Poverty Awareness Month: Alleviating the Challenges Facing Native American Communities

More than 40 million people in the U.S. live in poverty – earning less than the federal official poverty threshold for a family of four ($24,000). January is Poverty Awareness Month and the month-long initiative raises awareness and calls attention to the reality of rising poverty in America.

Unfortunately, impoverishment is all too common in many Native American communities. In fact, two of the five poorest counties in the U.S. are located on Indian reservations and the highest poverty rate by ethnic group is found among Native Americans, accounting for 27.6 percent of national poverty overall.

Within the most geographically-isolated Native American communities, tribes experience a variety of social determinants that ultimately fuel poverty, from lack of job opportunities and education access to limitations involving transportation and infrastructure. Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA) works year-round to offset the living conditions that accompany poverty, assisting reservation communities through its material services and long-term solutions.

Immediate relief through material services helps ensure access to basic necessities in Native communities, including safe drinking water, fresh produce, non-perishable food items and non-food items to alleviate financial stress in low-income households. Many families often must choose between spending on groceries or other life-impacting choices such as school supplies before a new school year or winter fuel to heat their home.

PWNA’s work is inspired by a vision of strong, self-sufficient Native American communities, and its services that support long-term outcomes are just as critical as those that address immediate needs. Through services focused on community investment, capacity building and higher education attainment, PWNA helps Native American community-based leaders work toward solutions that will more sustainably improve the quality of life in their communities.

Whether it’s providing a Senior Center with food to ensure hot meals to Elders, or funding scholarships to assist Native students with higher education, addressing poverty comes in many shapes and forms. This month, we reflect on the seriousness of the growing poverty in America and acknowledge that our work is critical to the Native communities we serve.

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