Boasting a median household income of $62,295, Chester County is ranked as the wealthiest county in Pennsylvania and the 24th richest in the nation.
That may be a startling statistic. Even more startling: More than 6 percent of the county’s population lives in poverty, and more than 600 of its residents, were counted as homeless on a single night in January. Many more people, confronted with the high cost of living, are struggling to make ends meet.
St. Andrews Episcopal Church in Glenmoore recently presented a panel discussion on “The Challenges of Poverty in Chester County: Helping Those in Need.” About 50 people attended the discussion, which is the first in a series of planned lectures by the church.
The discussion featured three panelists who deal with poverty in Chester County on a regular basis. They included Patrick Bokovitz, director of the Chester County Department of Community Development; Thomas Burd, executive director of The Clinic in Phoenixville; and Phoebe Kitson-Davis, program manager of Chester County Food Bank Inc.
They revealed some stark truths about the specific challenges faced by the economically disadvantaged living in the midst of prosperity.
Among those challenges, the high cost of housing is perhaps the most significant. The average two-bedroom apartment costs $1,095 per month, according to statistics provided by Kitson-Davis. To pay that, a provider needs an hourly wage of $21.06. Someone earning only $8 an hour would need to work 88 hours per week, just to cover the rent.
When all costs are factored in—health care, child care, food, transportation and taxes—a single parent with one preschooler needs a salary of $51,853, according to “The Self-Sufficiency Standard for PA, 2010-2011,” published by the University of Washington.