Down and out in Lake County

Robert Traviss’s house, if you can call it that, is an old camper trailer he shares with two Chihuahuas named Spaz and Boots. The trailer is parked in the side yard of the home, now rotting away, where he grew up. A second camper trailer, even older, is in the front yard and is filled with the tools he used before a stroke left him disabled.

The detritus of his life – a lawn mower, an upholstered recliner, a couple of plastic buckets, an old car that hasn’t run in months – are scattered around the yard

From the camper’s door, Traviss, 55, can look across fields, where deer graze. If he steps outside with his walker and surveys the neighborhood, he sees poverty – rural poverty, the kind that is little noticed by much of the nation. He used to be a machinist and a tool and die maker, but now, since the stroke, his only income is from Social Security disability.

“It’s not enough. I can tell you that,” he said. “It’s hard to get by out here. For me it’s rough. There’s a lot of people in a lot worse shape than me.”

His mailing address is Chase, a wisp of a town in Lake County in West Michigan, by many measures the poorest county in the state. But it’s not the only county that is quietly suffering. While most of Michigan’s poor live in cities, the poverty rate in rural Michigan is higher, particularly in northern Michigan.

Fifty years after President Lyndon Johnson declared war on poverty, 1.6 million Michigan residents – 16.3 percent of the state’s population – remain poor. And 11 of the 13 Michigan counties with poverty rates above 20 percent are largely rural.

“We’ve had a long history of rural poverty,” said H. Luke Shaefer, a University of Michigan social work professor and a researcher affiliated with UM’s National Poverty Center.

In 2013, he co-authored a study of “extreme poverty,” which estimated that nationally nearly 1.6 million households with children were trying to survive on less than $2 a day per person, the definition of extreme poverty. “There’s no reason to think Michigan would be any different,” he said.

Rural decline

In the coming months, Bridge will explore life in rural Michigan not seen from the decks of lake cottages or the tops of ski hills. It is a life of high poverty and low life expectancy, of bad health and few jobs. Today, Bridge examines poverty on the back roads of Lake County.

Although the last recession officially ended in June 2009, many rural areas still are far from recovered. For some people in Lake County, the recession was another blip in a long history of destitution.

“There’s just no economic opportunity,” Shaefer said. “A lot of the jobs we used to think of as unskilled are now skilled. A tractor is now a computer. Transportation is a huge problem. If you don’t have a car, it’s pretty tough to get around.”

Food pantries, social service agencies and other programs are harder for rural residents to access because they often lack transportation. Some federal anti-poverty programs, such as Community Development Block Grants and Community Health Centers, were designed more to help the poor in larger cities.

A large portion of Lake County’s poor are senior citizens, who require more services than younger residents, said Colleen Carrington-Atkins, a county commissioner, whose district includes Chase. More than 25 percent of Lake County’s residents are older than 65, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, compared with a statewide average of 14.6 percent.

“Our churches are struggling, our libraries are struggling and our businesses are struggling,” particularly after tourists load up their boats and go home at the end of summer, Carrington-Atkins said.

In counties like Lake, isolation is a way of life, and hardship passes from generation to generation – out of sight, and out of mind for many of the more affluent.

Political clout dims

“Rural poverty can be invisible unless you’re paying attention,” said Mary Truck, director of FiveCAP, a nonprofit Community Action Program that serves the poor in Lake and neighboring counties. “You drive into Lake County, and you say, ‘Something is different.’ You turn down a road, and you see a shack with all kinds of evidence that they can’t maintain it. There are people in Lake County who live in extreme poverty, and they are the most invisible.”

The elimination of general assistance payments for adults by the state Legislature in the early 1990s, cuts in home heating assistance by state lawmakers this past winter and Congress’s failure to extend long-term unemployment benefits all contributed to the problem, she said.

“The people who make decisions that affect the lives of these people don’t identify with them at all,” Truck said. “I sometimes wonder if they see them as people.”

Lake County Commissioner Robert Myers said he has talked with state elected officials about getting more help for the county’s poor, but the response he got was “all verbiage and no action.”

“I’m very upset with how the state looks at it,” said Myers, a former chair of the county Republican Party. “The point is they don’t take our problem seriously. It’s not a big deal for the politicians to ignore Lake County, because there aren’t a lot of people here,” fewer than 12,000 residents.

Myers noted, for instance, that he is critical of the state and the prison guards’ union for not allowing the reopening the privately owned prison in Baldwin. “There’s no income in this county to support what the needs are,” he said. “You gotta have revenue from business. We have no business in Lake County. We don’t have a stoplight in the whole county. We don’t have a car dealership in the whole county.”

From resort to last resort

In its heyday, Lake County was a resort destination. Throughout much of the 20th century, the tiny settlement of Idlewild drew black entertainers and their fans who found other resorts closed to them. As more overt forms of discrimination ebbed, Idlewild became little more than a memory with an historic cultural center. Most of the county’s 575 square miles are covered with state and federal forests. Its largest employer, a privately owned prison in Baldwin, closed in 2005.

More than 24 percent of Lake County’s residents live in poverty, nearly four times the rate in Livingston County, the most affluent county in Michigan, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Lake County’s median household income of $30,390 is less than half Livingston County’s $72,396.

Lake certainly has its rivals for poorest Michigan county. Clare County’s poverty rate (defined by the U.S. Census Bureau as a family of four earning $23,283 a year or less, or $11,945 for an individual under 65) is 24.8 percent, but its median household income is higher than Lake County’s. Officially, Isabella County has the highest poverty rate in Michigan – 32.1 percent – but the U.S. Census Bureau estimated the rate would drop to 18 percent if it excluded Central Michigan University students living off-campus.

The gap between the richest and the poorest counties in Michigan can be measured in more than dollars. Counties with higher rates of poverty generally have lower life expectancies, and higher rates of substance abuse and chronic illness.

In Lake, the average life expectancy for males born in 2010 is 75 years, according to the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. In Livingston County, it is 78 years. In Lake County, 45 percent of females are obese. In Livingston County, it’s 32.6 percent.

Lake County has higher rates of cancer deaths, diabetes, teen pregnancies and low-birth-weight babies than the state average, according to District Health Department No. 10. Its residents are also more likely to suffer high blood pressure.

All this hardship is particularly tough on children, said Jane Zehnder-Merrell, Kids Count project director at the Michigan League for Public Policy. Researcher call it “toxic stress,” which is itself strongly associated with increased risks of lifelong health and social problems, including smoking, drug abuse, suicide, teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, domestic violence and depression.

“We’re learning a lot about toxic stress,” Zehnder-Merrell said . “You’re always in this state of mind that I’ve got to fight or run away. It’s hard to think about the future.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Lake also has the state’s highest rate of confirmed child abuse cases, the 2013 Kids Count report found, with Lake ranking worst in eight of the report’s 15 indicators of child well-being. In contrast, Livingston County ranked best in five. Forty-eight percent of Lake County children live in poverty, the report found, compared with nine percent in Livingston County.

Struggling to help

Michigan’s rural poor face challenges getting services, acknowledged Michigan Department of Human Services spokesperson Bob Wheaton. “One of the biggest challenges in rural counties is transportation,” he said. People who need help often live quite a distance from the closest DHS office, and they often don’t have a reliable car. And with a lack of transportation, it’s often difficult for people to access nutritional food.

Lake County is trying to address the transportation gap through a dial-a-ride service paid for through a county millage. DHS also offers tokens for transportation, but some of the poor live so far off major roads that public transportation can’t reach them.

DHS also offers Lake County rent-free office space for other social service efforts, such as a domestic violence center, housing assistance and a parenting education program.

That’s good, but what the county really needs is jobs, county and state officials agree. Lake’s county commission is working on an economic development plan, Carrington-Atkins said, though she bemoaned that such a plan was not created earlier. “One of the problems with economic development in Lake County is there wasn’t enough focus on it in the past.”

With no manufacturing and few job prospects, Wheaton said communities in rural regions like Lake County are drying up. “A lot of these towns are just a gas station and a bar,” Wheaton said.

Little hope for escape

While some see education as a ticket out of poverty, many children immersed in generations of hardship see little hope or motivation for rising above it, Zehnder-Merrell said. Fourth grade students in Lake County scored worse on standardized reading tests than students in all but one Michigan county.

Nearly half (48 percent) of Lake County high school students fail to graduate on time, the Kids Count report found.

The annual reports were started “with the premise that if people knew what poverty was doing to families and children, they would do something about it,” Zehnder-Merrell said. “The exact opposite is happening.”

That may be changing. Baldwin Public Schools received a $750,000 grant from the state to retrofit its schools to go to a balanced schedule, in which there are more breaks during the traditional school year, but a shorter summer break to lesson summer learning loss.

Baldwin Schools also has their own version of the Kalamazoo Promise - offering up to $5,000 per year for college and career training for Baldwin graduates.

“It’s all about education,” said State Rep. Jon Bumstead, R-Newago, whose district includes Lake County. “If we don’t have quality schools, especially in Lake County, the dropout rate will be high and the poverty rate will be high.”

Sitting in his yard in Chase, Robert Traviss shares that concern about the kids. “Yeah, this town, it ain’t got nothing for the kids,” he said.

Helping neighbors

A car pulled up in front, and Randy and Dolores Libey stepped out to give Traviss a bag of chips and a bottle of pop – not that they have much to give. The Libeys used to live around the corner, but moved after child protective services workers warned they would lose custody of her daughter, because the trailer they were renting had no heat or running water.

Down miles of barely passable roads, they led the way to where they now live: a mobile home in the woods they rent for $475 a month. She makes $7.85 an hour working 28 hours a week at Subway in neighboring Osceola County. He used to work at McDonalds, but lost that job after taking off work due to panic attacks. He’s on medication for schizophrenia and receives $740 a month in disability. At 35, she takes medication for arthritis, diabetes and glaucoma.

Both admit they’ve done time – she for writing bad checks, and he for accessory to arson and burglary – and say they once were addicted to cocaine, which temporarily cost them custody of her daughter. They got her back three years ago and say they have been drug free for five years.

“We get food stamps, but it never seems like it’s enough with a 14 year old who’s growing,” Dolores Libey said. “I worry about all kinds of stuff, my bills, my mother. I worry all the time.

But she added: “I’ve seen people worse off than we are.

“There’s always someone worse off than we are.”

Ron French contributed to this article

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Tue, 08/05/2014 - 8:57am
Heading up north for vacations it is easy to miss seeing the poverty unless you get off the freeway and away from the tourist areas. I noticed it going between I-75 and Rogers City thru some very small towns that were little more than a gas station and a bar and thinking to myself what do people up here do for a living? It looked very sad and run down.
Wed, 07/15/2020 - 4:25am

"Although the last recession officially ended in June 2009"? Really? That should have been the main story.

Jim Turner
Tue, 08/05/2014 - 9:55am
Does Rural Michigan Matter? Of course it does. There are amazing things happening in rural communities all across this state. Lake County is different. It lacks greatly in economic activity. A large portion of the land is not taxable. The county is not sustainable in that there are no jobs visible to it's children to train for. The children that do get an education will leave.
Linda Pierucki
Tue, 08/05/2014 - 2:04pm
You make an excellent point Jim, with your comment that a large portion of the land is not taxable-aka: 'owned by the 'public'. Although the elite city-dwellers firmly believe in creating more and more govt ownership of land (but not in their city), this is all land removed from the tax base which provides local services. In Michigan, the state pays 'payments in lieu of taxes' . . .only if there is money 'left' in the state budget that isnt wanted for something else. It is usually a far, far smaller amount that would be paid by a private owner. And state land drains on local governments for police and fire protection. All of this government land is thus removed from development, industry and private benefit. All so a bunch of city-bred elitists with a penchant for ill--thought-out 'green' religiosity can possibly use it for recreation or imaginary conservation benefit without paying anywhere near the full price of ownership. Sell all that 'public land' back to private individuals who will both improve it and pay taxes. And respect that No Trespassing sign once it's theirs! Give rural Michigan back its ability to thrive . . . because it's a far, far better place o live than your cities! It's all political . . and sparsely-populated rural areas without large cities and well-funded politicians dont have the political clout of the urban areas, which inevitably cannibalize rural areas to improve THEIR standard of living. Look in the mirror, folks!
Tue, 08/05/2014 - 6:17pm
Sorry Linda but vacant land in Michigan uses very little in the way of public services, except very rare fires. Police?? Forget it! They spend their time chasing locals! Further because of the amount of public land in Lake county as many counties up north much of the privately owned land and all most all of the most expensive property is owned by non-residents, who again spend relatively small amounts of their time in that community and again use very little of the local government services especially relative to the taxes they pay. They don't even plow or maintain my 'public" road!! We in fact pay a huge portion of the local taxes! On top of taxes, non-resident owners provide many jobs to the locals who do want to work. The problems faced by most Americans and particularly those living "up north" are self-inflicted.
Mon, 08/18/2014 - 6:38pm
If all land was private, it would be unaccessible both to local people and outsiders who come for outdoor recreation and spend money. It is such short-sighted thinking that allows conservative extremists to amass property and use it only for personal gain. This mindset plays into the hands of the right wing, who's ultimate goal is to enrich themselves at the expense of the public.
Pat & Steve
Sun, 07/19/2020 - 11:55pm

My husband and I own a few acres in Baldwin, which we just recently acquired after waiting decades for it to become available, on which we plan to build our retirement home in a couple of years. We are Catholic, Christian, Conservative Republicans in our 60's who have been visiting Baldwin since our teens/early 20's and love Lake County and it's people. We can't wait to retire in a couple of years and move to Baldwin and do all we can to help the people and economy of Lake County through St. Ann's Church, Amvets, as well as on our own. Please don't judge "conservative extremists" until you've met us. We love God, our Country, Michigan, Baldwin, and the people of Lake County. God Bless.

Carol Waltman
Tue, 08/05/2014 - 9:58am
I live in Luce County. Our economy, such as it is, depends on the forest and lakes. The town is down, but definitely not out, but it's headed that direction without some help. We have logging and tourism, and many of the year-round residents are jobless or underemployed. Key to changing the picture is a solid vocational education curriculum in the high school and recruiting of companies that are eager for good employees along with that. We're right on M-28 and near US-2 as well as a rail line, so transportation shouldn't be an issue. Could sure use a high speed data line and cell phone access... which our state government hasn't been very helpful in supporting... despite numerous attempts from our end.
Tue, 08/05/2014 - 10:30am
Northern Michigan counties are poor. The light manufacturing that once sustained us is nearly all gone. The general population is old, getting older, not healthy and becoming more ill. The young escape as soon as they can and few want to return. The two big political issues are guns and abortion; few get beyond this and vote Republican primarily because Republicans are viewed as the defenders of gun rights and the opponents of women's choice. Republican control means less environmental regulation and the gradual destruction of the reasons tourists come to northern Michigan. Having lived in northern Michigan for over 20 years, it's tough to envision a turnaround. Lakes, streams, trails and golf courses are the primary tourist attractions, but the related jobs are seasonal and generally low wage. Agricultural is improving, a benefit of global warming I think, since the growing seasons are longer and the increased lake effect snow raises the water table: a higher water table makes it less expensive to irrigate. Increased agriculture doesn't produce many jobs since agriculture (mostly hay, corn and potatoes) is very automated. Mining still goes on, but with automation requires many fewer workers than it once did. Oil and gas wells account for a substantial number of jobs over the Antrim formation: an economic benefit until the resource is pumped dry. Maybe the biggest wasted resource is the trees lying on the ground. Loggers don't seem to have use for anything but the trunks of trees and leave the rest behind. This slash decays, eventually releasing the exact amount of carbon into the air as burning would. If it was salvaged and used for fuel, we'd have more energy, less waste, fewer forest fires and more jobs. I spend a lot of time in the woods. Crawling over and around the slash is a pain and it's pretty obvious that new trees would get more sunlight and grow faster if the entire old tree was harvested rather than just the trunk.
Tue, 08/05/2014 - 10:52am
We could end poverty in America for about 1% of GDP or 25% of what we spend on our military.
Tue, 08/05/2014 - 10:58pm
Barbara, Ending poverty is a dillusion, the way we define poverty is a relative thing so we will always have it. You talk of the 1%, the reality if there is a top 1% then there must always be a bottom 1% so there will always be that relative poverty. If you change you definition to quality of life, freedom to choose and freedom to live with the conseqeunces of the choices, and if you include opportunity to change then we can eliminate, reduce, or significantly mitigated 'poverty' . How do you define poverty? Then we can talk about whether it can or can't be elimnated, why and how it can be eliminated, and even it has already been significantly been mitigated.
Wed, 08/06/2014 - 11:04am
If the average family had a 50 foot yacht, we would be reading Bridge articles about the dire poverty of those who only have a 30 footer. As Jesus said, "The poor you will have with you always". It is a state of mind, not really economic. But you know this.
Wed, 08/06/2014 - 5:07pm
Matt, I disagree. It is one thing for there to be a huge disparity in income and wealth, but poverty where someone is trying to feed and clothe and house a family on $2 per person per day is something else entirely. We may not -- and perhaps should not -- eliminate the disparities in income, but that doesn't mean we can't make sure that the bottom 1% has a home, food, and heat.
Wed, 08/06/2014 - 8:17pm
Lore, Is it feeding the children or is the $2 a day that measures poverty. Once we decide what the issue is then we can begin to understand what the root causes of that problem is and develop the means to address them. I don;t think it is as simple as money. Why do we have overweight kids that are malnurished?
Wed, 08/06/2014 - 9:50pm
Lore, the comparison of what is meant by poor in the US where it would be considered rich in many other places in the world is a dead horse I don't need to beat. When you switch to the absolute bottom, I am certain you'll agree, we're no longer speaking of poverty (lack of income and wealth) but mainly of mental illness and drug abuse, and a much more complicated issue than just not having money, which again is exactly Duane's and my point. As you move up from there, if you really look and think you’ll find 98% of human misery is self inflicted.
Sun, 08/10/2014 - 3:40pm
I knew as soon as I read the article that in the comments somewhere I would find "self-inflicted" as the reason for most poverty, and I would find someone wondering how the poor can be so overweight. I remember these same comments during the Reagan years (long before the internet; the comments were in newspapers and magazines) when the Republicans stepped up the anti-government, anti-union, anti-poverty push. These people seem to forget that just a few years ago we were losing jobs to the tune of 500,000 a MONTH. Millions of jobs went overseas and millions more were downsized. Sustainable wages were a thing of the past, and millions more lost their homes after the housing bubble burst. (Their own fault, I know. Let's never blame the mortgagors. They were only doing what comes naturally--making money.) Our increase in poverty is not because poor people bring it on themselves, it's because we've devolved into the kind of economy that forces people into poverty. As to why the poor are often overweight: We explained all this to Reagan's idiots--the ones who cut school lunch programs and decided they could call ketchup a vegetable and get around the school food standards that way: Poor people are overweight because cheap, filling foods are high calorie and fat and carbohydrate-rich. Try living on food stamps and see what you have to choose from. Fresh fruits and vegetables are expensive compared to a box of macaroni and cheese. I'm always stunned when I see these same old arguments against the poor rearing their ugly heads. Do a little studying before you rush to condemn poor people. It might soothe your conscience and ease you from the burden of having to worry about anyone but yourself, but it does nothing to solve the problems we face today. Our poverty rates are high because we've created an economic system that benefits by keeping people poor. They work harder for less money and they can't fight back when they get screwed. And who keeps that ridiculous meme about "self-inflicted poverty" going? The rich do, and they know there will be enough fools to grab their message and run with it to keep them from ever having to worry about a populace that will make the kinds of demands on them that were so prevalent in the thriving mid-20th century, whe we had strong unions, strong government and a thriving middle class. Keep it up, guys, you won't ever be rewarded for your efforts but you're making the oligarchs ecstatically happy.
Sun, 08/10/2014 - 11:06pm
Ramona, How do you see the current economic system forcing people to be 'poor'?
Wed, 08/13/2014 - 8:36am
Well said, Ramona. Thank you.
Mon, 08/18/2014 - 7:17pm
Excellent analysis, Ramona. If we could only solve the problem of people supporting the political and economic elite against their own best interests and the good of humanity, most of the worlds troubles would be gone.
Tue, 02/16/2016 - 3:31pm
Poverty will always be with us. All long as poor people breed you will have poverty. If society truly wanted to solve poverty then it would pass a rule, "can't feed 'em, don't breed 'em." Problem solved.
Tue, 08/05/2014 - 11:07am
Here's a radical thought. Make all of the county public land, move everyone to a neighboring county closer to needed services and schools. No towns, just natural areas. Keep main roads through the area in decent repair and plowed in winter, but let all other roads become paths over time. I'm sure there are other considerations, but it's hard to imagine that sufficient economic activity can be generated any time soon in many of the these sparsely populated counties. Of course, there is a civil rights issue: do people have the right to live wherever they want AND expect that their poverty be addressed. If their needs can be better addressed by moving these people, should we encourage or even force people to do this? Tough call, I know.
Bill Bupp
Tue, 08/05/2014 - 11:56am
For 30 years we have owned a lake cottage in northern Newaygo County close to Lake County where we buy groceries and hardware products. We have been successful in finding local people to perform work for us and usually at a very reasonable prices. There is an unskilled work force that, if there was opportunity, would likely be employed. Recreation seems to be the lone sustainable industry in the area. Yes, there are many retirees living in the area who rely on fixed incomes, but must travel to other counties for medical assistance, entertainment and services. Lake County like Detroit suffers from an absence of grocery shopping options. Except for gas stations and convenience stores the Lake County food desert defeats the poor at every turn. During the summer we hear an occasional firearm report which leads me to wonder if the poor around us may be harvesting game, out of season, to sustain life. How much better might conditions improve if the Michigan Legislature would encourage Michigan business/industry to invest in manufacturing in depressed areas. Providing tax benefits to corporations that return overseas jobs to Michigan's depressed areas seems like a possible answer to reduce the poverty hidden in the forests.
Wed, 08/06/2014 - 11:10am
I agree. Our youth group travels to Lake County annually to help wherever it's needed. The people there are good people. They WANT to work. There is just no sustainable work available. If even one factory employing approx 100 people came, just imagine how that could change things. Everything from tax revenue to hope. With hope comes a will to do better and sense of pride. With hope, the 46% statistic of kids who don't graduate on time would surely change. If graduation meant a potential good job or if parents worked, it would give them the needed pride to push their children to do better, to go to college. As is, it is a cycle that is difficult to break. I speak from experience. I was lucky to make it out of poverty. I had a very hard working single mom who pushed me to do better. She was one of the lucky ones who had a job...that made all the difference for us.
Wed, 08/06/2014 - 8:30pm
Bill, Why does everyplace have to have large enough population to support the services you see as important? Why do people choose to live where they do, have you ever asked them? Why do you think it is so easy to bring overseas jobs to the US, do you think the Japanese, the German, Korean, and other foreign companies should move the jobs they have created here to their home countries? I don't know if every county should have an influx of businesses, I would first like to know what the people in the counties want for themselves. Bill I apologize, yours is one of many comments with an answer, for responding to your particular comments. I don't know the answer so I would like to see things start by asking questions before giving the answer.
brenda Redding
Tue, 08/05/2014 - 12:00pm
Thank you for writing these columns. I grew up in the North and saw poverty all around. Half of every graduating class has to leave to survive. There could be a lot better access to higher education, like junior colleges accessible to more of the North which would allow the counties to educate their own hospital technicians, school aides, some of the mechanical jobs available around these small communities, and keep some of the $ closer to home. The dual enrollment enjoyed by many in southern Mi would help the youth coupled with more vocational education. Health care is a problem up North. How to combat that: nurses in schools, more at home visits by nurses and doctors, and dental care. Have dentists visit the schools and plan a way to save some of these teeth. Does it matter? I return North every chance I get, it is and always will be home, a place of intense beauty, and precious people. Thanks for noticing and keep on looking for ways to ameliorate the poverty of the North.
Tue, 08/05/2014 - 2:48pm
Humans have been migrating from places to lower opportunity to higher opportunity areas for what, thousands, hundreds of thousands of years? Now we just sustain many of them in poverty, in low opportunity areas? And we are surprised by the poor and degrading populace that has settled into a multi-generational spiral? It's hard for many of us to accept but many find very low levels of living to be completely acceptable and our aid just makes it easier.It's not about more money.
Tue, 08/05/2014 - 6:24pm
Tue, 08/05/2014 - 9:11pm
Yes many people all throughout history have migrated from their homes to " better opportunity" only to be met with resistance and discrimination. It worked so well for the jewish populations coming into Europe, the hmong into south east Asia and the Hispanic children into south western united states. ( ouch!!!) It would appear it is easier to write us off as lazy welfare seeking simpleton s then to think thier is a problem. Maybe if you ignore us we will simply go away or die off. This is a problem created by the negligence of caring about a low population county and now light has been shown on us and we are the problem? If that is the case send us away, place us in box cars and move us to the city where we will be better off. Then what? We live in the ghettos of your homes? Maybe an encampment outside of the populated area to remove our poor culture that we have created over the generations. Or just shove us in the showers and get rid of the problem completely, maybe move on at that point to the next poor population. Most of you dont know what we go through or do you care. You vacation here or drive through and see a busted up shack with a dog in the front yard. You dont know that the occupant bikes 18 miles a day to a part time job to pay the bills and buy food for his family. Also trying to figure out how they are going to afford propane through the winter. Clothes for there kids and how to pay off there drivers responsibility fees and get there license back becouse work slowed down and something had to go his insurance. Im sorry to go on but some of these post are not just negligent but down right offensive. We live here. This is our home. We are born here, buried our family in these cemeteries and plan on dying here. I would never tell you to abandon your home and move to Beverly hills so the lifestyle will rub off on you. I dont want to be told to leave my home for the same reason
Wed, 08/06/2014 - 10:50am
Sorry Mitchell but Grand Rapids is full of people who grew up in northern MI and figured out that the (lack of) opportunities won't support them AND THEY MOVED. Your (and many of those who remain) choice to sit around and make excuses and complain about the unfairness explains a lot while at the same time millions of people have come here from Latin America with less advantages than you and have eaten your lunch.
Wed, 08/06/2014 - 10:54am
So don't complain about your poverty and expect the rest of us to carry you.
Sun, 08/10/2014 - 12:32pm
The fedreal goverment iusses FOODSTAMPS/Snap on $ 9.00 a day BUT Michigan govermnet reducesIt to .if you lucky to $ 2.00 Michigan goverment DOESNOT raise the minmum wages in canad it went up in June 2014 to $ 11.00 The fedreal gvoenemnt iussed HOME HEATING CREDIT , but michigan goverment cut "IT" down from $ 150-500 to $ 3,6, 11.00 for year 2012 , 2013 ....etc etc Yes as Jesus said The poor are always with you .Because you have greed and lies ...In 1964 President Lyndon B. Johnson signed THE WAR on PROVERTY " bill THIS is AMERICAS longest WAR on its Own PEOPLE 50 years ..and going.... Fat people on $ 2.00 a day GMO thank to BIG business and the 1400 farmers living in manhattan
Tue, 02/16/2016 - 3:41pm
Teach a man to fish, he'll eat for a day. Give a man someone else's fish, and he'll vote for you. Hence, the war on poverty. It was nothing more than a vote buying program that still works.
Thu, 03/16/2017 - 11:24pm

Such a simple fact and so very true, this is our home. If you are the type to abandon a person or place in need I say be gone. Change is coming to Lake County. A positive change and it will take some time but it will happen.

Tue, 08/05/2014 - 8:28pm
Lake County, like Detroit, is the future of America. Since the Reagan years, every American President has help ship jobs out of America. No manufacturing, no middle class. Manufacturing at $15 is not the answer. Watch companies lay off employees and the stock market is happy!
John Q. Public
Tue, 08/05/2014 - 8:38pm
Those rural northern county residents love to vote for politicians whose policies keep the residents in poverty while enriching the politicians, so at some level it's hard to feel sorry for them.
Wed, 08/06/2014 - 8:33pm
John, I think the same could be said of the people in Detroit, so I guess it should be hard for both of us to have sympthay for the Detroiters.
Tue, 08/05/2014 - 9:46pm
We could end poverty in the United States if we quit sending money to other countries and took care of our own first!
Wed, 08/06/2014 - 1:20pm
I am a 65 year old 3rd generation Baldwinite who moved to Grand Rapids 23 years ago. I was lucky and worked 2 jobs and was able to support my boys. When my younger son graduated from high school I promptly put my house up for sale and moved here because I wanted my kids to have a better chance at life and they have great jobs. My mom, brother and sister still live in Lake County and I really miss it now that I'm older. I was in Baldwin for a few days last week and was shocked by the number of buildings on main street that were for sale. One of my jobs was as a township treasurer and when we wanted to pass a mileage for garbage collections we had a hearing for the taxpayers. We had almost 100 people show up who were mostly from out of town and owned summer places. They were really angry about paying more taxes since they didn't live there year round and they all said that the low taxes was one of the reasons they kept bought their properties. I'm embarrassed to admit that we didn't pass the millage because of their opposition and our township continued to be a dumping ground for garbage. Many of the old "movers and shakers" didn't want Lake County to grow and worked really hard to make sure that it didn't. This county is regularly ignored by it's state elected officials and it shows. They don't have a plan for development or growth and only show up as a token attempt to show they care. I don't know what can be done to turn things around but the prison was a start although many of the workers didn't live in the county and didn't spend money there, either.
Wed, 08/06/2014 - 10:05pm
Consider yourselves lucky. For the last 30 years the officials you wish were helping Lake Co were busy helping Detroit. But do you really think that anyone has a pat formula that they can impose on a community leading to automatic success?.
Mon, 08/18/2014 - 7:37pm
Matt , you continue to speak in poorly thought out platitudes. Of course there is no formula to solve the problems faced by the less fortunate, but it is everyone's responsibility to put effort into solving society's problems
ernie wogatzke
Wed, 08/06/2014 - 3:14pm
I am aware of the need for rental policies to prevent such poor living conditions. We need to contact our commissioner's and let know how you feel about the substandard rental housing we have in Lake county! They can make a difference!
Sun, 08/10/2014 - 12:45pm
No cell phone in your county? $ 62.Millon are spend by the Federal to bring broadband to all of michigan? Free internet in Bloomfield Hills, Mi Free Wi-Fi around universities.and" upper" Senior Housing. Affordabale ? Housing for ALL ... MSDA in Michigan ...but the CEO/familie/friends spend it... flying overseas on taxpayer expences
Wed, 08/06/2014 - 7:08pm
I understand the philosophical and political argument that some want to make of this very well written and documented article. I am a native of north western lower Michigan. I grew up a few miles away from the Lake County Line. My parents had the vision that their children could have better lives with educations and they helped and supported us. I believe that all parents want a better life for their children. I also believe that many impoverished and undereducated parents simply do not have the means available to give their children any competitive advantage. Hopelessness is not a motivation for success. A child living in poverty which has succeeded for several family generations is so challenged to better themselves that it is highly unlikely. I am not saying impossible, but if the race to success in education and life is a 100 yard dash and you start out 20 yards behind, you are severely impaired to say the least. Instead of arguing politics and philosophy have compassion and think, how can I help and how could I inspire someone to do better. If each family generation is a bit better prepared, success can come, but only with a vision from parents, teachers, and mentors. We my friends are a strategic key in helping others better themselves. We can be pivotal in helping someone gain self esteem and hope.
Wed, 08/06/2014 - 8:40pm
Cary, Are you sure you know what a better life is for everyone? I met a man when I was about 10 that taught me the each person has their view of life and that it doesn't have to be the same as mine to be right for others.
Wed, 08/06/2014 - 11:23pm
Duane- You are correct that happiness is a subjective term. I believe that the majority of impoverished people are would choose a different and " better " lifestyle of one were readily available. I have known people who were dirt poor and happy. I myself have been in this category. I have also known people who didn't want for anything materially but we're not content with life. I believe that the freedom of choice brings happier lives. Some choose to live in the same town they were born in. But force that same person to stay there and happiness would be possible. While some may choose to live a simple life with less, my experience tells me they are in the lower percentage of people living in poverty. Children do not choose to go without food, shelter and water.
Thu, 08/07/2014 - 11:48pm
Cary, Children do not choose who their parents are and it is the parents who choose their food, shelter, or clothing. That means the parents need to decide what will they sacrifice to help the kids be fed, housed, and clothed. And too many times I have seen or heard where parents chose badly for their children even with what was provide specifically for the children. I would like to see some effort put into finding out what is causing parents to make such poor choices. The saving grace for the kids is, when a person has no other reference they aren't as sensitive may not feel so deprived and it can allow them to more easily enjoy life with what they have. I can espcially see how for a child living in poverty in rural Michigan could still be a good life. I do believe too many people have their answers before they ever try to figure out the questions that need to be asked. At best a success in solving the problem of poverty would be random unless we look for thr root causes of the problem. We need to start by deciding how we define poverty and them asking what is causing it and why.
Sun, 08/10/2014 - 12:48pm
The root cause of proverty NO MONEY !
Sun, 08/10/2014 - 1:37pm
Really, we need to define what poverty is? Who gets to decide that you, me or someone that we both disagree with so we can both turn a blind eye. Anyone who sees it knows what poverty is, going without, food, shelter and healthcare because you do not have the means to provide them, thats poverty. Blame is a great form of denial for those that have and don't see a need to share. Just move to a place where there are jobs and it all gets better? Where does the money come from for the move, the deposit to get shelter, the clothes to interview cause they sure don't grow on trees. It comes from those that have the blessings of a job, security and stability at least if you're a christian. Otherwise it's your fault and your on your own. Judgement day will come for those who don't see fit to help the less fortunate.
Sun, 08/10/2014 - 11:08pm
s., No money is a symptom of being 'poor' it is not a root cause. Why do you think people don't have money?
Sun, 08/10/2014 - 11:38pm
Chris, I am willing to use you definition of poverty. What is needed is a starting point to begin looking for the causes. How do you define poverty/poor and then we can try to understand the reasons it happens. Since this is about life I would say that we can make a good effort, one that is practical and others could relate to. "Anyone who sees it knows what poverty is..." I disagree, we each see things differently because we learned them differently, we lived them differently, that is why we can't assume others see things as we do. When I was very young I didn't realize I was 'poor' until someone told me I was. I had thought those men who lived at the 'city dump' were what 'poor' was. Poverty is a relative thing until we have a common defintion. How do you define poverty?
Wed, 08/06/2014 - 10:12pm
If your asking for a root problem.. maybe the root problem was the fact they were doing cocaine,writing bad checks, committing arson and robbery? Sometimes we have to live with the consequences of our actions. FACT IS.. even if you took all the wealth and distributed equally.. within 7 years the same people would be rich and the same people would be poor. There will be a few exceptions to the rules. But honestly, most people are poor for a reason. They make bad financial decisions. So do we keep handing out money to people hand over fist for them just to squander it? MUCH LIKE OUR POLITICIANS. The OTHER ROOT CAUSE IS THE POLITICIANS.. when we are handing out a half a billion dollars to companies that just go bankrupt.. and there is recourse.. then those politicians are neglecting their duty ad a public servant. Its time we hold these people accountable.. the people who are poor and being held accountable for their actions.. thus the are poor.. But what happens to the politicians who just waste our hard earned tax dollars so we can study the sexual habits of gay prostitutes in thailand..? or building tunnels for turtles or the mating habits of earthworms...?
Sun, 08/10/2014 - 12:40am
Clayton, There is much truth in what you say. What I would like to know is what the difference is between those who are in poverty and those who are not. What causes the difference and why? I believe Dr. Ben Carson is an example of a person successfully taking himself out of poverty, why did all the others in his Detroit publi schools do the same? that is what I would like to see discussed. Once we have define what poverty is then we can describe the results we want the people and programs to achieve. With the desired outcomes in hand then we can devise the methods for accountability
Sun, 08/10/2014 - 12:51pm
The detroit school TO O much money spend on 350 Harley Davison bikes . two Airplanes and schoolbooks stored in the warehouse instaed delivert to schools on opeing day!
Wed, 08/06/2014 - 11:46pm
I believe that when someone is going to do a story on poverty and the people who live that way, should have all the facts about the people they report in their stories. They should not take bits and pieces of someone's situation and make a call on what their life's are now and how they got where they're at. This story leaves a lot out and makes these people sound ole they have been dealt a raw deal when in fact they are where they're at by their own actions
Thu, 08/07/2014 - 12:27am
I read good and bad in the comments above. Improve Education, but continue to cut school budgets so out of work Teachers remain out of work because the school can't afford to hire them. Vote for different people, to change the politics, but people don't have t.v. or transportation, rarely read a paper, and either don't know when to vote or can't get to the polls. Have a Dial-A-Ride public transit, that charges a $1 per person per ride, IF you call early enough and IF you live near enough to get to the public road (which don't even work for over 1/2 of the winter unless you live right near the state roads) and IF you don't need to go anywhere on Sat. afternoon or at all on Sun. (which is the best time to speak with your ministers and church groups for assistance). Yes, there are a lot of drugs. Hey, drugs bring in money. These kids see that money is needed to survive, and that gets them quick money. Because of their depression and drug usages, we have too many teen pregnancies etc. What does Education do for them? Nothing, unless you move away because there are many parents and grandparents who are unemployed simply because there are no jobs, and they have an education, many have college degrees. People above saying move do you do that when you can't save enough money to buy a car that runs, and then for goodness sake take over 1/2 of your yearly income to insure it so you can legally drive it, and have the money for a couple of months rent and a deposit so you can move and have time to find a job in a new location? Poverty, for those who are trying to better their lives, not for those who refuse to care, is a very vicious cycle. You have to have money to get a car, plate and insure it, in order to get to job hunt, let alone keep a job. If you don't have a job you can't buy a car. HELLO???? You can't get a car loan if you have bad credit. If you have no income and struggle to make ends meet, get behind on utilities here and there, your credit goes to the pot and even when you do manage to get a job you can't get a loan - because if you're poor you must be a thief - so no loans no trust and bad credit - because you couldn't afford to pay your bills so you didn't. Doesn't mean you wouldn't have if you had the money to. I know people who don't have one decent set of clothing to attend a job interview......let alone a way to get back and forth to work long enough to buy a car..... By the way, I could go on all day. I have not one, but two college degrees. I have a large family, and my husband has a minimum wage job with an average of 27hrs per week employment. We survive on less than $12,000 a year gross income. I say survive, because that is about all we manage to do. Because jobs are so very rare here, we don't dare give up his year round job because it is the only guaranteed income we will have. Because almost no one in the entire state is hiring Teachers due to cuts to Educational Funding statewide, I am lucky to substitute here and there a few days a year. We don't make enough money to buy a RELIABLE vehicle so my husband could drive further and seek a better job. Even if we did, the gas prices make it so you put half your pay into gas to travel. It isn't hopeless, but it isn't easy changing circumstances either. Also, by the way, we have a much higher income than almost anyone we know in the area with the same size or larger family. I don't know the answers, but I do know I cannot afford to move. We can't really afford to stay. Our home is rotting around us and we can't afford to fix it. We do the best we can and we hope that more businesses and jobs come to our county, which is a beautiful place, but which has only two places a teen can even apply for a job now since even the dollar stores are selling tobacco and alcohol. We see articles and news stories on the news, and that's it. We don't see change.
Thu, 08/07/2014 - 10:10am
Nicole, 27 hrs/week X $7.45 X52 is $10,460 for your husband alone, meaning your subbing (??) is bringing in $1,500.per year ? I can save you from calling Dave Ramsey - A part time job for you, same as your husband almost doubles your family income! As I repeatedly say 98% of human misery is self inflicted and I'd add also that 98% of our limitations are in our heads!
Fri, 08/08/2014 - 1:09am
Matt, I'm so very happy that you have so much money as to be comfortable and superior to anyone and everyone who doesn't share your opinion. Since your such a self-made successful person by your own choices, why do you feel the need to downgrade others? Don't bother answering, I really don't care to hear what your excuse would be.
Fri, 08/08/2014 - 9:39am
Sorry Nicole your narrative didn't make any sense mathematically and I didn't want to accuse you of being a fake. But while we're at it $12k per year how do you afford your internet connection? $40 per month? that's almost $500 per year. Again doesn't make sense.
Sun, 08/10/2014 - 1:05pm
Internet at Comcast : $ 9.45 IF you have a child in school and get school lunch. Equal pay to all ??
Sun, 08/10/2014 - 12:57pm
Since you have 2 college degrees I am sure you would qualifi for the FORSTER parent program the State payes you. also there is the Grandparent program in local schools. check it out. Plus In you Adpotive a child THE IRS payes you $ 10,000 cash.
Thu, 08/07/2014 - 8:06am
After reading this article I find myself reflecting on my own youth in Ogemaw County. Poverty, not only exists physically, but goes further into emotional and mental poverty. It seems we spend a lot of time looking at external causes, but not as much at the root of the problem. In college we are taught about the lower SES (Socio-economic status) and how it affects everyone, the labels are placed, and the people are grouped and then it becomes a talking point, but nothing changes. As a case manager I feel we do not spend enough time really managing individual cases, but rather blanketing a large group of people with the same treatment for all. We are, however, individuals and each case is different and should be handled for its own needs. If all we do is talk about issues, but we do not fix anything regarding better employment, better wages, and create more motivation for hope, all seems lost and due to repeat itself over and over. If I haven't worked for a year or more, and I live with depression, and hopelessness then where is the drive I will need to change? This must be dealt with from a holistic point of view and not just a monetary problem.
Fri, 08/08/2014 - 12:16am
Ginger, Why do we start looking for the root causes? I agree each person is unique, but there are also common elements/contributors. As you say it isn't only money there are other factorss in placing and keeping people in poverty. I believe we first need to decide on how we define poverty before we can begin to effectively look for those root causes. How would you define poverty?
Fri, 08/08/2014 - 8:14am
Hi Duane, I do agree there are common elements/contributors to poverty. I also believe you are correct in that poverty must be defined. I guess what I am trying to say is that poverty isn't just a physical problem, it is also a mental and emotional problem. I believe to many people are driven by labels given to them, and the cycle just keeps repeating itself. I say we need to work on retraining the thought process that exists in poverty stricken areas. Back in the days of President Roosevelt there were CCC camps working on infastructure, and people who were poor were given opportunities to work and develope skills, and they got going through hard work and a sense of accomplishment, and there was a sense of hope, those who are in poverty generally suffer hopelessness. One cannot go forward without hope and something to feel good about. Give people hope and a sense of accomplishment, and a purpose and many will come out of the poverty mentality even if they are not rich.
Sat, 08/09/2014 - 12:30pm
Ginger, My view is that there is a 'social industrial complex of poverty', it is one where people make a career and living in promoting and administering poverty programs and the politics poverty. We can't stop it, we need to recognize what it is and work around it, we can not change its purpose (feeding the industry). I am of the view that the CCC camps were the foundation of current 'social industrial complex of poverty'. All of the rhetoric we hear of CCC is about how it paod poor people to work. The reason it wasn't sustainable and the attempts to resurect it today it is based on transfer of moneys rather then the product it delievers. If the emphasis on tranfering money then why worry about the work or the workers. It the purpose were about providing tangible results, as CCC did, then we could create accountability and change those employed into workers. Once we have a definition of poverty then we can begin to investigate its causes and address those causes. We start by using our definition of poverty and start looking for those who successfully moved out of poverty and ask why and how. The we built activities that support people learning that inforamtion and provide the tools to apply it. This would be outside conventional wisdom and that would create barriers to its success. We would have to develop this independent of the current 'social industrial complex of poverty' because their survival would push them to the corrupt and subjugate such a different approach.
Fri, 08/08/2014 - 1:21am
I agree that each case is different and individual. I've argued for years that those people who are actively seeking employment, are taking more classes or going to college so they can become better qualified for jobs, or are dealing with health issues which prevent working (and this includes children with mental/physical disabilities which require at least one adult to remain home with them) then they shouldn't be penalized or hurt or taken off of what little assistance they get, until they are able to be self-sufficient. At least those people and/or families are trying to get up the ladder! They are trying to break the poverty cycle in their lives. Those who are abusing the systems, and collecting assistance to sit at home and lie on (worthless) Michigan Works job hunt sheets or who are using benefits to purchase their drugs, lying about which children live with them to receive rental assistance, and I could go on all day, throw them off. Let them learn the hard way, and those who don't get the cardboard box and's way to easy to manipulate the system for some people who grew up with parents who manipulated. Its very hard to teach the next generation that life should not be that way and there are other alternatives and opportunities for them - beginning with education. Doing things the right ways is often too hard for the younger ones when they've watched their parents their whole lives get things without earning or appreciating them. The root problem of poverty is not universal - it is also as varied and individual as each person living in poverty. Not everyone asked to be poor, but some who are poor and living without running water or electricity are happier than many a millionaire will ever be.
Thu, 08/07/2014 - 8:12am
Hope Pat Shellenbarger includes a follow-up to let Michigan residents know how we can help.
Fri, 08/08/2014 - 1:31am
I would like to read that article. I wish more people understood basic economics and that voting does make a difference. Too many here believe it doesn't matter, that it's a waste of time to vote because those with money will do as they wish anyways.
Thu, 08/07/2014 - 8:35am
The fact that there are still businesses that only pay $7. an hr. is appalling. The mininum wage needs to be raised. Baby steps and this one should be one of the first.
Fri, 08/08/2014 - 1:28am
The minimum wage debate......I began working for $3.40 an hour, and I worked an average of 17 hours a week. I went to high school full time. I owned a car, I paid my own insurance, and I had to pay the gas to run around in it. I didn't live on my own yet, but I had money in my pocket. My parents made slightly more than I did, both worked, and we had average homes that we rented. Lower middle class maybe? The place I worked for shut down about 8 years ago because they couldn't afford to pay the electric bills, the insurance rates, and the higher minimum wages demanded by the state. It was not a place where less employees at a higher pay rate would suffice, because minimum staff was needed for the place to operate. It was a small, family owned amusement park. No "high risk" rides, or water pools, because the insurance was lower that way. The higher "minimum" wage goes, the higher the costs of everything else goes up, and for those corporations which are making millions daily they refuse to lose that profit margin, even though it wouldn't really hurt them that much. The small businesses suffer, the places with few jobs other than small businesses lose jobs, and the people who were barely getting by suffer more and join those who weren't getting by to begin with. So yes, a few would make more money, but then they pay more for goods and services, and they do not get ahead. It's a simple economic fact that too many choose to ignore.
Thu, 08/07/2014 - 8:58am
I live in Manistee county. We have only lived here for a year. I am lucky because I have a job. But worked for a short time in Cadillac. The poverty there is terrible. It seems as if there are 2 types of people. The ones that don't want to work and the ones that want to work but can't due to a health issues. The biggest problem I see is that why should they work? If they take a part time job paying minimum wage they lose whatever aid they are getting unless they have children. So they have children to get state aid, then they can't work because there is no one to take care of the children. Our state needs to rethink our welfare system. It should be encouraging people to work . Instead it makes it better for people not to work and creates an environment where it encourages girls to have babies, because that guaranties that they will at least get some aid. Basically the state becomes the father to these children, by supporting them. I had a friend who once told me that the Government replaced the black father in the home. This is true in many homes now. It is not a race problem it is a a problem that is not colorblind. It continues to get worse because the government wants people to depend on it as a provider because then that gives it the right to have a say in their lives. Welfare has raplaced the father in many homes. Why should these women marry? A husband causes them to lose what they get . The welfare system is a better provider than a husband.
Fri, 08/08/2014 - 12:12am
If all we focus on is the exception all we will find is the exception. Why don't we hear about those who succeed, ask how and why they succeed so we can learn from those successes?
Sun, 08/10/2014 - 11:42am
Okay Duane, here is my answer for how I made it out of poverty. Today and for the last 20 years, I have been a leader in my industry. I attribute my success to hope and drive for a better life, caring and encouraging parents and relatives, curiousity that led me to read every book I could find and join every group brought to my neighborhood. Thank goodness I was fortunate to grow up during the beginning of the War on Poverty. There were afterschool and summer school programs down the street that showed me museums, parks, business tours and caring, smart adult mentors who encouraged us to reach our full potential and told us we could do anything we set our minds to do. Nurses and dentists were in our schools so our basic health needs were met. I worked everday in the cafeteria where a real meal was made each day. My job was setting the tables and cleaning up dishes after. While there was still some stigma about receiving a free lunch, I had the pride of knowing that I worked for my food. I was a Girl Scout and learned goal setting, leadership, sales, caring and compassion. Now let me tell you that my sister and brother had the same or similar background but some different outcomes, just like every person in life, even those from wealthy families. One of the key differences for my siblings was unstable housing. We moved 6 times during their elementary years. Neither of them developed a firm foundation in reading and have struggled all of their lives, yet neither of them are in poverty today. During the recession however, they both were unemployed for several years because of lack of jobs and employers who would not hire them. I say this because it is important to acknowledge that there is a certain % of our population that employers do not want to hire for a variety of reasons, age, skill, appearance, etc. This is why the programs you refer to are important to help people improve their education and job training for today's job market. However, still some individuals are not desireable for employment by employers. What should we do with them? I do think a service corps is a good option because like the school lunch program, it would allow people to work where they live to provide a service that improves the community or assists others around them. Is this really such a bad thing? Reading these posts is very interesting to me. I used to believe that if we give people encouragement and hope and basic skills in reading and a job to find a taste for income, the rest would take care of itself. I still do believe that these are essential. If I change our country, I would make sure that primary and prevention health care were free and available at the local level and that every child was supported and guided with an education through job training. Sometimes I wonder thought if we have been fooled to think that what we have is so much greater. We are all working so hard, so many long hours, that we are trading a good quality of life with our families for our employment. The balance is off. If people weren't working so many long hours, there would be more jobs for others, as well as more time for each of us to spend with our own families, mentoring and coaching them and others in our communities. I guess, my life experience has taught me that caring, supporting and guiding others is a good and important part of our role as humans on this earth. It is helpful to others as well as ourselves. I grew up in poverty, worked hard to graduate in the top 12 of my high school class. I was the first in my family to go to college, the second in my greater family. I worked 60 hours a week in the summer to pay for my education. I was offered a position in the leadership training program of the 'automotive industrial complex' but declined. My passion was to help find solutions that move people to help themselves. So I am part of the 'industry' of building a better community. The tradeoff was probably in the millions of dollars in salary. Had I known then what I know today, I might have taken the high paying job so that I could have had the money and power to influence the changes that need to be made in our business value system to allow more people to succeed. Just my two cents.
Sun, 08/10/2014 - 11:58pm
Christine, You have offered a great deal, much of it similar to my experience. I believe it we broke out the individual elments of what you talk about we would find many others have achieve what you have for the same or very similar reasons. It is those common elements I would like to see talked about and taught. When you talk about hope I would add expectations (of success). The point you make about your siblings is also very important, the genes were the same but the environment was different. Recognizing that we might talk about how the environment could be over come. You your comments verify that out of success we can learn more about how to change things then narrowing the focus to the failures. I would like to have a forum where we could pick a single element in what you did and have an open discussion to get other views and experiences. I think many of the support activities could be done even today if we would turn to volunteers in coordination with the schools. You mentioned mentoring and coaching, I think those could be ways to interest kids in all social situations to take control of their lives and succeed. I do feel we have distilled live down to the score card of money/income and that can cause people to miss out on a happy life simply because they have been taught to focus only on the scorecard.
Sun, 08/10/2014 - 5:19pm
I have owned and operated Baldwin Bowling Center for the last 23 years. When I first moved here from mason county It was nothing like the rumors that I was told. I found that the people here were good caring people. The amount of help that was offered to myself and family was unbelievable. Lake county was the poorest county in the state even back then but you could not tell by the people. They would give whatever they could to help even a perfect stranger. And that really hasn't changed over the 23 years that I have been here. It is true that certain city fathers kept Lake County suppressed, but What really hurt the area was when the prison came and things really changed for the better here people were able to buy new homes & newer cars they had jobs they were happy, businesses were booming. I had 21 leagues a week , 12 full time employees. and 3 part time. life was great and the people felt proud. Then a certain Governor came along and felt that things were just to good in Lake County and shut down the prison. . It hit this community so hard not only economically but mentally as well. Jobs were cut, people moved away, businesses closed, It was rough on all of us. And the attitude change was undeniable. Then after 5 years they manage to reopen the prison. Everything is looking up again people are positive minded businesses are renovating people start coming back to lake county. Then what 3 months latter they close it down because of union issue's. This time we are flat out pissed off. It is political bullshit that our state government keeps derailing the opportunities we have to pull ourselves out of poverty. We don't want your pity. And we don't need more welfare. We need jobs. If you really want to help you can email me at I have some ideas.
Wed, 07/15/2020 - 5:31am

Relying on a prison industrial complex IS welfare, welfare of the worst kind. You have to fill those prisons to grease your economy, whether people deserve to be in those prisons or not. It's evil.

Tue, 08/12/2014 - 11:28am
It may be preaching to the choir, but... on the outside chance that the charitable and well-heeled slum-it here. I put together a book to bring me nearer to the Poverty Line. I've learned a fair deal about the Poor, Rich, Homeless and Charity. Most people don't have a clue how the Poor live. And though this is not a thriller or a feelgood Romance novel, I've been told it is a good read and not a total downer. The fact that you are helping me out should bring a little joy into the heart of the donor/reader. Poverty in America is a death sentence. I'd like to live a few more years in a less miserable life.
Mon, 08/19/2019 - 4:56pm

It seems like a cruel joke that the government is playing on the people of Lake County. "You're the poorest county in the state, so we can impose this immigrant prison on your community, how can you say no?" The poor are forced, out of the necessity of poverty, to engage in immoral and unethical work, caging immigrants, many for whom their only "crime" is crossing the border a second time. It's disgusting, how about meaningful work for the people of Lake County?