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July 2014

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Poverty numbers rising as county reels from recession

Waukesha County is often noted for its affluence, but beneath its surface of gleaming subdivisions, excellent schools and quaint downtowns lurks the growing and pervasive reality of poverty.

Like other counties and communities across the country, the Great Recession that gripped the nation over the last few years left a lasting mark on the communities we call home.

Take, for example, that in 2000, more than 2.7 percent of Waukesha County's more than 355,000 people lived in poverty - 9,635 people.

The 2010 census showed that the number of people living in poverty doubled in the intervening years, to 5.4 percent of the nearly 385,000 people who called Waukesha County home at that time. That's 20,894 people.

More than 19,000 people in the county now rely on food stamps each month.

According to data from the University of Wisconsin Extension in Waukesha County, there were 1,217 home foreclosures in 2011. That's only slightly better than 2009, when there were 1,335. There were just 273 in 2000.

In the Village of Hartland, the number of people living in poverty jumped from 204 people - 2.6 percent of its population at the turn of the century - to 578 people - 6.5 percent of its population in the 2010 census. Oconomowoc's population of people living in poverty rose from 190 people to 414 people during the same time.

The need at area food pantries has increased exponentially in the last five years.

Beginning in 2007, people suddenly began losing hours, income, jobs and, eventually, their homes.

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