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Poverty rate rising in Downers Grove Township


The number of Downers Grove Township residents living below the poverty line increased by almost 1,500 people in a year, with impoverished homes in which a woman is the sole head-of-the-house increasing by the most dramatic amount, according to statistics released by the U.S. Census bureau this week.

Homes where women are the sole head-of-the-household accounted for 14 percent of those considered poor in 2009 – a 75 percent increase since 2008.

While female-headed households accounted for one of the bigger jumps in numbers of the newly poor, census data indicates that more of the 149,000 people living in Downers Grove Township are poorer than they were the previous year. In these communities growth in the number of people who are now living below the poverty line climbed to five percent. Downers Grove Township includes all or parts of Clarendon Hills, Downers Grove, Hinsdale, Woodridge, Westmont, Willowbrook, Burr Ridge, Darien and Lemont.

According to local charities, the increase in poverty has led to a corresponding increase in demand for social services, prompting the Downers Grove-based Sharing Connections to add 66 new agents to the pool of social workers that they work with.

“What we’ve noticed is on the donor side fewer donors are getting new furniture so they have less to donate,” said Sharing Connections executive director Ann Wohlberg. “It’s impacted people who have never been in poverty before. I think it can be an overwhelming process for some of them. “

The number of jobless workers in the area has nearly doubled since data was last collected during the 2006-2008 period, which may be a factor in the increased demand. Whereas during the unemployment rate in the township hovered around 3.3 percent back then, the number has since grown to about 6.5 percent, census figures show.

Wohlberg said one of the biggest needs she said she hears about is for more donations of winter coats and clothing for children, who can’t always fit into the same jacket or pants two years in a row.

Changes in housing statistics show the number of renters in the area increased – accounting for just under half of all residents – while the number of mortgage holders has decreased, hovering at around 33 percent.

“We have a lot of people calling for rental assistance and utility help,” said Gary Ostrowski a social services coordinator for the township. With mortgage assistance many have already come to the conclusion there’s nothing we could do … What the township could do with $150 is really not that much when their home is already in foreclosure.”

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