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Mahoning Valley neighbors living in poverty

Published: Sun, December 18, 2011 @ 12:01 a.m.

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Shadowed by a harrowing drug addiction, a 53-year-old Mahoning County man has only memories of what life used to be like to comfort his nights sleeping alone on a cot at a rescue mission. A Wayne County divorcee supports her three kids on $1,280 a month from a thrift store salary and public assistance. After earning a master’s degree in education and struggling to find a steady teaching position, an 84-year-old Stark County woman who survived the Great Depression walks daily from hergovernment-subsidized apartment to the local YWCA for a free meal that she otherwise couldn’t afford. These are the stories of those living in poverty among Ohio’s northeastern counties. In a bleak economy, the News Outlet wondered if the stereotypical portrait of those struggling had been altered. The profiles presented provide a glimpse into the complicated personal, political and economic turns that contribute to the struggles of the impoverished.



They’ve lost homes to fore-closure.

Their families to drugs and alcohol.

Their dreams to poverty.

The 2005-2009 American Community Survey, prepared by the Ohio Department of Development and released in April, has reaffirmed historically higher poverty rates in Ohio’s urban centers — Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati. But, as a whole, the state is spackled with poverty.

The worst counties hug the Ohio River from Cincinnati to Columbiana County then turn north along the Pennsylvania state line.

In the past decade, Ohio’s poverty population has increased by 46 percent, according to U.S. Census data.

The most recent reports place 1.7 million Ohioans beneath the federal poverty line, scaled from a maximum individual income of $10,890 up to a family of four living on $22,350 or less annually. The Ohio Department of Development report suggested an additional 2 million people are “more or less close to being poor.”

Aside from Cuyahoga County, two Northeast Ohio poverty rates are among the state’s highest — Mahoning at 16.7 percent and Columbiana at 15.2 percent.

Poverty rates for Medina (5.9 percent) and Stark (9.9) counties are among the lowest in the region. Eight Ohio counties, clustered in the southern Appalachian region, had poverty rates higher than 20 percent.

Unemployment has exacerbated poverty in Northeast Ohio, and residents such as Youngstown’s Jimmy Ceballos often forego paying bills and mortgages to pay for food and shelter.

In the 1990s, Ceballos could pick up a side job with little effort. Today, the former handyman wakes up and extinguishes the burn barrel that kept him warm the night before in one of Youngstown’s 4,500 vacant structures.

Ohio’s unemployment rate has grown from 5.6 percent in January 2008 to 9 percent in October 2011, according to U.S. Department of Labor statistics.

Youngstown is among the worst. With 9.6 percent of the area’s work force unemployed in September, only three other metropolitan areas in Ohio — Steubenville, Toledo and Mansfield — posted higher unemployment rates, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

“It’s just been hard,” said Ceballos, who was born and raised on Youngstown’s East Side. “I look at my town, and it makes me sad that things around here used to be so different.”

It’s struck even those who were comfortable — people such as Heidi Hultgern.

She used to count on her teaching salary at Kent State University and her husband’s salary as a research metallurgist at Republic Steel in Cleveland to support her three children and maintain a comfortable middle-class life.

The retired teacher now struggles to live on $1,400 a month from the State Teacher Retirement Fund. Her paycheck goes fast: $600 for a mortgage, $400 for a car payment and $250 for utilities. What’s left is split between insulin to manage her Type One Diabetes and for food.

Director of Kent Social Services Christy Anderson said Hultgern is one of the many people she knows who’s doing the best she can.

“I’ve been working at Social Services since 1979, and these past two years have been the worst I’ve ever seen as far as poverty goes,” Anderson said. “Heidi is one of many who have had employment, but as a turn of the economy lost their job and are struggling to live.”

As the recession has deepened in the past three years, the region’s resources have struggled to keep up with the growing need.

This year, every other family the Salvation Army has helped at the Booth Manor shelter in Akron has been new.

In 2008, the shelter experienced a 43-percent increase in clients served. Families who seek help there consist of single mothers and impoverished couples with young children.

U.S. Census data released in November reported that 620,000 Ohioans under 18 years old live in poverty. Child poverty, which has increased 50 percent since 2003, accounts for more than a third of all Ohioans living in poverty.

Logan, 4, and Joshua, 2, are among those children living in poverty.

Their mother, Amanda Huddleston, rides the public transit with her boys every morning. She leaves them at day care or preschool and continues on to the Medina County Job and Family Services building, where she takes a bus for Wadsworth to work in a factory. She brings home $434 a month and receives public assistance, which puts food on the table but affords little else.

“This isn’t somewhere I want to be for very long,” Huddleston says.

TheNewsOutlet.org is a collaboration among the Youngstown State University journalism program, Kent State University, University of Akron and professional media outlets including WYSU-FM Radio, The Vindicator, The Beacon Journal and Rubber City Radio (Akron).


1Stan(9923 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

More needs to be done to promote job growth in Youngstown . . ..

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2whitesabbath(738 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

Agreed Stan, but also alot of these people continue to make bad decisions continually.

People would rather buy 100.00 dollar pants then a 20.00 turkey and have 5 meals off of the one turkey.

Big Brother is getting what it wants, more and more people dependant on the man for existance.

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3Stan(9923 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago


"$400.00 car payment? "

For those with no credit the buy here pay here places have to get their money before the high mileage junkers quit running . They are also home to the aggressive repo man who will take the car back quickly .

Drugs in the hood take priority over food and rent . Addresses change on a regular basis as they get those I stiffed the landlord loans . Three months rent free is the norm before they are evicted . These loans are mainly used to pay fines and bail to get the man off their backs .

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4peacelover(834 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

Brown is exactly right. These kids of circumstances can happen to anyone. It really is scary.

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5dreamcatcher52(140 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

I don't know how my mom did it, widowed at 48 with 6 kids to raise. She got SS survivor benefits, worked 2 jobs. We had food on the table and a roof over our heads - that was it. I guess we were poor, but then again, back then not too many people had more than one tv, let alone multiple cars, cell phones, computers, etc. So maybe we didn't notice it as much.

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6Stan(9923 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

In the hood government benefits are a way of life . Retail thefts, armed robberies, car thefts and drug dealing help elevate their income . Yep, it's the culture . . ..

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7southsidedave(5185 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

Life is difficult at best and becomes more of a challenge with each passing day.

I agree with Brown; poverty can strike anyone at any time.

If you have good health, be thankful.

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8Freeatlast(1991 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

Marry Christmas to all
Hope some of you put your hate a way for a few days

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9borylie(946 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

Now a days being poor is just not having as much as someone else.

whitesabbath,your #2 post is exactly what's going on.

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10captainpeewee(76 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

the crack head is paying his dues.

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11Ms_Mom(4 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago


Can you tell me where in the story it said that he was getting SS? I read the article several times and no where did it say he was receiving SS benefits.

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12Stan(9923 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago


Each month, Ceballos walks or catches a ride to Mahoning County Department of Jobs and Family Services to get his Social Security check ($600) and food stamps ($150).

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13db(280 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

The Democratic Party thrives on people dependent on welfare & on government programs; albeit living very poorly. After Lyndon Johnson implemented welfare (his 'Great Society' plan) and began paying poor people, there were more & more poor people. As we pay ever extended unemployment benefits we get more people on unemployment. If you pay people to sit on the couch, you get more people sitting on the couch. Pay for drug addicts; you get more drug addicts. Unwed teen mothers; more teen unwed mothers.

The only answer to eliminate welfare programs. A period of workfare would be necessary but there should be no more government handouts. Truly needy people (the disabled, elderly, & infirmed) would rely on family, Social Security, & Medicare.

This will never happen; the Barney Franks of the world make a comfortable living enslaving people to the welfare system.

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14borylie(946 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

I agree with you 100%,because this is what I've been saying for years. I don't see how anybody can dispute this.
The democrats can only expand their base by creating more people needing any amount of dollars from the Government(taxpayers).
As they create more people enslaved to any amount of someone else's money, they need now only to get their votes. This is why absentee ballots and no Federal ID is high on the democrats wish lists.
Some of you may not believe this,but look around and think of all the people you know getting Government help. Some like db states is truly for the needy,but most is for the freeloaders beating the system.

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15db(280 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

Louis Farrakhan, the racist leader of the black muslims has denounced welfare as a form of slavery; and he is correct. It provides just enough to keep its recipients poor; hooked for life on the government handout. It is like giving a stray dog just enough food to keep it from leaving. Welfare has created a permanent underclass here in America and does its recipients a disservice. What these people really need is a hungry belly to motivate them to a better life.

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