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Tribal advocates keep up legal pressure for fair political maps; 12-member jury sworn in for Trump's historic criminal trial; the importance of healthcare decision planning; and a debt dilemma: poll shows how many people wrestle with college costs.

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Civil rights activists say a court ruling could end the right to protest in three southern states, a federal judge lets January 6th lawsuits proceed against former President Trump, and police arrest dozens at a Columbia University Gaza protest.

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Rural Wyoming needs more vocational teachers to sustain its workforce pipeline, Ohio environmental advocates fear harm from a proposal to open 40-thousand forest acres to fracking and rural communities build bike trail systems to promote nature, boost the economy.

Community leaders call for more housing to combat rising poverty

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Thursday, January 25, 2024   

January is National Poverty in America Awareness Month and community action agencies across the state are working to change lives for the 5 million Californians who cannot afford the basics.

The poverty rate in the Golden State rose from 11.7% in fall 2021 to 13.2% in the first quarter of 2023.

David Knight, executive director of the California Community Action Program Association, said circumstances have been difficult.

"What we've seen is a tick back up in poverty as both the cost of living has risen, right at the same time that a lot of the resources are starting to shrink back to pre-pandemic levels," Knight explained.

Community action programs use block grants to help people who live at or near the poverty line, which is about $20,000 a year for a single parent and child.

Lawren Ramos, community services program director for the Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo, said the lack of affordable housing is especially hard for older people on a fixed income.

"We have people who are staying in the shelter who found themselves in a situation where they rented a place for 25 years, and that place sold, and the new owner just raised the rent beyond their level of income," Ramos observed. "They found themselves on the street."

Community action programs in all 58 counties use block grants to fund a range of programs supporting low-income families. The effort began 60 years ago during the Johnson administration's war on poverty.

Biz Steinberg, CEO of the Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo, sees reason for optimism.

"I wouldn't still be doing this if I didn't see change happening every day," Steinberg noted. "Our little slogan is "Helping People, Changing Lives." And that has never stopped. It is the most challenging work but the most rewarding."

Misty Gattie-Blanco, director of sanctuary and support services for the Fresno Economic Opportunities Coalition, said the agency's board of commissioners voted this week for a pilot program to provide $500 a month to families with children living below the poverty line.

"This guaranteed income could potentially help them from becoming homeless," Gattie-Blanco pointed out. "It could pay for groceries or fuel, to help them focus on their family."


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