COVID-caused poverty rate surging locally, nationally

The view of poverty from the streets of Shreveport, with the help of Danny Gilbert (right) and...
The view of poverty from the streets of Shreveport, with the help of Danny Gilbert (right) and Brian Jackson (middle), two men who are homeless.(source: Scott Pace)
Updated: Jan. 26, 2021 at 4:43 PM CST
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SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) - The nation’s poverty rate is seeing the highest increase in more than half a century, according to new research released this week.

That study comes from economists Bruce Meyer, of the University of Chicago, and James Sullivan, of the University of Notre Dame.

The substantial increase translates into eight million more Americans, including two million children, falling under that poverty line since this summer.

Shreveport’s 25.7% percent poverty rate is well more than over double the national average, which stands at 11.8%.

Many say they are not surprised to hear about the surge in poverty because they see it first-hand every day.

Danny Gilbert, a 54-year-old former Marine Reservist who is a carpenter by trade, says he has had no place to call home for nearly a year. He says he’s been relying largely on temporary, part-time work just to get by.

“It’s harder to get a job, you know. There’s not as many jobs out there,” said Gilbert.

With so many layoffs caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s been even tougher of late for Gilbert and others to survive on the streets of Shreveport.

Gilbert says most people may not realize just how close they could be to becoming homeless themselves.

“You can have a job right now, if you ain’t got family to help you and you ain’t got money in the bank, you’re two weeks away from being homeless,” said Gilbert.

Gilbert, along with his longtime friend 53-year-old Brian Jackson, have noticed a large uptick in people affected by the surging poverty rate.

“I’ve been here off and on since 1997. And there’s more people today than all them other years that I’ve been here off and on,” said Jackson.

Just down the road, the executive director of Christian Service says the ministry has seen a 25 percent spike in demand recent months for the two hot meals they serve each day.

“We’re doing 1,500 to 1,600 meals weekly, 7,000 meals a month,” Al Moore said.

What the public typically does not see is all the help pouring in from members of the community. It’s often civic groups, churches and the like that are trying to do their part.

“We bring lunch once a month to serve our friends here at Hope House, with River Valley Church. And it’s just something we’ve been doing even through the pandemic. We continue to provide lunch. So we’ve been doing it for about a year,” said Georgia Kenyan, a volunteer and member of River Valley Church.

Kenyan says she and her church know all-too-well the ordeal so many families are enduring through this pandemic.

“People are struggling. You know, people are struggling with loss of jobs, loss of you know, their emotional well-being, their mental health. You know, people are struggling.”

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