Social services meeting needs as Flint is ranked America's poorest city

FLINT (WJRT) (9/19/2017) - Social services are stretching to help Flint's low-income as the city was dubbed the poorest city in the U.S.

The U.S. Census Bureau released new figures showing 45 percent of Flint residents were living below the poverty line in 2016. Even worse, 58 percent of youth younger than 18 were living in poverty.

The median household income for the city was less than $26,000. The median income for all Genesee County households fell slightly in 2016 to slightly less than $44,000.

Long lines at a mobile food bank on Court Street in Flint on Tuesday showed just how tough the situation is. The giveaway included a nutritional truck, where residents could take fruits and vegetables that normally cost more at a grocery store.

"We'll serve anywhere from 200 to 500 a day, families that will come through," said Vicky Shultz, CEO of Catholic Charities of Flint.

The line on Tuesday was just a tip of the iceburg.

"I don't think there's anyone that lives here would want to know that we are the poorest city in the nation," Shultz said. "That's just devastating. So when we see these numbers, we see these people lined up it's like, it definitely puts it in perspective."

She isn't particularly surprised by the poorest city moniker.

"We see that through our foster care system, the number of adoptions we do," Shultz said. "In therapy, you're going to see that -- families that are coming in that are in trouble."

The Census figures are even more troubling coming just days after experts declared an unofficial end to the Flint water crisis.

"Flint has always been in a kind of -- in the last couple of decades -- been in a struggling position and the water crisis that we've dealt with in the last couple of years certainly has created a situation that probably encouraged people to move out of the city if they had the opportunity," said Jamie Gaskin, CEO of the United Way for Genesee County.

He works to connect needy people with the community resources available to help them, which can be a difficult task.

"There are a lot of people taking advantage of those but certainly not nearly (everyone) who those are available to," Gaskin said. "A lot of new opportunities, but there is always the challenge that relates back to trust of information, because the trust among Flint residents has really been challenged by the (water) crisis."

Catholic Charities is on the forefront of meeting the growing needs in the community. The organization operates the north end and south end soup kitchens, along with three sack lunch programs -- all serving a combined 16,000 meals each month.

Gaskin said some people who qualify for assistance may not even know it.

"One to be clear is, if you lived in the city, often you're eligible for these programs even if you have left the borders of the city," he said.

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