Eau Claire (WQOW)- The basic necessities of life are food, water and shelter; but does the price of one mean sacrificing the others?
Millions of Americans and thousand in Eau Claire are working in the space between ends, trying to make them meet, with pockets ankle deep but bills waist high.
"People that we see every day. They are people that are working multiple jobs in our communities, typically low wage jobs, but are out in the workforce. We might see them on a daily basis, they might be child care providers, they may be working retail positions. You might see them at your favorite restaurants. Really, it's the fiber of our community," said Jan Porath, Executive Director of United Way of the Greater Chippewa Valley.
According to the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, half of all renters in Eau Claire are considered 'cost burdened', meaning they spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing; 20 percent of renters spend more than half.
"It's a stress that people shouldn't have to have," said Danielle Mohlin, of Eau Claire. "How am I going to balance it this month with everything I need to do? You can't afford to live and still eat because you can't afford to go grocery shopping, because you need a roof over your head."
Earlier this year Mohlin said 75 to 80 percent of her paycheck was going to rent, utilities and bills.
News 18 reached out to over a dozen property management companies in Eau Claire, many of which would not respond. Those who did said by the time they take out property taxes, insurance, loans, heating, garbage and landscaping, the remaining slice they take home is slim.
"We have all these great parks and we have all these great trails and bike trails and hiking trails, and we have so much to offer, but people can't afford to live here, too." Mohlin said.
That's why United Way created the ALICE report. It stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed.
"Really find out underserved populations, and what can we do to help serve those populations as well," Porath said.
The report details the cost of living when paying for basic needs, no fuss and no frills. According to the study, 47 percent of Eau Claire County is taking home a paycheck too petite to pay the bills. Almost half of Eau Claire County is ALICE.
"When you think about 47 percent of the population considered being in that category, kind of opens your eyes a little bit differently and you might notice it a little bit more," Porath said.
So how does ALICE become affluent?
"When we change the condition of one we can raise the waters to lift all the boats, kind of mentality. It's not an us and them, it's a we, and by helping pockets of the population it really helps all of us succeed and be a successful community," Porath said.
United Way offers several programs to help the community find financial stability, which includes budgeting and money management skills, as well as micro-grants with CVTC to fill skill gaps in the workplace. The United Way website has more information on how to get involved.