Spotlight: Lake County

Lake County Spotlight

When we take time to consider the problems of poverty, it is not difficult to imagine the struggles faced by the working poor in Chicago's inner city neighborhoods. But it is important to remember that these problems are not isolated to the city. In fact, Chicago's suburbs have witnessed an explosion of poverty and need as the rising cost of urban living coupled with the razing of public housing facilities have driven poor families from their communities in the city into the surrounding suburbs. Many have resettled in Lake County - a community typically associated with beautiful, sprawling homes and immense wealth. However, the challenges that currently face the working poor in this area are significant: unemployment, escalating utility costs, violence among youth, lack of affordable healthcare, and lack of access to education, among countless other difficulties. The situation is only getting worse.

In Lake County, Illinois...

  1. 50,000 people are living in poverty - this includes 7% of the county's children1
  2. 21.9% of residents spend more than half their income on rent2
  3. 15.9% of individuals aged 0-64 are without any form of health insurance3
  4. The cities of Waukegan and North Chicago have graduation rates below 70%4 and experience teen birth rates two to three times the county average
  5. An estimated 3,500+ gang members have taken up residence (the third highest number of all Illinois counties) and are driving an explosion of gang-related crimes6
  6. There was a +25.3% increase in crimes against children and a +9.2% increase in domestic violence in 2008 vs. prior year7
  7. There was a nearly +6% increase in the number of abuse or neglect cases filed in Lake County between 2007 and 20088
  8. The population has grown by +10.5% since the year 20099

UCAN programs have been operating in Lake County since 1974 (either as UCAN or Family Care of Illinois), and UCAN's current office is in Vernon Hills. Through a variety of services, UCAN works to help build strong children and families and ensure healthy and productive futures. Programs available in Lake County include:

The state budget crisis has had a profound effect upon our ability to provide programming in Lake County, however, and unfortunately we've had to cut the majority of our Youth Against Violence programming. This critical program provides violence prevention education in classrooms and community-based locations for Lake County residents of all ages, with a focus on grade school and high school students. Youth Against Violence is dedicated to reducing violence through educational workshops, youth-led projects, and community awareness and outreach. By influencing values and attitudes and teaching healthy interpersonal skills, Youth Against Violence helps youth in Lake County create more positive life choices and successful futures. We hope to increase funding for this valuable program moving forward. 

To find out more about how you can help UCAN both in Lake County and beyond, please click here.

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1 Heartland Alliance and Northern IL Food Bank
2 US Census Bureau, 2007 American Community Survey
3 US Census Bureau, 2005 Small Area Health Insurance Estimates
4 Illinois State Board of Education, 2007 Report Card
5 YWCA Lake County, 2000
6 2009 Gang Intelligence Center National Gang Assessment
7 2008 Illinois State Police, Executive Summary of Crime in Illinois
8 19th Judicial Circuit Court, Lake County, 2008 report
9 US Census Bureau, 2000 and 2008

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