The kids who use the summer program at the Cristo Rey Community Center are involved in 8 weeks of athletic activities and field trips. They also get breakfast and lunch for free. Most would go without if the program didn't exist. The Executive Director of the community center, John Roy Castillo, says, "Most of the people we have here are the working poor, so they don't have any other way to be in the summertime or keep the kids busy."
Some of the kids are part of some startling new statistics released from the Kids Count program in Michigan. Numbers show there's been a 36% jump in the number of Michigan's children living in poverty from 2000 to 2007. Project Director of Kids Count in Michigan, Jane Zehnder-Merrell says, "One in five Michigan children live in poverty and for a family of four, that's an income of $21,000 a year."
In fact, the percentage of kids living in poverty went up from 14% in 2000 to 19% statewide in 2007. In Ingham and Jackson County, the numbers are worse than the state average. Jackson sits at 21% and Ingham is at 22%. Zehnder-Merrell says, "It could be that the employment of GM, the dwindling of good manufacturing jobs might be at play here."
Castillo says from his work at the community center, he knows that kids in that kind of poverty get in trouble more often if they don't have positive things to do. He says, "The negative impact four our kids in this neighborhood is that if they don't have any place to go, they'll be out in the street."
The folks at the community center say they'll keep doing what they can to help. Zehnder-Merrell says brace for bigger poverty numbers for kids to be reported after 2007 because the economy has worsened since then.
Michigan ranks 34th in the nation for its percentage of kids in poverty.