Responses to the Suburbanization of Poverty in Short Supply

Low-income residents have scattered to the periphery, where social services are less accessible.

2 minute read

April 10, 2018, 7:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

Suburban Sidewalk

Alita Xander / Shutterstock

Aaron Wiener writes in detail about the suburbanization of poverty, focusing on the region around Washington, D.C. as an example of changes underway in cities around the country.

According to Wiener, people growing up in neighborhoods in Washington, D.C. couldn't have imagine how much those places would change—or where those changes would require them to move.

Nobody imagined it, really. Certainly not the original suburbanites, the mostly white pilgrims who fled cities nationwide for peace, safety, space — and sometimes to get away from people who didn’t look like them. Not the federal government, which declared war on poverty in the 1960s but got stuck on an old version of the fight, still targeting low-income clusters in urban centers today rather than the diffusion of people who can no longer afford to live near their work. Not the nonprofit organizations that help low-income populations, which began in the so-called inner city and are largely still there, spending far more money per urban poor person than per suburbanite in need — 10 times as much in the D.C. region.

According to Wiener, low-income residents are leaving downtowns for more suburban locales, where they are "increasingly hidden from public view" and "isolated from the government offices, social services, and networks of friends and relatives on which they once relied." Traditionally wealthy areas, like Montgomery County in Maryland, have seen the fastest increases in poverty while also seeing an influx of non-white residents.

To illustrate the larger societal shift, Wiener follows the story of Delonte Wilkins, a resident of Capital Heights, Maryland, who grew up in the Bloomingdale neighborhood of Northwest Washington, D.C. But the larger story told by the article is about the struggle of non-profits and local jurisdictions to respond to the shifting geography of poverty.

Thursday, April 5, 2018 in The Washington Post

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