Extra resources for students of State and Local Government 180, an upper-division GE class in the Government Department at Sacramento State University
Monday, October 17, 2011
San Bernardino Sun: San Bernardino among most poverty-stricken cities
San Bernardino among most poverty-stricken in nation
Josh Dulaney, Staff Writer
San Bernardino Sun
Posted: 10/16/2011 08:54:22 PM PDT
Through a broken window, Henry Carrillo, 64, looks at the vacant trailer where he used to live. Below, Carrillo opens the door to his converted room in Muscoy, for which he pays $100 per month. Carrillo, who receives $515 from his monthly Social Security check, hopes to move into a low-income senior-housing complex in San Bernardino. (Al Cuizon/ San Bernardino Sun Staff Photographer)
SAN BERNARDINO - The city is one of the most poverty-stricken in the United States, but Henry Carrillo has a dream to move here.
"It would be like hitting the lottery," Carrillo said Friday.
The 64-year-old retired housekeeper from Muscoy must soon move out of the ramshackle room he rents for $100 a month, because the house has gone into foreclosure.
If he moves to San Bernardino, he will join the estimated 34.6 percent of the city's residents who live below the poverty level, ranking it first in the state among those with a population of 200,000 or more and second nationally behind Detroit, according to findings by the U.S. Census Bureau.
The White House's Office of Management and Budget set the poverty line in 2010 as $22,314 for a family of four and $11,139 for an individual.
Carrillo lives off the $515 a month he receives in Social Security. He's on a waiting list to live in one of the new low-income senior-housing facilities in San Bernardino.
He said it could cost around $300 a month to rent, but as one who has lived on the streets and in a field, he will figure out a way to survive on the money left over.
"I have it better than some other people," Carrillo said. "I'll find a way to eat."
And that's the plight of many residents who struggle to make ends meet in a city that slid into deep levels of poverty over the course of more than two decades.
Kent Paxton, the director of the Mayor's Office of Community Safety and Violence Prevention, said the poverty level started to pick up when big-time companies packed their bags.
"A lot of major employers who employ what would be blue-collar employees left the area," Paxton said.
He cited the closure of Norton Air Force Base here in 1994 and the 1984 closure of Kaiser Steel Mill in Fontana as examples of when decent-paying jobs disappear, leaving the area poorer for it.
At the same time, many of the jobs remaining in the city don't require much education, which has helped create a work force that doesn't have the skills or knowledge to advance, Mayor Pat Morris said.
"The employee base has always been blue collar with no opportunities that require higher education," he said.
He didn't dispute the Census Bureau's poverty statistics.
"You can take it at face value because quite clearly we are (in) the poverty zone of Southern California," Morris said.
But officials say there are other contributing factors to the high level of poverty, besides lost jobs and the poorly educated work force.
Among them is the housing stock. It's old, cheap and available, drawing folks who already are struggling to stay afloat.
In many ways, they are like Carrillo, looking for a place to call home, at least home for now.
"Families, as they come to us, are living on the margin," Morris said.
He and Paxton both agreed that partnering with businesses and schools to better educate the work force is the key to lowering the poverty rate.
But an educated employee base can't work here if businesses don't want to come.
Paxton said turning the city back into a transportation hub through rail, San Bernardino International Airport and the proposed SBX rapid-transit bus project - which just broke ground - could be instrumental in that effort.
Morris suggested that creating a more business-friendly environment that welcomes entrepreneurs with cheap land and buildings will also provide some relief.
Businesses around the airport, including distribution centers like Kohl's and Pep Boys, are good examples, he said.
Paxton said in the meantime the city will need to continue to partner with nonprofit groups and churches to address poverty.
But even churches are feeling the economic pinch.
Mike Mathias, an associate pastor at Victory Outreach San Bernardino, said one of the most common prayer requests from people at the church is that they would find a job.
He described the situation as a season of God testing many people's faith.
"Even though we live in this world, we don't operate under the world's economy," he said. "We operate under God's economy. We put our faith in him ... he gives us everything we need and that's all he ever promised us in the (Bible)."
There certainly are no promises in City Hall.
Morris and Paxton agreed that the road out of poverty here is a long one.
"There's no silver bullet in this thing," Morris said.
Poverty problemsSan Bernardino is the poorest city in the state among those with a population of 200,000 or more, with 34.6 percent of households below the federal poverty level. The federal poverty level is defined as a family of four earning less than $22,314 in 2010.
Cities in povertySan Bernardino 34.6%
Los Angeles 21.6%
SOURCE: U.S. Census Bureau/2010 American community survey