12.6 percent of Cobb residents living in poverty
by Nikki Wiley
September 22, 2013 12:27 AM | 7275 views | 8 8 comments | 34 34 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Bonita Warner, right of Austell, and her son Savion McCollum, 10, explains what it was like to go without employment and how she coped with little to go on in the way of job prospects until recently. <br>Staff/Jeff Stanton
Bonita Warner, right of Austell, and her son Savion McCollum, 10, explains what it was like to go without employment and how she coped with little to go on in the way of job prospects until recently.
Staff/Jeff Stanton
MARIETTA — Bonita Warner did everything right.

She went to college, bought a home in Austell and got an advanced certification to further her career.

But one thing went wrong: the economy.

Now, the 50-year-old mother can’t find steady work and is struggling to pay the bills.

“There are some days you just go in the closet and get on your knees and say, ‘Lord, please send me something,’” said Warner who was laid off in 2011 and now works at a warehouse that services convenience stores.

Warner found a job soon after she graduated from Kennesaw State University in 1994 with her bachelor’s degree in public and social services.

When her 10-year-old son, Savion McCollum, was born, she became certified in medical billing and coding work as well.

Warner worked from home for a while and then found employment at a wellness company that distributes information about diseases and healthy living.

Her department was outsourced after she’d been with the company for five years and she was laid off.

Warner isn’t alone.

The number of individuals and families considered to be living in poverty in Cobb County has doubled since 2000, and that rate is growing more quickly than Atlanta’s urban core.

About 12.6 percent of Cobb’s population is living in poverty. That’s double the 6.1 percent from 2000.

During the same period, the city of Atlanta’s rate rose from 9.5 percent to 14.8 percent — a 5.3 percent increase, one percentage point less than the change seen in Cobb.

Warner is taking on the hard times with a smile and has been able to keep her home. Her son has also been able to stay enrolled in recreational sports, but she says it has taken sacrifices.

It’s hard to keep her head above water.

“You always just hope for a better day … I think it’s just a matter of attitude,” Warner said.

It’s a kind of poverty that isn’t discriminating.

Cobb resident Linda Logan has two master’s degrees. She had a long career in the real estate and urban planning, but now she’s out of work.

“I have no savings,” Logan said at a job workshop presented by MUST Ministries.

She’s been to several programs learning how to market herself to potential employers, but has been unemployed for five years.

“Things don’t look good on a resume when you’ve been out of a job for a while,” Logan said.

Poverty at a record high

Cobb’s highest poverty rates are found in the southern tip of the county near Six Flags Drive and I-20, the area north of Veterans Memorial Parkway and east of Austell Road, and a section of the county extending from Concord Road in Smyrna to the northern part of Marietta, according to the 2007-2011 American Community Survey.

Shrinking paychecks aren’t limited to Cobb, though. A record 15 percent of Americans, 46.2 million, were in poverty in 2011. That’s the highest amount since the Census Bureau started keeping track. Numbers from 2012 aren’t any brighter.

It’s not that poor families are moving from urban neighborhoods to suburbia, said Mike Carnathan, a researcher for the Atlanta Regional Commission that hosted a conference on the subject earlier this month.

He says more Cobb residents have fallen into poverty.

The urban core is still impoverished, Carnathan said, but the Great Recession left some families who thought they were comfortably in the middle class struggling to pay their bills.

About 41 percent of Cobb families had to decide if they’d pay the rent, utility bills or put food on the table last year, said Milton Little Jr., president of the United Way of Greater Atlanta which participated in the ARC conference.

Low income families may seek out suburban communities for affordable housing and better schools, but there isn’t any evidence that suggests urban dwellers favor Cobb over other Atlanta suburbs.

“They are seeking jobs, safety and overall better quality of life,” Little said.

Still, Cobb is better off than many of its suburban counterparts. Clayton County saw an 11.6 percent jump in the poverty rate compared to Cobb’s 6.5 percent increase. Gwinnett County saw an 8.7 percent increase and Bartow County has increased 8.1 percent.

Poverty more than homelessness The Great Recession has changed the face of poverty.

“What most people don’t relate to is that you can be very financially desperate and not be homeless,” said Kaye Cagle, spokeswoman for MUST Ministries which operates a homeless shelter and provides other services to low-income individuals.

A family could be living in a $600,000 home in east Cobb one day, she said, be foreclosed on and end up on the stoop of her shelter the next week.

“I think there’s a misunderstanding of what the face of suburban poverty looks like. It looks like you and me,” Cagle said. “The poverty issue goes beyond homelessness.”

Lisa Cupid, who represents southwest Cobb on the Board of Commissioners, agrees.

“People in neighborhoods, people that I know, are suffering now, and they don’t necessarily see themselves in poverty.”

Of the 34,000 people MUST Ministries helped last year, almost half were children, Cagle said, and most have a place to call home.

Organizations that try to help low income families are stretched thin as more people knock on their doors seeking assistance.

Cagle says she’s seeing an increase in the number of families who need help getting back on their feet. The MUST Ministries homeless shelter turned away about 51 families last month.

Fixing the problem

It’s all about jobs, Cagle says.

“That’s the most critical issue right now for people to get out of their crisis,” Cagle said. “Certainly, people are trying to find work wherever they can find it.”

Redevelopment and job creation are the answer, said Bob Ott, who represents southeast Cobb, another part of the county with hard-hit areas.

Though the economy seems to be on a rebound, Ott is cautious.

“I don’t think the economy has turned around as much nationwide or locally as people think,” Ott said. “A lot of people are still out there suffering.”

He says it needs to be easier for small business owners to start a company or expand.

“With those businesses will come jobs,” Ott said.

It won’t be easy to get people back on their feet, says Cupid, southwest Cobb commissioner.

“It’s difficult because we have a declining tax digest and we have increasing needs,” Cupid said.

And there’s a conflict between two political voices about how to best address the problem.

One voice says government shouldn’t be in the business of charity and should stop providing some services. Its opposition says the government should do what it can to help citizens.

“It creates a difficult environment to help persons who may have the greatest need,” Cupid said.

The issue is best addressed regionally, said Little, president of the United Way.

“Our elected officials are in a position to pass legislation aimed at strengthening the existing safety nets for the poor and adding to them,” Little said.

But it’s not enough to just have those safety nets.

“Although temporary shelter and food are absolutely necessary, we must focus on long-term sustainable impact, which includes a quality education for all, improving the financial stability of families, access to health care and the eradication of homelessness,” Little said.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
September 24, 2013
You gotta be kidding? What "Come On" said! Obama is a community organizer after Saul the Communist/Capone-trained Alinsky. His goal is to divide, anger and destroy our national motto, E Pluribus Unum, disrupting our lives, creating havoc and then reshaping our Republic into his college-professor, MJ-smoking lunacy of a communist country. He was raised a Muslim communist, anti-capitalist, anti-colonialist and remains one to this day. Maybe one day the subjects of this article will wake up and realize it's their hero who caused jobs to disappear, families to suffer. And yeah, wait until Obamacare kicks in.
Honest T
September 22, 2013
This is one of the first good balanced articles I have read from Nikki. Finally, a story that she rights that does not include the moonbat tea party crazies that she usually likes to write about.
September 24, 2013
Writes is spelled W-r-i-t-e-s for all you low information Obama voters who can't seem to understand that his presidency has decimated progress for minorities and their families.
Going to worsen
September 22, 2013
Due to Obamacare, the job situation will get worse. Businesses are going to cut people to less than 30 hours and some businesses will try to stay under 50 people to not have to pay insurance. Obama has given the business until January of 2015 to get the votes in the next election for the democrats, but it is coming! The other issue has been long standing and that is sending jobs overseas. Think about the millions of jobs that were sent overseas. I had to order a new debit card and they informed me it would take 15 days because they are made overseas. Ame3rica is no longer the great place it used to be! Politicians have ruined the country!
Who did you vote for
September 22, 2013
We are all struggling, but all those that voted for Obama shouldn't complain one bit. Most people voted for him for one reason and one reason alone. Didn't know what he stood for, his policies, beliefs or how he wanted to change capitalism into socialism. You can't find jobs because he is anti capitalism and high taxes. Companies have had to cut back due to higher taxes. Now they are cutting back because of the cost of Obamacare. Nothing is free in life...someone always has to pay. Wait until Obamacare kicks in...you think this is bad. Here is what we have and everyone was warned. There are always consequences to those we vote for in leadership in our country. And it is only going to get worse...you were warned. Sounds harsh, but I knew it was coming and still have to live in these conditions. Are you better or worse under the new regime? I think you know the answer.
high road
September 23, 2013
"...all those that voted for Obama shouldn't complain one bit. Most people voted for him for one reason and one reason alone. "

We can ONLY assume you the reason you refer to is the Republicans? After eight years of the people telling George W Bush what to do, our options for 2008 were either four more years of them telling McCain Palin what to do, or that Other guy, whoever he was.
September 23, 2013
@Who Did You Vote For:

The only tax increases under Obama were part of the sequester deal. So the idea that unemployment, which began rising in 2007, long before Obama was even elected, let alone his policies began to take effect, is related to Obama tax increases is ridiculous. Other than the sequester, which caused tax rates to go up THIS YEAR, no taxes have been increased under Obama, not income, corporate or payroll. Until THIS YEAR the tax rates had been the same as they were under George W. Bush, and lower than they were during the Bill Clinton economic boom years.

Talk about low information voter ...
Come On
September 24, 2013

Since the end of the recession, which is really still not over, Obama and the Democrats have successfully made over 6 million Americans fall below the poverty level, added a record 11,000 people per day to SNAP to grow food stamp dependence by 50%, increased black unemployment to 13% and hispanic unemployment to 9%, caused the average family income to drop $4,000, killed the 40 hour work week and now have a record 11 million people on disability payments.

Democrats win by destroying the middle class and creating more misery and dependence on wasteful and inefficient government programs.

Not to mention the cost of food and gas continues to go up because of all of the inflationary taxes. Keep thinking things are getting better.
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