Hunger and hardship in Martin County

Hunger and hardship in Martin County

Martin County is consistently rated as one of the wealthiest areas in the nation. But thousands of residents — including low-wage workers and fixed-income seniors — are struggling to keep up with the basic necessities of life.

The following figures tell a story of people struggling in Martin County and why House of Hope and its services are needed:

Poverty is present

The most recent data shows that 12.1% of the Martin County population — nearly 18,000 people — live below the poverty line. That’s one out of every eight people in Martin County, which has a population of 148,615. (U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey, 2015.)

Furthermore, about 20% of the people under age 18 live in poverty — over 5,000 children.

The income guidelines for defining poverty are low: For example, a single person is in poverty if he or she earns $12,060 or less. The poverty line is $16,240 for two people and $24,600 for a family of four. (More guidelines: Department of Heath and Human Services.)

Think about those definitions of poverty and consider the low wages paid to many workers in Martin County (2015, the U.S. Census Bureau):

  • More than 41% of all jobs in Martin County pay $25,000 a year or less.
  • 7% of all households in Martin County earn less than $25,000 a year.
  • 8% of all households earn less than $35,000 annually.

Who we help

Typically, people seeking help from House of Hope are those who work for low wages and exist paycheck to paycheck.

One-third of the people we serve are children whose families are struggling to make ends meet. Many people seeking help have suffered a recent catastrophe, such as a medical problem, domestic violence, a death in the family or a sudden job loss.

We serve many low fixed-income retirees and veterans who live on Social Security or VA benefits of only a few hundred dollars a month. Some of our clients are homeless; many have disabilities.


You are a 54-year-old man, raising your 3-year-old grandson while caring for your elderly aunt and uncle – both of whom have dementia.

You are coping OK until the day your workplace goes out of business. You have to wait a few weeks until you can receive unemployment, but the rent is due and you are unable to pay.

That was the situation James was in when he came to House of Hope.

“I was frantic,” he said. “But the people at House of Hope understood where I was coming from, and within days my rent was being paid.”

With that crisis past, James said, “I have a solid plan to take care of my family in the months ahead, but it was this month I was struggling with. House of Hope really helped me when I needed it.”