- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 7, 2003

WASHINGTON, Jan. 7 (UPI) — A faith-based charitable organization launched a media campaign Tuesday via newspaper, radio and television advertising to make Americans aware of poverty in their country.

The slogan by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development is: "Poverty. America's Forgotten State."

Poverty is "a topic which most Americans avoid and many Americans fear or deny, but for which all Americans must pay," the Rev. Robert J. Vitillo, CCHD executive director, said at a news conference. About 33 million Americans live in poverty, defined as a household income of $18,100 or less for a family of four, according to U.S. Census figures for 2000. That translates into:

— One out of every eight people,

— One out of every 10 families,

— One out of every six children.

CCHD, set up in 1970, is a self-help program for the poor, which is initiated and run by poor and low-income people, funded by an annual collection from Roman Catholic parishes across the United States.

The awareness campaign stresses that poverty affects people from all races, of all ages, although minorities show higher poverty rates than whites.

The poverty rate for American Indians and Alaska natives is 24.5 percent; African-Americans, 22.5 percent; Hispanics, 21.4 percent; Asians and Pacific Islanders, 10.2 percent; and whites, 7.8 percent; according to the U.S. Census.

The CCHD public service announcements for print and broadcast outlets, all developed by Crosby Marketing of Annapolis, Md., offer the actual words of Americans living in poverty.

"It's like being forgotten, almost invisible to almost everybody. It's being looked down on, regardless of reason. It's being made to feel that you're to blame and feeling worthless," says one of the PSAs.

The 10 states with the highest poverty rates are:

1. New Mexico, with 17.7 percent in poverty;

2. Mississippi, 17.1 percent;

3. Arkansas, 17.1;

4. District of Columbia, 16.7;

5. Louisiana, 16.7;

6. West Virginia, 15.6;

7. Texas, 15.2;

8. Oklahoma, 15;

9. Alabama, 14.6; and

10. New York, 14.

CCHD commissioned Market Research Bureau of Washington to survey two populations on their attitudes toward poverty — the general public and the poor.

Some 1,015 interviews were conducted Nov. 20-24 by telephone. The margin of error was plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Nearly three-fourths of the low-income respondents cited lack of education as a key factor in poverty. About 60 percent said low wages were responsible for poverty. Respondents could specify more than one answer from a list of possible causes.

The images used in the campaign — showing people from different ethnic groups of various ages — are those of models, according to Crosby Marketing.

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(For more information, go to povertyusa.org on the Internet or call the Catholic Campaign for Human Development at its toll-free number, 800-946-4243.)

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