Dougherty poverty rate highest in state

One of the 1,077 low-income housing units in Albany sits occupied Thursday.

One of the 1,077 low-income housing units in Albany sits occupied Thursday.

ALBANY, Ga. — According to statistics released by the U.S. Census Bureau on Thursday, the poverty rate in Dougherty County jumped 12.3 percent from 24.1 to 36.4 percent from 2007 to 2010 — the nation’s second-highest increase in counties with populations of 65,000 or greater.

The report, issued by National Public Radio and The New York Times, indicates that poverty is rising faster in Dougherty than any of Georgia’s largest counties.

A family of four living in poverty earns about $22,000 a year.

The report added that Dougherty County and other parts of Southwest Georgia reflect a deepening of poverty in many parts of the state. Georgia has the fifth-highest percentage of people living in what is called deep poverty, which is being driven by several factors.

“If you can imagine a family of four trying to live on $11,000 a year, we have three-quarters of a million Georgians living in that scenario,” Claire Richie of the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute told NPR. “That needs to be a wakeup call that we can do better.”

Dougherty County Commission Chairman Jeff Sinyard was stunned by the news.

“I’ve not seen the numbers, but what we’ve been working with is around 29 to 30 percent,” Sinyard said. “If it’s at 34.6 percent, then I am shocked because that figure is staggering. Poverty is the No. 1 issue facing our community today. We must respond to this trend because it has a major impact on everyone who lives or works in the county.

“The biggest problem is that the cycle of poverty is incredibly hard to break.”

According to census figures, the county’s per capita income dropped from $19,688 in a 2007-09 survey to $17,265 in 2010. Median household income also fell from $34,597 in 2005-09 to $28,444 in 2010.

The 2007 to 2010 county numbers are also significant when taking into account that Merck Chemical closed in 2007 and Cooper Tire shuttered in 2009 at the cost of nearly 1,800 well-paying jobs.

The job losses, coupled with a stubborn recession, have been noticed by Albany Housing Authority Executive Director Dan McCarthy.

“We’ve seen a steady increase in people needing our services over the past three years,” McCarthy said. “Our waiting list is long, and some have been closed entirely because the wait was unrealistic. Our vacancy rate is way down. We have nine out of 1,077 units vacant, but they are being prepared for tenants.”

McCarthy noted that the AHA’s current waiting list has more than 2,000 names on it. To determine its rents (which range from $120 to $130 per month), HUD uses a median income sliding scale based on $48,000 per year.

The lowest rate is 30 percent, which is around $14,600 per year. More than 1,900 of the 2,000 on the waiting list qualify for this rate.

“Previously, people did not want to use us, but as the economy got progressively worse and the poverty rate increases more people needed our services,” McCarthy said.

University of Georgia Housing and Consumer Economics Professor Doug Bachtel, who publishes the Georgia County Guide, said there are several reasons for rural Georgia’s dire economic straits.

“Well, there is this little thing going on called the recession,” Bachtel said, “and it’s having an impact all over the country, particularly in rural areas.”

Bachtel pointed to four major reasons for Dougherty County’s soaring poverty rate.

“You really have an economic triple-whammy for y’all going on down there,” Bachtel said. “You have a large African-American population (68 percent), and those folks are really suffering because of low education, low skills and the lack of a diversified economy. Also births to unwed African-American mothers is among the highest percentage in the state (nearly 65 percent).

“This is where the cycle of poverty starts. If you are born poor, you usually stay poor.”

Bachtel said births to unwed mothers is a major problem in Dougherty County and a leading predictor of poverty.

“A significant number of blacks and whites considers birth out of wedlock to be no problem, and it is a disgrace,” Bachtel said. “This affects infant mortality rates, it affects dropout rates and deepens the cycle of poverty. This is a failure of black leadership within the community.

“A pencil-necked white guy can’t come down there and tell them to keep their pants up; that has to come from the black leaders. And right now I think there is a problem within the leadership.”

Darrell Sabbs, community benefits director for Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital, said he thinks Bachtel isn’t looking at the big picture.

“I disagree (with Bachtel) somewhat; there are many more factors involved,” Sabbs said. “You can’t lay sole responsibility of girls having babies early on just one segment of the community. That is wrong. There’s also peer pressure, there is the media — the hip-hop mentality is a factor that influences attitudes. It is a foreign language to the baby boomer generation, but the kids understand it and are drawn to it.”

Sabbs added that change must occur at the community level.

“Sex is recreational to many young black males,” he said. “We have to close that gap and provide other recreational opportunities. The whole community needs to play a role — churches, schools and girls should also have roles.”


tballplayer 3 years, 11 months ago

Excellent story! I hope one point of this story becomes crystal clear...we as a whole cannot afford to ignore this problem any longer. Just because you don't look at a problem directly, doesn't mean it goes away, or heals itself.


chinaberry25 3 years, 11 months ago

Welfare wantabees are moving to Albany because it is cheap to live or easy to get into this glut of free housing. Build them and they will come. And come they have and are here to stay. Most cities take pride in their upkeep, Albany takes pride in servicing the poor. Along with them came their crime and the only thing that is profiting is Phoebe. Poorism is their biggest industry besides drugs.


Clif 3 years, 11 months ago

It's not just the black leadership, it's the ENTIRE leadership (?) of Albany and Dougherty County. In fact, there is no leadership, just officeholders.


EddieG 3 years, 11 months ago

@Clif.............Newsflash for ya. The ENTIRE leadership of Albany is black. They finally reached the top that they so desperately sought, and look at what Albany & Dougherty County have become.

And imagine Darrell Sabbs not wanting the black leadership to take responsibility. Let's blame it on the hip-hop. Good freaking grief. That's like past generations saying that Elvis shaking his hips was going to make the young people go to hell. Hate it for you, Darrell, but Mr. Bachtel is dead on the money with his assessment. All you have to do is read the birth announcements in the Herald to see how many black babies are born to unwed mothers. And they aren't hard to pick out either........just look for lots of J's and Q's and apostrophes.


bubbavet 3 years, 11 months ago

Eddie You are so right, but you ain't gonna ever make them believe it. It's all black and white to them. They probably blame George Bush. It's never their fault.


SoTiredofClosedMindedPeople 3 years, 11 months ago

To blame race for "ALL" a problem as complex as poverty is straight ignorant! True, blacks should do more. However, everyone in poverty is NOT all black. In fact, in many parts of this country there are more whites in poverty than blacks. Does anyone says it's because of the "white leadership" there that poverty is the way that it is? NO!

Also, when you look at the population of Albany and the fact that the "white flight" has moved to Leesburg and other surrounding cities, the numbers are going to drastically jump!

So, Eddie, instead of playing the blame game, why don't you be a part of the solution instead of being part of the problem!


Somebody 3 years, 11 months ago

One problem is the Black leadership turns their heads at the problem. They are too concerned about their own personal gains, than of what's best for the community.


FormerGaPeach 3 years, 11 months ago

Disturbing article! I totally agree with tballplayer's comment.


eyeswideopen 3 years, 11 months ago

There needs to be serious work done by the county and city leaders to correct this. The high school dropout rate is too high and we continue to miss key performance indicators. That the county commission chair would not have been "shocked" at a poverty rate of 29% -30% is telling. With this report the commission needs to immediately develop and roll out a plan to reverse this trend over the next five years. Though I myself am black, I find it hard to disagree with the Dr. Batchel's findings.


SoTiredofClosedMindedPeople 3 years, 11 months ago

To suggest that Albany's staggering poverty rate is due to black leadership and black leadership only is ignorant. First, ALL leadership in Albany is NOT black! Secondly, the reason we can't move forward-- in any area, not just poverty-- is because of people like you (Eddie) who are always playing the race card or pointing the finger at blacks/whites. Poverty affects EVERYONE, and to be realistic, if we took a whoalistic view of this poverty issue-- you could never deny the fact that SLAVERY had an impact on poverty.

Yes, I know I know, you don't want to hear the "slavery story" cause when the light is shined back on YOU, you want to change the subject. However, there are millionaires right here in our community that made their living off of the sweat on the backs of black people. How do you expect for someone to win a race when they're let out of the gate 30 seconds after the first group of people? Really?????

Not only that, but you've got political motives that want to KEEP people in poverty because there is money to be made off of them. Furthermore, you've got policies in place that keep impoverished people dependent on the system... even those who don't want to be on the system but don't make enough money to be self-sufficient.

So please THINK about your statements before you make them... Poverty is way more complex and should NOT be blamed on one race's leadership. Everything is NOT black and white, and IF it is then be willing to accept YOUR role in the problem!!!!!!!!


Outtahere 3 years, 11 months ago

Why is stating facts like Albany's dropout rate, percentage of black leadership, number of unwed young mothers having birth, etc. "playing the race card"? It is not! It is going over the facts that make up Albany's high poverty rate - and the truth may be hard to swallow! You should think about your statements before you make them because offering excuses and over-looking the issues at hand is very ignorant!!

Poverty is complex and is an issues for ALL races but this article is focusing on the problems that plague ALBANY! Albany's leadership is primarily black!! But, I agree that is not the whole issue. The main issues are the lack of values, morals, discipline, and honor that are missing inside the home! Children are lost in the world and are only adding to the cycle of poverty!! We need to be lifting up our children and teaching them to do better than we did!!!!


SoTiredofClosedMindedPeople 3 years, 11 months ago

I didn't say to look at Albany's statistics is playing the race card. If you read what I said, I said to blame ONE group of people--black leadership-- on a complex issue like poverty, which has many causes and factor, is ignorant and is playing the race card! Placing blame on any one group of people is IGNORANT! So if we got all of the black people out of leadership, replaced them with all white people, and 10 years later we still had the same problem (or worse), would it be because of all the white leadership? If so, would people say it's because of the WHITE leadership or the good ole boy network? No!

As I said, I don't disagree with the article and the fact that Albany's leadership-- white and black-- could do better. And yes, black leaders can and should do more! No doubt! But to ignore all of the other factors that go into poverty and making straight IGNORANT statements from racist people like Eddie is unacceptable.


Outtahere 3 years, 11 months ago

After reading your second post I do understand where you are coming from! Racist remarks should never be acceptable!! I think a lot of people talk about "black leadership" because they see these few at the top and it is as if they only care about themselves!! They could be a part of the solution instead of turning the other way! It is true that they do that!


SoTiredofClosedMindedPeople 3 years, 11 months ago

I so agree with you Outtahere! So many people complain about the problems in our community, but so few people even attempt to provide a solution to the problems. Instead, they'd rather sit on their couch watching the news or get on blog sites and make ignorant comments or point the finger and play the blame game. My philosophy is step up or shut up!


Abytaxpayer 3 years, 11 months ago

Notice:…****.. all of our Commissioners Black or White have one thing in common they all have two ears. SO Get Involved, Go to the Commission meetings and speak up or Sit in front of your screens and be ignored as a bunch of spineless yappers.


Reekay3 3 years, 10 months ago

Instead of just talking about the problem or pointing fingers, why not try to do something about it. I'm not even a resident of Albany and I'm trying to do something about it. And poverty isn't JUST a Black problem so please don't think that.


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