Poverty that Spans the Generations

When the U.S. Census Bureau ranked all 50 states in the new “Supplemental Poverty Measure” last November, California had the highest poverty rate in the nation, with 23.5% of California residents living in poverty. According to the federal report, nearly 1 in 4 people cannot afford the basics of food, shelter, and health care in our state. The biggest reasons are the high cost of housing and childcare in California. In Sunnyvale, it is especially difficult to make ends meet with rents soaring and childcare costs out of reach for low-income workers. The poverty gap is widening for hard- working families and seniors living on fixed incomes.

At our agency, children make up more than 2 out of every 5 people we serve with food and financial aid every year. We are seeing more and more families spanning three generations who are living together to save money and help each other survive in Silicon Valley. It’s often clear that the children who come to our door are hungry, and their parents are weary from working two jobs with no benefits.

…the children who come to our door are hungry, and their parents are weary from working two jobs with no benefits.

We are a last resort for many of our clients, some of whom have already taken extreme measures by borrowing money from payday lenders. One of these payday loan victims was a woman who had retired and was receiving social security after working hard for many years. A few months ago, she was awarded custody of her one-year-old grandchild. When she assumed care of her grandchild, she suddenly had to buy food and diapers for the baby. Without additional income to cover these unplanned for expenses, she began to borrow from payday loan businesses. By the time she came to Sunnyvale Community Services, she had taken out six loans with high fees and interest rates amounting to over 400%. Thankfully Sunnyvale Community Services helped her with rental assistance, so that she could get off the payday loan merry-go-round. Our agency gave her diapers and emergency food, as well as budget counseling and referrals to other resources.

In partnership with the Coalition Against Payday Lending (CAPP), we are advocating against predatory loans that victimize low-income families and seniors. Thanks to community donations from people like you, we are not only able to provide financial support to families in need, but we are also able to give diapers and baby food to parents and grandparents caring for young children. During the summer months, our “Kids Summer Food” program is a vital resource for children out of school who are missing the free or reduced meals that school provides.

Thank you for helping the most vulnerable in our community. Your support is why Sunnyvale is the “heart” of Silicon Valley! You can read more about the Census report here.

Marie Bernard
Executive Director, Sunnyvale Community Services