New U.S. Census data is showing that poverty is a growing problem in our state, and Mesa County is no exception.
That new data shows an increasing poverty rate, especially for the children of the centennial state. The local groups we talked to say it means they're seeing more people asking for help.
New Census data being released shows high poverty rates for the state of Colorado, but officials in Mesa County already knew about this growing problem. Karen Martsolf of Mesa County Health and Human Services says more people are coming to them for assistance.
"Food assistance and child and family Medicaid are two of our programs that are our biggest indications of the number of people who are living poverty in our community. We continue to see a very high level of need for both of these programs in our community. The last four months for our food assistance programs in particular, we have received on average over 600 applications. These are new applications for food assistance" explained Martsolf.
The Grand Junction Housing Authority is another local office that provides assistance to those living in poverty. They provide subsidized housing to the elderly, disabled, and working families.
"We did just start leasing a new program for families with school children in school district 51, homeless families, and we were given thirty coupons. We started leasing at the beginning of this week and we've received an enormous amount of applications for that program in just a week" said Lori Rosendahl, Chief Operating Officer of the Grand Junction Housing Authority.
Rosendahl says that sometimes it's tough to stay focused with the overwhelming need but seeing the programs make a difference in people’s lives makes it all work it.
"I overheard a young lady in the lobby with her three little boys and she was working on getting housing through our next step program. And I heard her say to her boys ‘I just need you to be patient a little bit longer and behave for mommy because we're going to get a place to live now and we won't have to sleep on anybody's couch’" said Rosendahl.
Local food banks are also seeing that increase in need, including the need for more food for hungry kids.
"We realize that right now children are in need due to the fact of problems at home, single families, and income situations. So we have several programs right now that distribute backpacks on a weekly basis to the children” says Starlene Collins, Manager at the Western Slope Food Bank of the Rockies.
If you’re in need of assistance or if you’d like to donate, here are some links to local agencies and organizations.
Mesa County Department of Human Services
Grand Junction Housing Authority
Western Slope Food Bank of the Rockies