‘Seismic’ Shift in Oakland Poverty? County Claims Report Sensational, Exploitive

After Lighthouse of Oakland County issued a report studying poverty in the post-Great Recession years, county officials launch web page with their own take on the issue.

Oakland County officials have countered a report by Lighthouse of Oakland County, which said poverty increased 77 percent in the mostly-affluent county during the Great Recession. (Patch file photo)
Oakland County officials have countered a report by Lighthouse of Oakland County, which said poverty increased 77 percent in the mostly-affluent county during the Great Recession. (Patch file photo)

There’s a bit of a dust-up going on in Oakland County about what constitutes poverty.

The nonprofit Lighthouse of Oakland County issued a report last month warned that even in Michigan’s most affluent county. poverty increased 77 percent. The report said the local numbers show a “seismic” shift in poverty from urban areas to more affluent suburbs during the Great Recession.

That didn’t sit well with some county officials, who lambasted the “Combating Poverty in Oakland County” report as full of errors and sensational language, the Detroit Free Press reports. The report was positioned and timed to attract large donations, but damaged the county’s efforts to attract global businesses, they said.,

Oakland County Health and Human Services Director George Miller told the Free Press he doesn’t dispute that poverty has increased, but he took issue with the “alarmist” tone of the report.

County officials disputed the 77 percent increase in poverty from 2003-2013  – stated at 76 percent elsewhere in the report – and said it exaggerated the problem. The report was included in a mailing to donors, which county officials said was exploitive.

The letter to potential donors is included on page on the county’s web site – a war of the web fo sorts,  that cites experts debunking the report. The page was launched as a counter measure by Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson’s staff after county Health Division epidemiologists Nicole Parker and Shane Bies went through the report  line by line and then compared it with the American Community Survey data on which it was based.

The county touted its  business recruitment and other economic successes, including the addition of 65,000 jobs in Oakland County over the past three years; a poverty rate that is the lowest in the Tri-County area; and a nearly $33 million budget for fiscal year to help residents with economic challenges.

John Ziraldo, Lighthouse of Oakland County’s CEO and president, told the Free Press the errors were minor and the letter to donors was typical of mailings that occur anytime the agency has news to report.

The overarching message of the report remains the same, he said.

“They’re quibbling,” Ziraldo said. “The most important question for county leaders is how we can work together to address the needs of our residents who struggle to meet their basic needs.”

K. Scott May 22, 2014 at 12:39 PM
I know some of my neighbors that lost jobs during the great economic meltdown of 2008 still have not recovered. Income is down in many areas. I do see some uptick, but for the most part Oakland took a big hit in some areas.
RON Ostrodamus May 22, 2014 at 01:05 PM
Royal Oak chased out Common Ground. The shelters are packed and anyway most of the homeless avoid them like the plague. We all are aware that alcoholism and mental illness are part of the problem, but are either blind or deaf, or just unwilling to broach the subject of homelessness. What is truly tragic is the growing number of veterans who have no home and often die alone in the very country they fought for.
Barb Narb May 22, 2014 at 03:16 PM
"77 percent increase in poverty" Change we can believe in!
K. Scott May 22, 2014 at 05:19 PM
Got the 2008 housing meltdown and throw a couple of wars on top of it and the only ones getting rich are the banks and the bomb builders.


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