Many of my friends make contributions to aid the poor in other countries. It is one of the ways they give back and is laudable.
Recently, I read an article “The U.S. Can No Longer Hide From Its Deep Poverty Problem” by Angus Deaton in the New York Times. What I learned is that about 5.3 million Americans live on $4 or less per day. I wondered what level of poverty exists in Manatee County.
I have been involved with a free and charitable clinic, Turning Points. I have seen the misery of the people. The patients have incomes of less than twice the Federal Poverty Limit, live in Manatee County, and are completely uninsured. Estimates are that 18 percent of Manatee County residents under age 65 are uninsured (68,000).
According to the U.S. Census bureau data, about 12.7 percent of Manatee County residents, nearly 48,000, live in poverty, which means an individual earns less than $12,140 per year. This is a bit more than $1,000 per month, in an area where median rent is $993 per month. Some of them are living on $4 per day and some much more, but can anyone wonder why we have homeless?
Even those who are lucky enough to make more than $4 per day, food and shelter are required. How about health care? Is this a necessity for Americans, or a nice to have? How about clothing, or personal hygiene? Transportation?
What I am suggesting is that we actually see the people in Manatee County who live in poverty and do things we can do to help them. It might be sweat equity, not money. And the next time you hear an appeal for help for those in poor countries in the world, write the check to help your neighbors first.
Linda M. Christmann, M.D., MBA