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Report: 38% of Americans Have Received Help From Charity

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Released 16 May 2012

dinnerReport: 38% of Americans Have Received Help From Charity

Report Highlights Importance of Giving Back During 59th Annual National Salvation Army Week

The American public is largely sympathetic to people in need, but drastically misunderstands the causes of poverty, according to a new report released today by The Salvation Army. This report, "Perceptions of Poverty: The Salvation Army's Report to America," shows that while 38 percent of Americans have received assistance from a charitable group in their lifetime, another 27 percent of Americans believe that laziness is a root cause of poverty. Still, an overwhelming majority continues to donate to charities to help others in need.

The report was based on a survey of more than 1,000 Americans, conducted in February 2012 by a third-party research firm in advance of the 59th Annual National Salvation Army Week, celebrated this year from May 14-20.

"This report highlights the critical issue of poverty at a time when many Americans are struggling to get by," said Major George Hood, National Community Relations and Development Secretary for The Salvation Army. "It is more important than ever to raise awareness of not only the public's perception of poverty, but also the programs available to those in need. With the public's support, The Salvation Army will continue to provide assistance."

According to the survey commissioned by The Salvation Army and conducted on Vision Critical's Springboard America panel, nearly 40 percent of Americans have requested help, including housing, food, financial and other assistance, from charitable organizations at some point in their lives. In particular, Americans with lower household incomes are much more likely to have experienced a lack of shelter, or a need to request assistance from a charitable group.

  • 38% of Americans have received assistance from a charitable group, including food from food banks or financial assistance/housing support.
  • 13% percent of Americans reported having spent a night in a shelter or on the street due to a loss of housing. 

Additionally, a majority of Americans believe people living in poverty deserve a helping hand, and sympathize with the challenges that people living in poverty face on a daily basis.

  • 88% of Americans believe people living in poverty deserve a helping hand.
  • 84% of Americans believe it is almost impossible to survive on your own on minimum wage.
  • 75% of Americans believe helping poor families sets up children from those families for success.
  • 60% of Americans believe it is difficult to escape poverty once becoming poor.

However, there are a significant minority of Americans who are skeptical of the realities and reasons for poverty. Notably, the further a person is from poverty, the less common he or she believes poverty is in society.

  • 49% of Americans believe a good work ethic is all a person needs to escape poverty.
  • 43% of Americans believe people living in poverty can always find a job if they really want to work, with 27% of Americans reporting that people are poor because they are lazy.
  • 29% of Americans believe poor people usually have lower moral values.
  • In total, Americans believe approximately 34% of the general population is living in poverty. However, Americans who earn less than $25,000 a year believe 40% of the population lives in poverty, while Americans who earn at least $50,000 a year believe 27% live in poverty.

"Locally, the numbers of those struggling are telling and we strive to change lives for the better and provides hope to thousands," said Jeff Baldwin, Public Relations Director for The Salvation Army

  • In 2011, the number of Richmond-area homeless children was up 21%, the highest in seven years.
  • Right here in our local neighborhoods, more than 31,000 children, 151,000 adults and 27,000 seniors are experiencing challenges in having their most basic food-related needs met.
  • In Petersburg, nearly 43% of individuals older than 16 read at the lowest literacy level, placing the city among areas in the nation with the greatest adult literacy crisis.
  • In Church Hill, up to 50% of the teenagers never graduate high school.

The Perceptions of Poverty report, which can be viewed here, comes as The Salvation Army celebrates its 59th Annual National Salvation Army Week with a variety of events and activities to honor donors, supporters and beneficiaries of Salvation Army programs.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower declared the first National Salvation Army Week in 1954, proclaiming, "Among Americans, The Salvation Army has long been a symbol of wholehearted dedication to the cause of brotherhood. In time of war, the men and women of this organization have brought to those serving their country far from home, friendliness and warm concern.  In the quieter days of peace, their work has been a constant reminder to us all that each of us is neighbor and kin to all Americans, giving freely of themselves, the men and women of The Salvation Army have won the respect of all."

"In Central Virginia, The Salvation Army has been assisting the community since 1885 and while programs and services have changed over the years, our mission remains the same, to provide hope to those in need," said Baldwin.

"Every day, people turn to The Salvation Army for the most basic of human needs; food, shelter, clothing and guidance and locally, we are delighted to honor National Salvation Army Week with our "Donuts of Hope" campaign.

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