A thriving community requires that all residents have their basic needs of food, shelter, and safety met.
On empty stomachs, kids don’t have the energy to focus, engage, learn, and grow. Hunger and food insecurity rates, or the lack of ability to access a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food, increases the medical and mobility challenges faced by seniors. The impacts of hunger affect all aspects of our economic and social health, resulting in costs far greater than addressing the initial issues of food insecurity.
Food insecurity in Pierce County is higher than the state average, although similar with the national average. The Emergency Food Network provides food to 70 food banks, meal sites, and shelters in Pierce County. More than 1.4 million visits are made to food banks in Pierce County each year. Of these visits, 33% were children under the age of 18, and 21% were seniors over the age of 55. Together, this means that more than half of visits to food banks were children and seniors. Emergency Food Network aided these visits by distributing more than 16 million pounds of food to the programs it serves across the county.
The effects of homelessness are far-reaching, impacting an individual’s physical and mental health, self-esteem, personal safety and decision-making. The results are lives and families that are left fractured and communities that are left with the need for more challenging and complex support systems that are expensive to operate.
In 2014 American Community Survey ranked Pierce County’s median rent as fifth highest in the state at $1,034 per month, which is $100 more than the US median rent per month. In terms of median household income, Pierce County is at $60,496 per year, which is more than $10,000 above the U.S. median household income of $50,000 per year. Pierce County home ownership rates are lower than the state and national average, while foreclosure rates are significantly higher- suggesting economic instability in housing. Rates of homelessness are trending upward, as the number of homeless people in the county has increased by 37% in the last year.
Overall, Pierce County has an extremely low property crime rate; however, Lakewood, Puyallup, Tacoma, and University Place have rates that are at least 15 times higher than Washington State’s crime rate.
In 2014 the annual homicide rate for Pierce County was 1.4 incidents per 100,000 residents. This indicates a reduction since 2012. The rate of violent crime for Pierce County is 443.2 per 100,000 people, which is significantly above the US median rate of 199.2 per 100,000 people.
Beyond the initial act this is significant because witnessing or being a victim of violence (e.g., child maltreatment, youth violence, intimate partner and sexual violence, bullying, elder abuse) are linked to lifelong negative physical, emotional and social consequences. The work of local, regional and statewide efforts are making an impact for the better.
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