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The irony of poverty in the west side suburbs

Posted at 9:45 PM, Aug 16, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-17 17:54:35-04

They may not be communities you associate with struggle, but City-Data statistics reveal that poverty is growing in places you may not expect, like the west side suburb of Westlake. 

Some of the 6.7 percent living in poverty in Westlake are struggling to pay the price for the city's growth over the years. 

"The taxes have gone up on homes a lot," Westlake Community Services Department's outreach coordinator Donna Feorene said.

It's a heartbreaking irony.

The growing city is pushing the people who planted its seeds out. The people who founded the community at the time were moving to a much more rural place. Decades ago they bought homes, raised families and even started businesses.

Now, they're the ones struggling to put food on the table, according to Feorene. 

"They live in the smaller houses, the older homes," she said. "Their kids grew up here, they've always contributed to the community, and now they're in need, and they're hesitant to reach out sometimes."

Feorene said it's mostly Westlake's elderly who make up the 6.7 percent living in poverty there. She's seeing more and more of the city's older population turn to Westlake Community Services for help. 

Feorene said there are many more who fall just above the federal line "to receive help from the government for food stamps and Medicaid." She admits it's surprising given the suburb's now-affluent reputation, but she hopes the release of Westlake's rising poverty numbers increases awareness and educates the public to make it easier to help the people in need. 

"I think it's an important thing for people to learn. They need to look around where they live as well," she said. "They need to call their local senior center or community service center or their city hall and say, 'Where is your food bank? Can I donate some food or dollars to that cause? Can I come in and volunteer?'"

Westlake isn't alone. The City-Data numbers tell a similar story in nearby Rocky River, another city that has grown and has a poverty rate of 7.1 percent. Bay Village sits with 4.7 percent in poverty.