In 2009 an estimated 1,444 people in San Juan County lived at or below the poverty level according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The state's percentage is 11.8 compared to the county's 9.5 of the total population.
Rates vary by demographic groups. Of the families in San Juan County consisting of single mothers with young children 28.2% live in poverty.
The Opportunity Council produced a San Juan Prosperity Project 2011 report Experiences of Poverty in San Juan County earlier this year. They did a needs assessment of low income families on Shaw, Lopez, Orcas and San Juan Islands.
Problems included problems finding jobs because there are too few living wage jobs or they lack job skills. Transportation to work was a problem for 15 percent of those contacted.
Sixty one percent of respondents reported that it was hard to save for unexpected expenses, while 54% reported having medical debt. Fines and legal fees and credit card debt are a problem for many respondents.
The high cost of housing combined with the low wages was problemmatic was the biggest issue for many of the people surveyed.
Approximately 33% had to share housing to prevent homelessness, and 35% of survey respondents having to choose between rent and other basic needs. Thirteen percent of respondents had been homeless for more than a week in the past year. The housing cost burden – defined as the proportion of monthly income spent on rent or mortgage payment – was 71% for renters and 59% for owners.
Forty-four percent of the respondents had no health insurance and 61% did not received the care they needed in the previous 12 months. 48% of insured did not get needed care, while 81% of uninsured did not get needed care. Dental health was also mentioned as a service with very low availability, but very high importance to people, as was medical care in general.
51% felt that their children received adequate health care, and 75% reported that their children were doing well in school. Keeping adequate childcare was a problem for half of respondents and the challenges identified included affordability, evening and weekend care, as well as part-time and infant care.
Food/Nutrition Key issues: Access, availability. Seventeen percent of respondents reported that someone in their household had gone hungry because they did not have enough food, while 45% had skipped a meal and 77% relied on some form of food assistance. When respondents are divided by income level within the sample, there is a clear association between these food security indicators and household income.
The most frequently mentioned transportation problems identified by respondents included being unable to afford car repairs (49%), being unable to afford gas (43%), or not having car insurance (27%).
Community Services Survey respondents were asked to rate the importance and availability of 14 community-based social and health services. For several services, a substantial number of respondents indicated that the service was extremely important and very hard to get. These included affordable dental care (53%), living wage jobs (46%), housing assistance (43%), affordable medical care (38%), and energy assistance (28%).