Pisgah Legal Services will host its annual poverty forum on Thursday at Thomas Wolfe Auditorium in the US Cellular Center. There’s a reception and then a following forum featuring a keynote speech by Kathryn Edin, a Princeton University sociologist and author. You can buy tickets to the Poverty Forum here.

Here’s a breakdown of the event:

The forum is titled “Making Ends Meet: Women and Poverty in WNC.” Kathryn Edin is professor of sociology and public affairs at Princeton University, one of the nation’s leading poverty researchers and the co-author with Luke Shaefer of “$2 a Day: The Art of Living on Almost Nothing in America” in 2015.

Edin will talk about the struggles of low income women and families in Western North Carolina because that’s a constituency that Pisgah Legal Services is most focused on. A whopping 75 percent of the organization’s clients are poor women.

More stats: According to the National Women’s Law Center, 15.2 percent of women in North Carolina live in poverty. That’s higher than the national average. The problem is worse for single mothers. On average, 41.3 percent of single mothers living in the WNC counties served by Pisgah Legal Services (Buncombe, Henderson, Transylvania, Rutherford, Madison and Polk) live in poverty. The poverty rate for those with young children (children under 5) is even higher – for example, a staggering 72.7 percent in Madison County.

Still more stats: The average income of a Pisgah Legal Services client is $10,592 a year. The yearly salary for working a full-time minimum wage job is $15,080. Pisgah Legal helped 15,750 people in 2017; some 6,100 of those needed help escaping domestic violence.

Pisgah Legal Services is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. The nonprofit has helped low-income people in the mountain region meet their basic needs, such as protection from domestic violence, avoiding homelessness, finding safe housing, accessing health care and increasing income since 1978.  It has 22 attorneys on staff and relies heavily on the pro bono legal services of approximately 300 volunteer attorneys and the help of more than 100 office and health insurance navigator volunteers. Still, the organization faces constant threats to funding sources.

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