WASHINGTON (January 3, 2001) -- The Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) announced the initiation of Poverty in America Awareness Month. The month is designed to draw attention to the plight of more than 32 million Americans who live in poverty.
As part of the month's activities, CCHD will release the results of a national opinion poll commissioned to determine attitudes toward poverty. They will distribute public service broadcast announcements and print ads that dramatically highlight the extent of poverty.
Although poverty rates declined slightly from 1999 to 2000, more than 32 million Americans still live in poverty. The breadth of poverty includes farm families, immigrants, the working poor, undereducated adults, the disabled poor and children of all ages. One out of every six children in America lives in poverty.
The U.S. Census Bureau considers the poverty threshold for a family of four to be $17,184. Other studies have shown that Americans believe it takes closer to $35,000 annually to adequately house, clothe and feed a family of four.
Poverty in America Awareness Month will be observed annually in January. According to Father Robert Vitillo, executive director of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, "December brings outpourings of good will and concern for the poor, but in January the nation returns to its usual routine and the poor are still poor. By focusing on poverty in January, we hope to remind Americans early each year that poverty remains very much a part of American life."
"Low unemployment rates and the creation of new wealth have conspired to make many Americans believe that poverty and homelessness in the U.S. have disappeared," Father Vitillo said. "In fact, the strong economy has simply pushed poverty into the background, which enables otherwise caring people to forget the poor and ignore the evidence of poverty that they see in their communities. It is shameful that a nation that controls 29 percent of the world's wealth has so many people living in poverty," Father Vitillo stated.
All citizens are being asked to undertake individual or community efforts to alleviate poverty, not just during January, but throughout the year. A Web site -- www.povertyusa.org -- will give additional details of the campaign and offer suggestions for community action.
The Catholic Campaign for Human Development is one of the largest private funding sources of self-help programs for the poor in America. In 2000, CCHD provided grants in excess of $10 million to support community and economic development projects in 46 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Grants are based on need and awarded without regard to race, religious affiliation or ethic origin. The Campaign is sponsored by the U.S. Catholic bishops and is supported by an annual collection in all U.S. Catholic parishes.