Single Mom Families Struggle in Duluth

By KBJR News 1

April 6, 2012 Updated Apr 6, 2012 at 9:06 AM CDT

Recent figures show the number of Minnesota children living in poverty has doubled in the last five years.

In Duluth alone, the poverty rate sky rockets when factoring in children raised in a single parent household.

These staggering statistics are automatically leaving Duluth children at a huge disadvantage.

Kobreina Carlson is one of these statistics. She is working full time while raising her two young girls, and according to federal standards, is living below the poverty line.

With a full time job and not much money to go around, Kobreina says she tries to give her girls a balanced life without breaking the bank.

"I just tell them: 'This is the way it is, and mommy is doing the best she can for everybody'," she says.

For a family of three, like the Carlsons, federal poverty guidelines consider poverty as a household income of $19,090.

For a single person, 100% poverty is an income of $11,170.

In Duluth, poverty levels nearly double that of the entire state of Minnesota. Minnesota's poverty rate as of 2010 sits at 11.6% while Duluth is 22.2%

With a one and a four year old at home, Kobreina says they are too young to really understand what it means to live in poverty or recognize that they are. But she says, as her eldest grows up she is becoming more aware.

"We'll go places and she'll say, 'mommy, I want to get some candy' or something extra and I'll tell her no we aren't going to get that today. She'll say, 'oh right mommy because we don't have the extra money'."

Kobreina currently receives daycare assistance and food assistance and says although she has what she considers a great job, caring for a family on one income is not easy.

"You're building up the income, but yet you get more bills as everyone does, or something changes or something comes up."

Its things like an unexpected doctors visit and prescriptions that can really set Kobreina back.

"Not always do I have a back up or a bank of money."

But she certainly is careful with her money.

"When I do get a little extra money I do try and save. Even a few dollars here a few dollars there."

Kobreina brings a face to the staggering number of Duluth single moms, and growing number of children, living in poverty.

In 2010, the Census found that over 90 percent of single moms with a child under the age of five are living below the poverty line in Duluth.

"You're going to be struggling to make ends meet on one income in Duluth. Especially if you don't have a college degree," says Angie Miller of Community Action Duluth.

Miller and her organization Community Action Duluth offer job, housing and transportation assistance, but she says despite the hard work of local groups, it's not enough.

"It takes a whole city to lift everyone up. It takes employers paying better wages....There are a lot of partnerships helping people get out of poverty but there is a disproportionate number of families who are struggling to make ends meet, so I would say whatever we are doing now is not enough."

She says two of the biggest issues that attribute to Duluth's high poverty rate is extremely high rental prices coupled with low wages.

"There's too many families like Kobreinas who are working hard, playing by the rules, doing what they can, and they are still in poverty."

With a recent study by KIDS COUNT showing the number of Minnesota children living in poverty doubling in the last five years, Kobreina warns against making quick judgments.

"A lot of people don't know. They haven't walked a mile in someone else's shoes."

Coming from a mom that wants nothing less than a prosperous life for her girls.

"These girls mean everything to me," she says. She'll do anything to give her girls a balanced, healthy life. Even at a young age, they know it too.

"I love my mom. I love her to the moon and back," her four-year-old gushes.

Duluth's poverty rate nearly doubles that of the state of Minnesota... Community Action says that's mainly due to low wages, and high rents.