Almost 13 percent of Coloradans live below the poverty level, according to the most recent figures from the U.S. Census Bureau. That’s better than the national rate of more than 14 percent, but it’s still much too high.
This time of year, the thought of families not being able to put food on the table — much less purchase holiday gifts — can be particularly disturbing. Maybe it should be equally as unsettling year round, but during a season of joy, and often excess, for so many, the plight of the poor stands out as a cruel contrast.
Fortunately, there are avenues to help. For example, Dec. 10 was Colorado Gives Day, the annual push to raise money for nonprofits, many of which help the poor. More than $15.4 million was raised in 2012, and we hope an even bigger haul was brought in this year.
One of the many nonprofits helped by the effort was the Douglas/Elbert Task Force. The Castle Rock-based organization exists to provide basic necessities, like food and rent assistance, to residents of Douglas and Elbert counties in need. We applaud them for their year-round work.
Recently, we were given rare insight into the plight of some of those who sought help from the task force. Colorado Community Media reporter Virginia Grantier spent some time with the task force’s client service manager, Jenny Follmer. Grantier’s article, which appears this week in several Colorado Community Media publications as well as online, illustrates the very real stories of the less fortunate in a way statistics simply can’t.
The two went over the files of 20 individuals and families who sought assistance on one day, and the article summarizes the needs of each applicant. It is as personal as it gets without names and faces. Even in the suburbs, this could be your neighbor, a friend in need.
A small sampling:
• “A Douglas County woman on disability, renter. Her ex-husband came back to Colorado with their three kids and then he left, and left the kids with her. She has $85 left for bills after she pays the rent. But today, she just needs food.”
• “A Castle Rock family, grandmother in her 70s, grown daughter and three granddaughters. The daughter works, but the rent is more than half her income. They come in today for clothing, food and Christmas assistance.”
•“An Elbert County family, renters, three kids and husband and wife. Husband is facing several surgeries to correct past surgery. He’s in extreme pain, but works off some rent for landlord. Wife is working. They need help with food and Christmas assistance.”
The holidays, of course, are a particularly busy time for the task force and groups like it. Then again, it’s always too busy.