Niagara Gazette

Local News

March 2, 2014

POVERTY IN NIAGARA: 'Culture of poverty' impacting significant number of residents in the Falls

'Culture of poverty' impacting significant number of residents in Niagara Falls

Niagara Gazette — In her role as director of the Heart, Love and Soul food pantry in Niagara Falls, Sister Beth Brosmer gets an up-close and personal look at residents who are living in poverty in the Cataract City on a daily basis.

When she read the findings of a new report on conditions affecting the city’s poor, Brosmer summed them up in one word: “Sobering.” 

”It’s worse than I’d ever want to believe it is,” said Brosmer, whose pantry and daily lunch program provides food and meals to hundreds of poor and working-poor residents in the city’s north end each week. 

While it’s not exactly a revelation that Niagara Falls has more than its fair share of people living in poverty, the report, created following an analysis of data under a partnership between the John R. Oishei Foundation and the University at Buffalo’s Regional Institute, sheds new light on the severity of the problem. 

A sampling of the “sobering” numbers compiled by researchers shows: 

• Roughly 22,425, or nearly one out of every two residents, are “doing poorly or struggling financially.” 

• About 10,900 Niagara Falls residents, or more than 20 percent, live on incomes below federal poverty levels, identified as $23,550 for a family of four.

• Another 11,525 city residents do not fall under the federal poverty threshold, but earn less than 200 percent of that line, putting those people in a position described in the report as “close” to poverty.

The Oishei Foundation released the Niagara Falls community report last month. It is part of a larger, multi-year effort being undertaken by the Mobile Safety-Net Team, a task force created to study issues related to poverty throughout the region. The team has analyzed 12 Western New York communities as part of the larger initiative. 

In developing the Falls report, team members met with area service providers, residents and city leaders to assess not only the numbers but the reasons behind high poverty rates in the Falls.

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