Consider this as you read our special report, "The Price of Poverty": Are cuts to social service agencies and education the right move as poverty increases in Northwest Indiana? What more can or should be done?
This Times report, months in the making, comes out 50 years after President Lyndon Johnson declared the War on Poverty. Our report was shaped with input from community leaders who are on the front lines of this every day. It raises an awareness in a comprehensive way of the extent of poverty and its impact on our region.
Any way it's defined, poverty is high in Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties as compared to the rest of the state. One in four Indiana residents receiving emergency aid for rent, food and utilities from township trustees' offices live in our three counties, and the region is home to some of the highest percentages of children reliant on free lunches.
So many people are working poor, holding jobs but facing mounting bills and other setbacks. They depend on various types of assistance that often face cuts as need increases.
"Now it's a victory if your funding levels aren't decreased," Gary Olund, president and chief executive officer of Northwest Indiana Community Action, told our reporters. "You make choices based on the most pressing priority need."
In today's report you'll meet some of our neighbors who need help, and you'll hear from social service workers who are lending a helping hand. We feature three area families in our front page story. All three are striving to overcome financial obstacles.
Find the 14-page special section, "The Price of Poverty," inside and read about the impact of poverty in many ways. It starts with the definition that is changing over time, and it reviews the cost of poverty. It includes potential solutions and how-to-help resources.
The report also includes a remarkable timeline in the center that reviews the history of poverty since the Johnson declaration. It could work its way into classrooms, and it rolls out from print to online as a key part of our package.
After you read today's report visit nwi.com/poverty for an interactive graphic covering major themes of our report, photo galleries, the timeline and a full map charting poverty in the region.
Community members helped us shape this report, and those meetings occurred before I joined The Times. I want to thank Olund; Lou Martinez, president and CEO of Lake Area United Way; Bob Krumwied, CEO, Regional Mental Health; Shirley Caylor, executive director of the Crisis Center; Dan Lowery, president, Calumet College of St. Joseph; Dennis Rittenmeyer, executive director of One Region; Danita Johnson Hughes, CEO, Edgewater Systems; Sandra Noe, director of Meals on Wheels, and Monsignor Joseph Semancik, of the Catholic Diocese of Gary.
We hope this report jump starts discussions in Northwest Indiana to help the region's government, private and nonprofit sectors toward possible solutions. We invite readers to submit letters to the editor and columns to continue that discussion. Share the report with family and friends, and let's work on this together.
Thanks for reading us, and please contact me with concerns or anything about The Times or our many products.