Suburban poverty on the rise
According to a recent study, poverty has increased 64 percent across the United States over the last 12 years.
You might assume it’s referring to urban areas but this shocking statistic is talking about the suburbs.
When you’re driving through an upscale neighborhood in the Oklahoma City suburbs, life for those residents can seem so perfect, on the outside.
“It’s a dream home, it really is,” a suburban homeowner said, who did not want to be identified. “When you look around, you still pinch yourself and you go, ‘Wow, this is very cool.’”
That homeowner, who wanted to be called David for this interview, is now six months behind on the mortgage and his beautiful house is in foreclosure.
“Right now, our bank account is less than zero,” he said.
David owns a trucking company and was making a six-figure salary.
But last June, he had to stop driving after being diagnosed with congestive heart failure.
His wife pawned her wedding ring just so they could pay their drivers.
“Everybody has the same problems,” he said. “You know, something happens medically to a family member or whatever, you can be out of money in a heartbeat.”
David is not alone.
The Brookings Institution said, over the last 12 years, the number of people living below the poverty level in Edmond has increased 62 percent.
Yukon has increased 58 percent.
Moore has seen a 115-percent rise.
Eventually, David couldn’t afford insurance.
“So any item beyond a skinned knee could put you over the edge and put you into bankruptcy,” Oklahoma City University Professor of Economics Jonathan Willner said.
Willner said rising medical costs, the recession, unemployment and low wages all play into the rise of suburban poverty.
Many low-income families will move into an expensive suburban home, just for their kids’ education.
“People do pay premium prices on houses where the only real difference is the quality, or perceived quality, of the school district they’re moving into,” he said. “They will pay more.”
More suburban residents are also getting government help.
According to the Oklahoma Department of Human Services, the number of people receiving food benefits in Edmond has increased 53 percent over the last five years.
In Midwest City, it’s gone up 36 percent
In Yukon, that number has increased 75 percent.
Chris Sperry, Executive Director of the Hope Center of Edmond, said he has noticed the increased number of former donors who swallow their pride and now ask for help with feeding and clothing their family.
“They tell you ‘I never thought I would be here asking for assistance,” Sperry said. “I’ve always been the one making donations and helping other people’.”
David’s health is starting to improve.
He’s hired a foreclosure mediator to help him keep his home, the one that seems so perfect on the outside.
“People don’t realize that,” he said. “They drive by and they don’t realize what’s going on, you know?”
In the last five years, the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma had a 77-percent increase in distributions to Edmond residents and a 466-percent increase in Midwest City.
If you’re worried about losing your house, David said don’t wait to get help from a foreclosure mediator.
He said it can relieve a lot of stress.