The most recent data from the US Census Bureau shows that the national poverty rate is 11.5%. To put that into perspective, that’s 37.9 million people living in poverty in America.
In Marion County, Indiana, the place we call home, the poverty rate is even higher. People living in poverty make up 15.7% of our population, which is over 140,000 of our family, friends, and neighbors.
Poverty affects every facet of society and weaves its way throughout people’s lives in ways that have immediate and long-term impacts, but how is poverty defined?
The poverty line, a federal marker that indicates who is poor in America, was developed in the 1960s and is used to determine financial eligibility for important programs like SNAP, school lunch programs, and Head Start.  Today, the 2023 guidelines issued by the US Department of Health and Human Services specify that a family of four that earns an annual income of $30,000 meets the poverty guidelines for the 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia.
Despite planning and budgeting, limited income can mean making hard choices. Some of us have lived experience making these choices, but others of us have not. The poverty simulator, SPENT created by Urban Ministries of Durham, can help us better understand the challenging choices that exist for families as they navigate life, work, health, and poverty.
Families and individuals experiencing poverty must dedicate a much larger percentage of their income to housing and food, and the steep inflation that has recently impacted Americans has had an outsized impact on families living at or near the poverty level. This has led to more of our neighbors experiencing food and housing insecurity.
This has also led to record increases in the number of students and families Brightlane Learning works alongside each day. Whether experiencing homelessness or housing instability, Brightlane knows that education is a key factor in securing a more stable future with more job opportunities and higher wages. We’re focused on addressing both the short and long-term impacts of poverty and homelessness through our programs and the partnerships we’ve developed as we use education to help break the cycle of poverty and homelessness for their families.
 USA Facts. (2023, September 18). What does living at the poverty line look like? https://usafacts.org/articles/what-does-living-at-the-poverty-line-look-like/
 HSS Poverty Guidelines for 2023 (2023, January 19). US Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved January 4, 2023, from https://aspe.hhs.gov/topics/poverty-economic-mobility/poverty-guidelines