Poverty impacts Erath County, especially children

By Veronica Morales— 

Guest writer 

Poverty isn’t just an urban problem. It hits home – even in a small town like Stephenville.

In 2015, 24.4 percent of all people in Erath County and 13.9 percent of families lived below the poverty level, according to data compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Families with children under age 18 accounted for 19.7 percent of people living below the poverty level in the county and 20.4 percent had children under the age of 5, the Census Bureau also found in its 2011-2015 American Community Survey.

The Census Bureau said it measures poverty status by “comparing annual income to a set of dollar values, called poverty thresholds, that vary by family size, number of children, and the age of the householder.”

“If a family’s before-tax money income is less than the dollar value of their threshold, then that family and every individual in it are considered to be in poverty,” the bureau added. “For people not living in families, poverty status is determined by comparing the individual’s income to his or her poverty threshold.”

Although Stephenville has several nonprofit organizations that help those in need, such as Grace Place and Pantry and More – and Tarleton State University operates a food pantry for the campus community – the city does not have a shelter for homeless people living on the streets.

Grace Place is run by First Baptist Ministry and provides financial assistance with bills. Grace Place Director Sherry Carroll explained “that assistance is available with food, clothing, and more. Groceries and clothes are provided monthly, while financial assistance is available every seven months.”

Tommy Shelton, who began Pantry and More in 2003, has also been helping those in need with food and other necessities. At Pantry and More visitors can find a wide variety of food along with clothes and household items, all available for those who need it. Pantry and More is currently located on U.S. Highway 67 west of its intersection with U.S. 281.

Shelton, who opens his doors early each morning, said “anyone who needs help can get it. No questions asked.”

Poverty hits people of all ages. In Erath County, 24.6 percent of people 18 years and over fell below the poverty level. The highest number – 26 percent – was for people 18 to 64 years old. Of those 65 years and older, 17.4 percent lived in poverty, the Census Bureau found.

For more information regarding Grace Place, contact Director Sherry Carroll at 254-965-4022. For information about Pantry and More, contact Tommy Shelton at 254-592-9696.

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