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For many in Volusia County, living above the federal poverty line doesn’t mean you’ve escaped problems like food and housing insecurity.

ALICE is an acronym coined by the United Way, that stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. The United Way describes these individuals as in between the federal poverty line and a comfortable living wage.

From the 2020 Florida ALICE report: “The actual cost of household basics in every county in Florida is well above the Federal Poverty Level for all household sizes and types. For a single adult, the FPL was $12,140 per year in 2018, but the average Household Survival Budget in Florida was $24,600 per year.”

The Neighborhood Center of West Volusia serves many who fit the ALICE profile.

“It basically means the working poor,” Waylan Niece said. 

Niece is director of operations for The Neighborhood Center, a nonprofit organization focused on combating homelessness and food insecurity. 

“When you look at the ALICE data, there are people working every day, but they are still poor,” Neice said. “A lot of that is due to these systemic issues.”

One example of a systemic problem, Niece said, is that poverty can be generational. 

“When a family is in poverty, what do their children see? They see, ‘Well, Mom and Dad lived like that, so this is like how we’re going to live, too.’ It creates this cyclical pattern of poverty,” he explained. “When children see their families grow up like this, they know nothing else, and it is 100 times harder for them to break out of this. Occasionally you get someone who breaks free from that, but not often enough.”

Other variables like mental illness, drug addiction, too few jobs that pay a living wage and a lack of affordable housing, Niece said, all play a part in food insecurity.

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