Watauga County has an official poverty rate of 29%. Ten years ago, it was only 10%. The poverty rate among single mothers is 35%. In parts of the county, 70% of kids receive free or reduced lunch at school. During the summer, these children are lucky to get one full meal a day – and that’s with the Hospitality House giving out 11,000 meals per month. 45 children enrolled at Hardin Park Elementary were homeless last year.

The living wage in Watauga County for one adult with two kids is $24.05 for the one working adult. For two adults in a family of four, the living wage means that both parents must make $19.41 an hour, and, as [Todd Carter of the Boone Hospitality House] put it, there just aren’t those types of jobs in Watauga County. By definition, living wage is how much it takes to live in Watauga County once you figure in food, shelter, medical expenses and transportation. The stipend for housing, however, is $750 per month. “Where in Watauga County can you live for that where the paint isn’t peeling off the walls?” Carter asked.