Nonprofits Unable To Keep Up With Growing Suburban Poverty, New Reports Say

10/07/2010 07:15 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The national recession has had a suffocating impact on the middle class, with high rates of unemployment, home foreclosure and other hardships pushing families into poverty.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy reports two analyses released this week by the Brookings Institution show suburban poverty has skyrocketed in recent years and the way in which social services are lagging behind this shift.

Historically, government services and nonprofit organizations have targeted their anti-poverty efforts at urban areas where poor residents were more highly concentrated. Suburbs were traditionally areas for the middle and affluent classes and therefore did not require the same amount of social services.

While poverty still remains higher in urban areas overall, Brookings reports suburban poverty has risen at a much higher rate over the last decade.

Their findings in their paper "The Great Recession and Poverty in Metropolitan America" show that more than two-thirds of the 5.5 million people, who have slipped below the poverty line in the last decade, live in the suburbs.

The public policy institute's report, "Strained Suburbs: The Social Service Challenges of Rising Suburban Poverty" took an in-depth look at suburban poverty in Chicago, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.

The report finds that demand for help from suburban nonprofits has risen dramatically. More than 73 percent of nonprofits in the suburbs reported that they are helping more clients than ever before, many of whom have sought help previously.

At the same time, nonprofits are also dealing with the effects of the recession, facing decreased revenue sources from donors, forcing them to scale back the services they are able to provide.

Because of their findings, the Brookings Institution encourages government funding and nonprofit organizations to re-focus their efforts to help this growing population of suburban poor.