Park City organizations target local poverty
A group involving a range of Park City-area government and not-for-profit representatives recently began meeting to address the broad concerns of poverty and the challenges the less fortunate face locally.
The group does not have a name. It has met twice since August. The membership includes City Hall, the Park City School District, the Christian Center of Park City and other groups. The Christian Center of Park City has long been involved in the issues, running a food pantry and three thrift stores.
Rob Harter, the executive director of the Christian Center of Park City, said the group wants to address issues like the income, cultural, education and language gaps in the community.
"There are many layers to poverty," Harter said.
It appears the group will also address housing issues. Park City is the most expensive real estate market in the state, pricing many rank-and-file workers out of the market. Harter said housing expenses in Park City could "perpetuate" poverty.
"The challenge of affordable housing is a serious one. When there is not affordable housing available where one works, it creates greater problems like an increase in traffic congestion and greater pollution, not to mention creating a wider demographic gap between lower income and higher income communities within Park City," Harter said in a written response to a Park Record question about the group. "A greater burden is placed on those who can’t afford housing in a given community because they have to drive further to get to work (from the community they can afford to live in to their workplace), spend more money on gas with an already limited budget as well as spend more time away from their family because of their commute."
Federal numbers estimated 7.6 percent of the population of Summit County in 2013 lived in poverty, the third-lowest rate in the state. The figure was 9.6 percent for children up to 17 years old. The federal guideline for poverty in 2013 was $11,490 annually for a one-person household, $15,510 for a two-person household, $19,530 for a household with three people and $23,550 for a four-person household.
"Every day, people walk in our doors at the Christian Center in need of food, clothes, rent assistance, medical expense assistance, car repair costs etc. Most of these clients are working at least one job, many have more than one job. The struggle to just survive is real for many families in Park City," Harter said, adding, "These families can often be just one major injury, one car repair, or one interruption in wage earnings from serious financial troubles and sometimes even homelessness."
It is not clear what sort of work plan the group will pursue. It seems that City Hall, the School District and the County Courthouse could eventually consider ideas or programs as a result of the group’s work. There could someday also be a state and federal role as well.
"We are focusing our efforts on people who are facing serious economic, educational and vocational obstacles. We are seeking to determine what primary factors (ie low wages, affordable housing, affordable day care etc) are causing these obstacles and what can we as a City, as Non-Profit organizations and Educational leaders can do collectively together to help overcome these obstacles," Harter said.