Moscow League of Women Voters research poverty on Palouse

MOSCOW, ID - Last month Bloomberg Businessweek rated Moscow the best place to raise kids in Idaho, but many people who live there know that poverty is a serious issue in the area.

The League of Women Voters of Moscow's did a year-long study of poverty in Latah County. Some say poverty in Latah County is hidden.

"If you go to Seattle, you see homeless people when you go downtown," said League of Women Voters of Moscow's Study of Poverty in Latah County Editor Jennifer O'Laughlin. "You see them there, so you know there's a lot of poverty. You don't see that here, really."

That's why the League of Women Voters of Moscow spent the last year studying the issue.

"When it's all packaged, it can seem absolutely overwhelming," said Poverty Study Chair Nancy Chaney.

They broke the issue into five pieces and conducted in-depth research on housing, food insecurity, health care, child care, and transportation.

"We also interviewed providers for homeless, or food banks, or the different subjects," said O'Laughlin. "And we also interviewed different government officials."

They say that one of the largest problems in the county is that there isn't a central place for impoverished people to turn to for information on where they can find help.

"Even for a person who's relatively sophisticated in finding information, it's really hard to find it," said O'Laughlin. "So for someone who's not very educated, it's almost impossible."

The sheer number of children affected was shocking to those researching the matter. Almost a fifth of the children in Latah County live below the Federal Poverty Level.

"There isn't enough child care in the area to meet the need," said League of Women Voters of Moscow President Elaine Broyles. "Plus, it's fairly expensive, so some of the people who need it the most, single mothers with children, can't afford it."

Access to health care is an issue they identified as a problem as well. For many in the rural areas of the county, it can be difficult to find transportation to a clinic, and even harder to find the money to pay for the bill.

"For people who have health insurance, we have wonderful resources here on the Palouse," said Chaney. "For people who don't have it, it can be very frightening."

The 2012 study of poverty in Latah County presents troubling findings, however those who took part in the researching effort believe good things will come from it in 2013.

"It's a tool that we can use to advocate for additional resources from our state and federal agencies," said Chaney.

As a result of the study, the Community Health Association of Spokane plans to establish a free clinic in Moscow for those in need of assistance.

The League of Women Voters of Moscow's Study of Poverty in Latah County