in the journey that began with “The Poverty Tour: A Call to Conscience.” Smiley and West’s 18-city bus tour gave voice to the plight of impoverished Americans of all races, colors, and creeds. With 150 million Americans persistently poor or near poor, the highest numbers in over five decades, Smiley and West argue that now is the time to confront the underlying conditions of systemic poverty in America before it’s too late.

PBS’s On ‘The Corner’ highlights the role of joblessness and unemployment in inner city life. David Simon, writer and producer of The Wire, interviewed young African American males in Baltimore’s inner city to get a sense of their situations in September, 2011. This video is a follow-up to David Simon’s video, created in March 2012, and asks the question: have recent economic gains changed anything in Baltimore’s inner city?

Recent Poverty Statistics & Program Developments

In 2009, 21% of Baltimore’s residents were living on an income that is below the poverty level. Today, the rate has increased to 25.6%. Essentially, one in four Baltimore residents are living in poverty. 10.8% of those people are living on an income below 50% of the poverty level. 29.4% of children in Baltimore are living below the poverty level, which means that about 12,000 children in Maryland are homeless, while 140,000 are living in poverty. The most common poor family type is the single mother with no husband (77.3%). 49.7% of citizens who are living in poverty also did not graduate from high school.

For these poor residents, the breakdown by work experience is as follows:

  • Worked full time, year round – 2%
  • Worked part time – 28%
  • Did not work – 70%

While the poverty rate in Baltimore is still significantly high, several programs have been established during the last two decades that are working towards alleviating poverty and helping those in need. Our Daily Bread is a non-profit organization and employment center that provides hot meals, job assistance and guidance to whoever needs them. In 2011, Our Daily Bread served 257,336 to Maryland’s hungry, placed 343 unemployed individuals into employment through the Christopher Place Employment Academy, and graduated 688 individuals from the Work4Success program. Our Daily Bread provides a hot lunch every day, and serves breakfast to senior citizens and the disabled every weekday.

Besides providing meals, Catholic Charities is able to provide numerous other services and sponsor other related organizations. These include the Center for Family Services, a treatment foster care and adoptive family service, and employment services that average a starting wage of $9.47 per hour, help those involved gain the necessary skills to continue their job search, advocate the employment of their clients and encourage the fostering of relationships, and successfully market ODBEC programs and services to the general community. The Christopher Place Employment Academy provides education, training, spiritual advice, and addiction recovery support to formerly homeless men in an attempt to rehabilitate them into society. The program moves these men from homelessness to permanent and stable living while providing them with employment training and encourages them to lead a life free of drugs and alcohol.

Among other organizations are non-profits like My Sister’s Place Lodge, My Sister’s Place Women’s Center, and Dress for Success that were created especially with women living in economic disadvantage in mind. My Sister’s Place Lodge is a home for formerly homeless women who are diagnosed with mental illness that offers the women in need private or semi-private furnished bedrooms. The organization creates a nurturing environment that helps these women foster and develop the necessary skills to be successful in the community. Part of the program is intensive case management, life skills workshops, recreational activities, and guidance sessions. My Sister’s Place Women’s Center provides access housing, referrals, life skills training, and other resources that are necessary for the women to achieve self sufficiency. The center also provides emergency financial assistance, linkage to community providers, financial literacy services, and personal services such as laundry and showers. The organization serves between 50 and 125 women daily, providing three meals a day to them and their children. Dress for Success is another program that facilitates women trying to enter the workforce by providing them with the necessary wardrobe essentials, like suits and shoes. The women get a suit every time they have an interview, and up to one week’s worth of clothing once they are employed. The organization is run through a referral, volunteer, and donation effort.

Obama’s Poverty Policy:

The Obama Administration supports the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.  The Act aims to help the poor during these hard economic times.  For more information on President Obama’s current policy on poverty visit the White House website.

The Recovery Act and Baltimore:



Maryland Nonprofits Recent Data:

Nonprofits by the Numbers

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