Imagine struggling through two years of recession, scrounging for work, somehow paying for your kids’ medicines, keeping food on the table — only to lose your house, your job, your kids’ security despite the first, faint flush of the turnaround.
Many of our friends and neighbors face that cruel possibility right now — after months of clinging to the frayed end of their rope.
Don’t take our word for it, just go down and talk to the folks at St. Vincent de Paul’s Food Bank or the Salvation Army or Payson Helping Payson.
All three of those groups say the need for help has remained half again as great as before the downturn — never mind the official end of the recession a year ago that nonetheless has left unemployment at nearly 10 percent.
Nationally, the poverty rate has risen sharply — from about 14 percent before the recession to about 22 percent in Gila County.
Arizona has suffered one of the worst reversals in the country, paying a terrible price for having grown too reliant on growth-related industries like real estate and construction. The inept management of the state budget has added to the toll. So now Arizona has the second highest poverty rate in the country, just barely behind Mississippi.
Gila County has fared worse than the rest of the state, due largely to the reliance on mining in the southern part of the county coupled with the already tragic unemployment rate on the Indian reservations.
Through no fault of their own, many folks in Rim Country have faced months of struggle to find a job and keep a roof over the heads of their families. Many have used up their savings, scrambled for part-time jobs and gone through their unemployment benefits.
Many retired people who live in Rim Country have opened their homes to their struggling children and grandchildren. Many young families have already packed and left, like Dust Bowl refugees looking for a job.
Last winter, the people of this community responded with generosity and compassion to the need of their neighbors, contributing an extra 50,000 pounds of food to the food bank and an extra $25,000 to provide cash assistance. That got many families through the winter. But another winter looms now, just as deep and frightening as last year.
Fortunately, we’ve lately seen the first glimmers of hope of a recovery here. Payson’s September sales tax figures registered a heartening rise, the first such increase in months. Moreover, a first, small rise in building permit numbers coupled with big plans for a college campus and other game-changing developments suggest that one day soon, Rim Country will regain its economic footing.
So we lucky enough to still have a job or money set aside will once again help our neighbors.
We understand the times, the fear, the need to keep your own financial cushion intact. But we still hope that you will give all you can, to those who must now rely on the kindness of strangers — and neighbors.
Don’t let them fall, with the end in sight.
To Donate: St. Vincent De Paul Society, 51 South St. Phillips St., Payson, AZ 85541, (928) 474-9104.
Tale of the chicken dispute
Has it truly come to this? The home of the oldest continuous rodeo has grown too citified for backyard chickens on anything less than an acre?
Fowl play, indeed. But when you think longer about the issue you realize the council made the right decision, we are no longer a community of ranches. We are a town with mostly city-sized lots, certainly most lots are less than an acre. Many are quarter-acre lots.
About a dozen homeowners petitioned the town citing lofty constitutional principles and imploring the council to let them keep chickens on lots less than an acre in the name of self-sufficiency and freedom.
But when it came time to adopt the ordinance some residents vigorously protested neighborhood chickens. They described the noise, smells and flies in cataclysmic terms. The council quickly turned, well, chicken.
There are always two sides to a story like this. One side says never mind that backyard chickens cause few problems in some other communities.
The other side is that chickens can be noise makers and cause other problems. On a one acre or larger piece of ground there is room and space between neighbors.
And do you want to change the playing field in the middle of the game. People buy homes in specific places with specific rules in place. The new ordinance would have allowed chickens where before they were banned.
Also on larger acreages, homeowners with current zoning rules in place, in some cases can expect such animals, but on a city lot, that is a different problem.