Redlands is a beautiful city full of Victorian houses and tall majestic trees. However, beneath the surface Redlands is suffering from rising poverty and homelessness like the rest of the nation.
According to the last report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, roughly fifteen percent of the American population is currently living in poverty and despite Redlands’ relatively low unemployment rate, about seven percent, the city’s poverty rate mirrors that of the nation. Unfortunately, for those that live in poverty, both the city and the state currently lack the tools to help alleviate the situations of poverty.
“The city is broke,” said Heidi Mayer, executive director of Youth Hope, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping homeless youth. “Redlands City Council has wanted to help, but with no money their hands are tied.”
The most widely available program the state has to offer is Welfare to Work. However, as Anthony H, a Redlands homeless youth who prefers to keep his last name private, pointed out, welfare cannot be mistaken for a solution:
“Yes, this program helps with extra money for food, but if I get a job to get out of my situation, to stop being homeless, I’ll be cut from welfare. Basically welfare makes me choose to spend money on food or on housing, or try to cheat the system.”
According to California’s Welfare to Work website, an individual will be cut off from the program once they have a job making minimum wage, which is $8 an hour. Minimum wage is not enough to buy food and acquire an apartment without some sort of aid, which is nonexistent.
The conversation nationally has been centered around the economy and the unemployment rate, which is currently sitting at about eight percent. With a poverty rate of about fifteen percent, a change in policy focus may be warranted. The focus is currently on top income earners and many Americans believe that in order for the country to improve economically, the focus should be on the bottom, not the top.