Yes, working poor do still live in St. Lucie County

www.tcpalm.com , anthony.westbury@tcpalm.com Published 6:54 p.m. ET Jan. 12, 2017 | Updated 7:12 p.m. ET Jan. 12, 2017 A little more than two years ago we got to meet ALICE. ALICE refers not to a girl or a woman, but to a category of people. The ALICE report was commissioned by the United Way nationally to shine light on the largely hidden population of the working poor. These are people who have jobs but who often have great difficulty in making ends meet. The 2014 report labeled this group as Asset Limited, Income Constrained and Employed — thus the acronym ALICE. The original report used 2012 data; this week I got a sneak peek at an updated version using 2014 and 2015 data. The latest results look pretty bleak. The 2014 report said 45 percent of Florida households struggle to afford the basic necessities of housing, food, child care, health care and transportation, even in so-called affluent communities such as Martin County. The group includes both those living below the federal poverty level and the ALICE clients who reside somewhere between poverty and the middle class. The recession hit the ALICE group particularly hard. On a local level, progress since 2012 has been uneven, according to Stefanie Myers, executive director of the nonprofit United Against Poverty (formerly known as Harvest Food & Outreach). Myers also spent a decade with the St. Lucie County Community Services Department. She’s seen all sides of poverty. The latest numbers, Myers said, “have me a little disturbed.” That’s because, in St. Lucie County at least, the size of the ALICE group is larger now than it was in 2007. In that year, Myers noted, 39 percent of St. Lucie’s population was at poverty level, while 24 percent was at ALICE levels.  By 2010, the number of those living in poverty had dropped substantially to 15 percent, but ALICE members had increased to 32 percent. The latest survey puts those numbers at 16 percent  and 32 percent, respectively.