Poverty rates rising in metro Atlanta suburbs - KMSP-TV

Poverty rates rising in metro Atlanta suburbs

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COBB COUNTY, Ga. -

New data from the Brookings Institute shows that poverty is growing the fastest in the suburbs. It's called the suburbanization of poverty and metro Atlanta's suburbs ranks near the top of the list.

The Elizabeth Inn, a homeless shelter operated by MUST Ministries, is the only one of its kind in Cobb County.

Director Sam Bolling says it's hard to keep up with the demand because of the increased poverty level in the suburbs.

"I noticed that there has just been a general increase of families coming and being turned away because we just can't meet the need for the families," Bolling said.

Bolling says they have space for only 12 families, but have had to turn away about two families a day. It's a reflection of the rising poverty rate in the suburbs. She says her clients are not the stereotypical homeless.

"The phenomena of the working poor – that is a reality. That is a reality. The average person we know is two paychecks away from being homeless," said Bolling.

According to the U.S. Census, suburban poverty rates in metro Atlanta increased by 5.9 percent in the last decade. That's the largest increase in the 20 most populated areas in the country.

The counties with the highest increases are:
Clayton     11.6%
Gwinnett     8.7%
Bartow    8.1%

In Cobb County, the suburban poverty rate increased by 6.1 percent. That doesn't surprise Bolling, who has clients from all walks of life.

"When I say that the face of homelessness has changed, it has," Bolling said. "It's on a wide spectrum now. It's from the middle class to those who have mental health that hasn't been addressed."

The Great Recession has also impacted fundraising for charities like MUST Ministries. The non-profit has seen donations drop since the recession, and has had to make staff reductions to adjust to the decreased funding.

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