How Can We Support Families in Poverty? (by Dominique Alvarez)

Part One: Thematic research question

Families are a very important part of our worlds. Whether realized or not we learn many things from our families; parents are how we learn to walk and talk, siblings are how we learn to play and laugh. It’s the families’ job to take care of and prepare a child for adulthood and the real world. For this reason I have chosen to work in community service aided at helping families. I started working with a group of Knits for Newborns, which has been great so far, but I wanted to know what else was out there. My thematic research question is: What programs are there in my area to help families in poverty and what can be done to help support them?


Bishaw, Alemayehu. “Poverty: 2000 to 2012.” (2013): 1. United States Census Bureau. American Community Survey Briefs. Web. 24 Nov. 2014. <;.

This source explains poverty on a national level from the year 2000 to the year 2012. I found this through the United States Census Bureau’s webpage about poverty in the United States. I found it had all of the information I was originally curious about and more such as what defines poverty and a state by state break down of the poverty levels and other demographic information.

“Oregon.” Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity. Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity, 1 Jan. 2014. Web. 20 Nov. 2014. <;.

This explains the specific levels of poverty and some basic demographic information specific to Oregon in the year 2013. I found this to be greatly useful because the first source only goes through 2012.

“Our Partner Organizations.” Hands On Greater Portland. Hands On Greater Portland, 1 Jan. 2014. Web. 20 Nov. 2014. <;.

This last source is where I am starting to look for different non-profits in the area that help families in need. Also using this as a way to research different ways of volunteering and how those impact the families they help.

Part 2: A Few Simple Things

Poverty may not affect everyone but the effect it does have can be tremendous. So what is poverty exactly? Poverty, as defined by, is “the state or condition of having little or no money, goods, or means of support; condition of being poor.” Some people are lucky and have never experienced poverty but for many others it a crushing reality. For some this means not having any luxuries such as TV, Internet, cellphones, or videogames; for others it means not having basic necessities such as food, clothes, or a place to live. It’s important to remember all sorts of people can end up in poverty and that these people just need a little extra help, and there are some pretty easy ways to help. To begin we should understand what poverty means in this country.

Poverty’s effect on the United States has only gotten worse since 2000. Between 2000 and 2012 the percentage of those in poverty in the US went from 12.2% to 15.9%. That is approximately 48.8 million people (Bishaw); living without sufficient means. On a local scale for those of us in Oregon, the poverty rate for 2013 was 16.7% and the portion of single-parent families under the poverty line was 39% (“Oregon”). We have started making progress. The United States Census Bureau shows that in 2013, the official poverty rate was down to 14.5%; this is the first decrease recorded since 2006 but that is still a lot of people and there is more that can be done to help.

One group called Michelle’s Love, works to help single mothers who are going through cancer treatment. They do various work such as donating food or house cleaning. To earn money for food they accept donations, participate in sponsored sales, and run for-fun fundraisers such as a Pin-Ball tournament. For the house cleaning the group host events where people can come and help clean. (“Our Volunteer Services and How We Help”). This is just one example of how anyone can help their community.

Another great option for helping is run by the Hands on Greater Portland, the group event is called “Knits for Newborns” and is held in Portland, OR. Just as the title suggests, its goal is to create fun and cute necessities, such as blankets and hats, to poverty stricken families with newborns. In addition they give gifts, such as small toys and stockings, to children who are hospitalized with the intent of making the experience less traumatic (“Knit for Newborns”). They promote themselves by saying “Volunteers on the Hands On knitting groups will say they love getting together to socialize with new friends and marvel over the creativity of items made. But those who really benefit from our knitting are the recipients of the handmade treasures.” (“Knit for Newborns”). This offers volunteers a great hobby stop, while still maintaining the message we are here to help others.

And lastly, with Christmas fast approaching a great way to help is to ‘adopt’ a family through The Christmas Family Adoption Foundation. Their goal is to “provide children with toys, clothing, and other necessities.” (“The Christmas Family Adoption Foundation”). They offer a wonderful opportunity to provide a little bit more holiday cheer. Furthermore they offer basic necessities and gift cards for a full family meal, something too many people will go without this season.

While these solutions may seem “only temporary”, they can really make the difference in a person’s life. Whether it is making sure they have full tummies or just alleviating a bit of stress. We can give them enough to start again, and maybe they’ll be there to help the next one.


“2013 Highlights.” About Poverty. United States Census Bureau, 16 Sept. 2014. Web. 20 Nov. 2014. <;.

Bishaw, Alemayehu. “Poverty: 2000 to 2012.” (2013): 1. United States Census Bureau. American Community Survey Briefs. Web. 24 Nov. 2014. <;.

“Knit for Newborns (age 14 ) *Hands On*.” Hands On Greater Portland. Hands On Greater Portland, 1 Jan. 2014. Web. 24 Nov. 2014. <;.

“Our Volunteer Services and How We Help.” Michelle’s Love. Michelle’s Love, 1 Jan. 2014. Web. 24 Nov. 2014. <;.

“Oregon.” Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity. Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity, 1 Jan. 2014. Web. 20 Nov. 2014. <;.

“Poverty.” Web. 26 Nov. 2014. <;.

“Poverty in the United States.” National Poverty Center. Regents of the University of Michigan, 1 Jan. 2014. Web. 20 Nov. 2014. <;.

“The Christmas Family Adoption Foundation.” Christmas Family Adoption Foundation. Web. 24 Nov. 2014. <;.



  1. Cathy Stevens

    This was great. I really like how you went in detail to tell exactly what poverty is and how it affects, so many people. Some are lucky not to ever experience this in their own life. I think it was great that you made it that clear. You really gave examples that can make a big difference in a family’s life that are struggling.
    Sometimes I think people think they don’t have the time to help. However you showed a few ways to be able to help that does not take much time.

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