what does poverty look like?

notelWhat does poverty look like?  Do we really know?

Since I started this blog I have posted here and there about giving donations to food banks.  My friend Gigi runs one in Narberth as a matter of fact.

So I saw this article in The Daily Local Today.  Among other things, I did not know that Chester County was Pennsylvania’s wealthiest county.

Anyway, give it a read.  Poverty hides in plain sight and in this economy who is really surprised?

Daily Local:  6% in poverty in Chesco, Pa.’s wealthiest county 

By LAURA CATALANO Journal Register News Service

….. Chester County is ranked as the wealthiest county in Pennsylvania and the 24th richest in the nation.

That may be a startling statistic. Even more startling: More than 6 percent of the county’s population lives in poverty, and more than 600 of its residents, were counted as homeless on a single night in January. ….St. Andrews Episcopal Church in Glenmoore recently presented a panel discussion on “The Challenges of Poverty in Chester County: Helping Those in Need.” About 50 people attended the discussion, which is the first in a series of planned lectures by the church….Among those challenges, the high cost of housing is perhaps the most significant. The average two-bedroom apartment costs $1,095 per month, according to statistics provided by Kitson-Davis. To pay that, a provider needs an hourly wage of $21.06. Someone earning only $8 an hour would need to work 88 hours per week, just to cover the rent.

When all costs are factored in—health care, child care, food, transportation and taxes—a single parent with one preschooler needs a salary of $51,853, according to “The Self-Sufficiency Standard for PA, 2010-2011,” published by the University of Washington.

“This income is 356 percent above the federal poverty level of $14,570 for a family of two,” stated a paper distributed by Kitson-Davis.

That means that people in Chester County may be struggling at a level that puts them at risk of losing their homes, but still not qualify for government assistance. Kitson-Davis noted that someone earning as much as $48,000 a year could have trouble balancing the cost of rent and groceries, but would not be eligible for food stamps.

What’s more, since the county is largely rural, the lack of public transportation poses another hurdle for struggling families. If they can’t afford a car repair, they probably don’t have access to public transportation to get to a job, doctor’s office or social service agency….The count utilized 125 volunteers and partners to determine the number of people currently experiencing homelessness on a single night. They found a total of 625 homeless, 43 of whom were unsheltered, the remaining in emergency shelters or transitional housing. Of those, there were 49 families with children

 

Anyway, give this article a complete read.  And if you can help out, do.  Paying it forward is a good thing.  But for the Grace of God go all of us.

chester county and development…not so perfect together?

Today when the news came that Brian O’Neill was continuing with Uptown Worthington’s next phase, I was not one of the ones cheering.  First I thought of my former township (Lower Merion) and the O’Neill projects in moth balls and sites looking shabby. Then I started to think about the development I have seen since I moved to Chester County, and I am concerned.

No one wants to turn their back on progress, but at what price comes progress?  For example, let us not forget Malvern Borough’s $60,000 mistake on East King Street. You know? Eli Kahn’s New Urbanism Fairy Tale?  In July, Kahn and his partners David Della Porta and Gary Toll did the old soft shoe and a rah-rah ground breaking.

With regard to Malvern, I will say again, You know what I think Eli Kahn and Jack Loew’s project is going to be like when it is done?  A super-sized Charleston Greene.  And over the years, how has Toll’s Charleston Greene worked for you ,Malvern?

A friend said to me a little while ago “You can’t spend other people’s money and
generate prosperity. ” 

There is food for thought.  Also to think about quite seriously is what Tredyffrin did last night other than not apologize for cyber-bullying the delightful and devoted and hard working community champion Pattye Benson.   They approved the C-1 Zoning Change. Now, basically, a LARGE death farm, excuse me, senior assisted living facility will grow on a rather SMALL site on Lancaster Avenue.  You know, where Jimmy Duffy’s Catering Company used to reside?

Interestingly enough, this new development is from a Tredyffrin resident who put the residents of Bala Cynwyd through the ringer for another awkward site senior assisted living facility around 2009. Main Line Media News said at the time:

Further township discussion of a controversial Bala Cynwyd development plan has been postponed until next month.

Developer Ed Morris of Traditional Properties LP had hoped to take his new plan for an assisted-living facility at 27-33 Old Lancaster Road to Lower Merion commissioners this week….Morris got zoning-hearing board approval in late July of a special exception to build a “home for the aged” on the parcels, which today are occupied by two single-family homes. The stone colonial houses would be demolished.

The plan was a switch from development plans approved by the township in 2006 for a four-story, 21-unit condominium building. Morris has said that marketing efforts to sell units in the proposed building were not successful as the housing market stalled….A number of residents in surrounding neighborhoods in Bala Cynwyd and Merion objected to the change in direction, saying that the assisted-living facility is a more commercial use, out of character with the area.

Oh my goodness!  Is this not an eerie sense of déjà vu?  Don’t I remember original plans for the Jimmy Duffy site being different, albeit equally unwelcome to neighboring Daylesford residents? (And Ed Morris like Brian O’Neill was featured in an article a few years ago in Main Line Today called Condo Mania)

How many developments do we need?  Does Chester County want to end up a congested mess with limited open space like much of the Main Line?

I noticed on Malvern Patch that a lot of people are excited by the idea of MORE mall at Uptown Worthington based upon the comments.  I, on the other hand, am concerned.

It wasn’t too long ago that this developer was embroiled in nasty, nasty litigation over this site.  And how will this phase of construction affect people? Remember the first phase? And look at the 100 year PennDOT 202 project right there right now. It really isn’t a 100 year project, but given how PennDOT does business it might as well be.

Then there is the thought of how many malls and mall like places do we need?   Exton is but minutes away with the Exton Square Mall, Main Street at Exton and the countless other smaller strip malls in and around it.  King of Prussia is also fairly close with the giant King of Prussia Mall and all the other various and assorted strip malls and sub-developments in the vicinity. (And don’t forget that charming casino because you know nothing says U.S. history like a slots parlor next to where George Washington literally slept.)

In addition to these larger malls and newer strip malls are all the other strip malls and often funky shopping centers on Route 30, Paoli Pike, Route 3, pick a road.

Really Chester County, how much development do you want? How much development do we need as residents?  Are we actually getting new stores or are businesses just hop-scotching between retail developments, moving every few years to whatever the next sweetest deal is? And do you want a steady stream of fill-in-the-name-big-box-retailers and chains?  What of the independent local business where they know their customer base and might be your neighbors?

I saw the development of Chester County in a most unusual way on my 9/11 hot-air balloon ride.  I saw the development from the air.  From high up in the sky it looked like miles and miles of Legos – developments all cookie cutter.

Chester County on a county level needs to get a real grip on the future.  The economy is not recovering, and still these developments proceed.  Developers will say they bring jobs, but once you get beyond retail shift work and minimum wage, what is there?  And you need more than that to fill up the condos, town homes perched on formerly rural highways, and the communities of McMansions. (Don’t forget about the fact they are trying to supersize Birchrunville in West Vincent. And then there is other potential residential development in the future, right?)

Once the open space is gone, it is not coming back. Once the charming cross-roads towns are gone and the farms are gone, they are also not coming back.  That’s all. Just think about it.

My wish for Chester County is a revolution of common sense.