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How National Poverty Awareness Month was Created

January is CCHD's poverty awareness month WASHINGTON (January 4, 2005)– The Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) this month launched a new national awareness campaign that focuses attention on the nearly 36 million poor Americans—and even more attention on the poor and low-income people who are trying to do something about it. Timed to coincide with the beginning of Poverty in America Awareness Month, the new CCHD-sponsored campaign uses television, radio, and print ads to attract attention to the 35.9 million Americans who now live in poverty, according to the most recent U.S. Census figures. The nation’s poverty rate rose from 12.1 percent in 2002 to 12.4 percent in 2003, representing an increase of 1.3 million poor.

According to a report released by the U.S. Census Bureau in August 2004, the number of families in poverty increased from 9.6 percent and 7.2 million in 2002 to 10.0 percent and 7.6 million in 2003.

As defined by the Office of Management and Budget and updated for inflation using the Consumer Price Index, the average poverty threshold for a family of four in 2003 was $18,810; for a family of three, $14,680; and for a family of two, $12,015. Other studies have shown that Americans believe the current poverty threshold figure is unrealistic. A recent public opinion ssurveytudy conducted by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development shows that most Americans believe it takes closer to $40,000 annually to adequately house, clothe and feed a family of four.

For all children under 18, the poverty rate increased from 16.7 percent in 2002 to 17.6 percent in 2003. The number in poverty rose, from 12.1 million to 12.9 million.

According to Father Robert J. Vitillo, executive director of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, "Not only does CCHD work to raise awareness of the 'bad news' about the alarming incidence of poverty in the United States; it spreads the 'good news' as well. This year’s campaign offers a message of hope for the future as the campaign shows children of farm workers in New Mexico receiving quality daycare, seniors in San Francisco finding affordable housing and a section of our Nation’s Capitol that no longer has chain grocery stores gaining access to nutritious food—all as a result of the community-based, self-help projects that are funded by CCHD."

Since its inception, the Campaign has provided seed money to train leaders in the community for projects that are initiated and led by low-income people themselves. Over the years, CCHD has offered a total of $270 million to more than 4,000 such projects. During this current year, the Campaign is supporting 330 local projects in 45 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Established in 1970 by the U.S. Catholic Bishops, the Catholic Campaign for Human Development is one of the largest private funders of self-help programs initiated and led by poor people in the United States. Committed to the permanent elimination of poverty and injustice in the U.S., CCHD has supported more than 4,000 programs nationwide that know no racial or religious boundaries—projects that help create jobs, improve neighborhoods and allow people to find a way out of poverty not just for a day, but a lifetime.

Information from:
Salt of the Earth


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