Poor believe they'll be needy forever, Latet report says
December 5, 2006. Jerusalem Post: Ruth EglashMore than half of Israel's poor believe they are in a cycle of poverty they will never be able to break, according to the Alternative Poverty Report that was officially released Tuesday - the International Day of Volunteering - by humanitarian aid organization Latet.
The first of its kind ever to be compiled, the Alternative Poverty Report drew on information collected by 115 charities in 78 localities nationwide from September to October 2006 and questioned 465 people who depend on non-profit organizations for daily assistance.
According to the report, 47 percent believe they are in a closed cycle of poverty, with 56% of those questioned fearful that their children will end up in the same trap.
Furthermore, more than a third of those questioned at the food distribution centers supplied by Latet said they suffer from hunger on a regular basis, with 57% reporting regular instances of their water, gas or electricity being switched off because they could not afford to pay bills.
"The needy describe a life of unbelievable suffering that is deprived of any government aid and with little optimism for any solutions on the horizon," commented Latet Chairman Eran Weintraub, who called on the government to establish a program to fight growing poverty and to install a minister of social affairs to deal with the issue.
In August, the National Insurance Institute (NII) published its annual poverty report, saying that 26.2% of Israelis or 1.6 million people were below the poverty line in 2005 - a rise of 1.7% from the previous year.
Weintraub said the Alternative Poverty Report painted a far more accurate picture of the poverty crisis mainly because it opened up the parameters beyond what government bodies define as poor. In the NII report, an individual's economic situation was assessed by his net income; Latet's report looked beyond that, considering people's food, health, housing, employment and education situations.
"These are the parameters that allow a person to have the basic rights to live with respect," said the report in its introduction. While most poverty statistics look at the income per person or per family, Latet judged an individual's status based on his liquid income.
In addition to the grim outlook held by those who receive charitable assistance, Latet's research found that 78% of those requesting help were either single parents or families with three or more children. Sixty six percent of the requests were from women and 32% from men. In terms of age, the survey found that roughly half were between the ages of 30-45 and 24% were between 46-60.
Also noted by the survey was that more than half of the families (56%) requesting help had been doing so for more than a year and 45% said they could not afford to provide their families with a hot meal more than twice a week.
Fifty three percent of those asked reported that their children had been forced to forgo certain school activities because of economic considerations. Only 15% said they could afford to send their children to after-school activities, 7% said their children were involved in youth movements and only 11% said they could afford private tutors for their children.
The Alternative Poverty Report also looked into the struggle of the non-profits to stay afloat without aid from the government. It found that 32% of the charities that work with Latet feared they would not be able to continue their work in the near future without government intervention.
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