Arkansas PBS > Programs > Poverty Divide In Arkansas

The Poverty Divide In Arkansas

According to the USDA, Arkansas has a poverty rate of 18.9 percent and a child poverty rate of 26 percent, with poverty levels continuing to rise throughout the state. AETN is working to further the discussion about poverty and opportunity in Arkansas in "A Deeper Look: The Poverty Divide in Arkansas."

This program will address the struggles of those living in poverty in the state and the organizations and resources available to help. A family will share their story of survival in trying times, and other segments will focus on Veterans Villages of America, poverty in urban and rural areas, food insecurity and more.

Hosted by Phillip Fletcher, founder/executive director of City of Hope (

Segments Include:

  • Arkansas poverty statistics. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the national poverty rate is 15 percent, and Arkansas is at 19 percent. Research from Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families shows that 183,000 children (one in four) in the state are in poverty, while the U.S. Census Bureau found 21,000 veterans in poverty. In January 2016, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development reported 2,560 people were homeless in Arkansas. This segment features Gregory L. Hamilton, Ph.D., senior research economist for the UALR Institute for Economic Advancement.
  • Poverty in rural and urban areas. Urban and rural areas face unique struggles in poverty. Population and available resources create obstacles. Our House in Little Rock, a program for homeless and nearly homeless people, has access to many more resources than it would in a rural area, but it also gets far more requests than it can handle. Heifer USA, a division of Heifer International, is helping people in rural areas develop small farms in their own communities, but with complicated logistics, it isn't possible to help as many people as a program in an urban area. Those interviewed include: Patrick Tufford, Our House client; Georgia Mjartan, executive director, and Justin Sanders, director of client services, Our House; Ben Wihebrink, director of operations, Heifer USA; Cody Hopkins, general manager, Grass Roots Farmers' Cooperative in Clinton; Kerry Harrington, The Other Side Farm in Marshall.
  • Veterans in poverty. Housing affordability is the greatest housing problem among veterans, and HUD estimates that approximately 361 Arkansas veterans are homeless. This segment features retired U.S. Army Col. Mike Ross and his organization Veterans Villages of America, which strives to bring services together for veterans in need. Among those the organization is helping is World War II veteran Theoda "Uncle Jack" Butler, who at 90 years old needed assistance with repairs to his home. Also featured is Afghanistan war veteran Taylor LaBue, whose personal story of PTSD caused difficulties when he returned home. LaBue founded Veterans Impact − Central Arkansas Veterans Mental Health Council and shares how his advocacy work with veterans has given him support and purpose.
  • Families in poverty. Thomas and Louise Bolton, along with their five children, struggle to make ends meet in one of the highest crime areas in Little Rock. Thomas provides their only source of income, working 16 hours a day shuttling Medicaid patients from one appointment to the next. Louise looks for work herself, filling out countless applications, but a felony arrest from her youth plagues her. Unable to find a job, she focuses on furthering her education, recently obtaining an associate degree, as she hopes to put her past behind her. With bills stacking up, including a recent eviction notice, the Boltons hold to one another, more thankful for what they have than what they don’t.

"A Deeper Look: The Poverty Divide in Arkansas" is part of the national initiative "Chasing the Dream: Poverty and Opportunity in America," which aims to provide a deeper understanding of the impact of poverty on American society and solutions to bring people out of poverty.

Last Updated 14 Sep 2018