Many Central Oregon children living in poverty

'Biggest social issue' challenges High Desert assistance agencies

1 in 4 Ore. kids in poverty

REDMOND, Ore. - Central Oregon has a lack of affordable housing, forcing many low-income families into homelessness.

"It's probably one of the biggest social issues we have right now," said Kenny LaPoint, director of Housing Works in Redmond, said Wednesdasy. "I mean, living expenses Bend are extremely high. I think low-income families are being pushed out of the area."

More and more families are facing the same problem. According to the annual progress report by Children First Oregon, nearly one in four Oregon children live in poverty.

"For each one of those, when you think about a kid going to bed hungry at night, or a kid that doesn't have shoes -- I think we can all relate to that," said Scott Cooper, executive director of NeighborImpact, a 21 Cares for Kids partner.

The numbers are even higher in some parts of the High Desert. Crook and Jefferson counties report one in three children live below the poverty line.

And even those numbers might still be way too low. The official poverty line is set at $24,000 annually for a family of four. Experts argue that number needs to be adjusted.

"Even if you're a family of four trying to get by on $48,000 a year, which would be double the poverty line -- that's not a lot of money," said Cooper.

Nearly one-third of Oregon households with children are enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

The report also looks at health coverage. Oregon ranks only 30th nationwide in children's insurance rates, as 54,000 kids lack insurance.

The key to getting children out of poverty is of course job creation for parents, which is particularly difficult in Central Oregon.

"Central Oregon's economy is cyclical. There's no question about that. When it get's bad, we get worse than everybody else," Cooper said.

The report shows many Oregon families haven't bounced back from the recession yet. The median family income still hasn't reached pre-recession levels, and child poverty in the state is still 30 percent higher than it was in 2008.

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