Every year as thousands of organizations, charities, and groups prepare to gather goods like clothing, toiletries, and canned food items, millions of indigent American citizens wait until major holidays, such as Thanksgiving or Christmas, to receive the help they desperately need. Although the desire and drive from these organizations to raise funds and donate to the cause is admirable, it ignores major factors that allow the problem to continue without an end in sight. The levels of poverty within South Carolina are staggering, and the amount of effort being put forth to change the conditions of the struggling residents is inadequate. Those who are directly impacted by the problem know that the Columbia homeless coordinator process was too rushed in July, the backlog over Medicaid has left thousands in limbo regarding their insurance, and the low minimum wage not only is detrimental to those working, but to their families as well. The child poverty rate in South Carolina is at 27%; 44% of single-parent families with related children are below the poverty level, and the unemployment rate in the state resides around 8.3%. With these numbers in mind, how could we ever question why 9% of teens ages 16 to 19 are not attending school and not working, why there are 1,258 youths residing in juvenile justice and correctional facilities, or why 626,901 children are enrolled in Medicaid and CHIP within the state alone?
The lack of attention given to impoverished youth is especially astonishing, and the few efforts made to attempt to aid the condition of poverty in adolescents are often ignored. Many schools within Richland School District 2 have food pantries or clothing closets that most teachers and students are unaware of. Unless they are in direct need of items from the pantries, most people don’t even know where the closets reside in the schools. The stigma placed on needing assistance or help is one of the major causes of the lack of awareness, especially in the youth. However, Spring Valley is attempting to make changes to this negative perception placed on poverty by encouraging students and teachers to donate and become involved with the supply closet at the school, attend the Homeless Not Hopeless theater productions, and become more aware of the statistics regarding peers in poverty. Civil activist groups are trying to raise the minimum wage, and despite how most people think this will only help teens, the typical minimum wage worker is not a high-school student earning weekend pocket money. In fact, 88 percent of those who would benefit from a federal minimum wage increase are age 20 or older, and 55 percent are women. This is our problem because it is our America; we must be the ones to encourage and enforce this change. (Spolight On Poverty, DOL)