Poverty in Eastern Oregon
It is no secret that poverty is a problem in Eastern Oregon. Poverty is not a singular issue – low incomes prevent individuals from providing for themselves and their families. This vulnerability commonly leads to crime and other hardship.
Between 2018-2019, economic conditions improved in northeast Oregon. Baker County’s unemployment rate remained at 6%, but Union County fell to 5%, though it is still below the statewide rate of 4%, which has also fallen. Additionally, Baker County’s job growth rate per 1,000 residents grew from 3 to 7, and Union County’s job growth rate per 1,000 residents rose from -6 to 3, an impressive turnaround.
Despite decreased unemployment and higher job growth between 2018-2019, food insecurity rates only decreased in Baker County, by 1%, but Union County’s rate has not changed. There has been no change in the percentage of the population with a healthy diet, but Union and Baker County both have a higher rate than the state of Oregon.
United Way of Eastern Oregon helps alleviate food insecurity by raising funds for Neighbors Together (La Grande), Elgin Food Bank, North Powder Food Bank (also serving Haines), and Salvation Army (serving Baker and Union Counties).
Child poverty decreased by 1% overall in the state of Oregon between 2018-2019, and fell to 22% from ¼ of all Union County children in the past year. Baker County, however, saw child poverty rates increase from 21% to 24%. Child abuse rates per 1,000 saw staggering changes, lowering from 21 to 15 in Union County but rising from 21 to 33 in Baker County.
United Way joins four other important local organizations in fighting for our children. Mt. Emily Safe Center provides for the immediate needs of child abuse victims by performing forensic interviews, and UWEO’s grant funds full medical exams for patients. Court-Appointed Special Advocates provides advocacy for children in our court system. Kids Club and Boy Scouts offer safe, healthy after-school education and recreation opportunities for local children.
While no entity can keep track of the actual sexual violence rates in a given location, the Department of Human Services tracks help calls to local centers for Domestic and Sexual Violence Programs. Call rates for varied forms of domestic and sexual violence have gone down since 2008, but many members of our community continue to be victimized.