Are our services Out of Reach?

Out of Reach: Place, Poverty, and
the New American Welfare State

Out of Reach: Place, Poverty, and the New American Welfare StateLast week we had the opportunity to attend the National Human Services Data Consortium conference in Chicago. We found the ideas about how to utilize data to tell the story of our efforts to end homelessness and expand supportive housing of great benefit. Over the next few weeks we will be posting on some of the new ideas from the conference.

The morning speaker on Friday was Scott W. Allard, an Associate Professor at the University of Chicago. He has done substantial work on place, poverty and opportunity. We published a post about his research – The Great Recession and Poverty in Metropolitan America – on the rise in poverty in the suburbs.

Last week he spoke about his latest book – Out of Reach: Place, Poverty, and the New American Welfare State – which is based on substantial data collected from surveys in Chicago, Washington and Los Angeles on the mismatch between safety net programs and those in need.

Professor Allard described his works as:

Place, poverty, and opportunity are inextricably linked in the United States. Whether looking at neighborhoods in Chicago or towns in rural Kentucky, place determines the opportunities and community resources available to low-income populations. Not only do the working poor often live far from economic opportunity, but they often may not live nearby the government and nonprofit safety net programs that can help them access better economic opportunities and care for their families. To the extent that safety net programs and resources are inaccessible to the populations they seek to help, our efforts to promote work and healthier families will fall short.

Our safety net has undergone a dramatic transformation in the past 40 years that has profound implications for how society helps, or does not help, poor persons. While cash assistance is a critical component of our safety net, far more money is spent – some $150 to 200 billion annually – on social service programs that address basic material needs, promote work, and help low-income persons overcome barriers to greater self-sufficiency. Today, for every $1 spent on cash welfare payments, some $15 to $20 are spent on job training, adult education, child care, emergency assistance, mental health care, and other social services.

He stressed that “No access = no assistance”.

We found his work of interest and recommend it to our readers.

Click here to read the first chapter of Out of Reach: Place, Poverty, and the New American Welfare State.

Click here to read The Great Recession and Poverty in Metropolitan America.