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Understanding Poverty

At Community Action, we empower individuals and strengthen families by helping them find a path out of poverty. Our local work supports and aligns with a national network of agencies dedicated to the same goal. The national promise of the Community Action Partnership is to change people's lives, embody the spirit of hope, improve communities, and make America a better place to live. We care about the entire community, and we are dedicated to helping people help themselves and each other.

What is poverty?

The U.S. Government defines poverty based on the Federal Poverty Guidelines. The guidelines used today are based on research conducted in the 1960s. The research was intended to measure whether average income was adequate to provide sufficient family nutrition. Federal Poverty Guidelines reflect what is too little for a family to live on, not what is enough. As a result, the guidelines do not include the costs of health care, child support obligations, fines and fees, home or renter insurance premiums, security deposits, transportation and vehicle maintenance costs, life insurance, and other common expenses of daily living. Consequently, conditions of poverty exist in households with incomes as high as 200 percent of federal poverty level. Eligibility for some Community Action programs is based on 60 percent of average Oregon median income.

What are the conditions of poverty?

People living in conditions of poverty are unable to meet their basic needs for food, shelter, heat, utilities, clothing, transportation, health, and child care. Typically, families living at or above the federal poverty level are economically insecure. They must choose which basic needs they will fulfill. In Washington County, families must have annual incomes far above the poverty level in order to stay ahead of conditions of poverty. This is based on a family paying no more than 30 percent of annual income for housing.

For more information about poverty trends in Washington County, please read our Issues of Poverty Report.