Though at first glance it seems Three Village locals are in better economic shape than those in neighboring communities, to the 620 people in Three Village living in poverty, those numbers are merely statistics.
“Some people say how affordable it is, but those are married couples who both have a career and aren’t in school anymore,” said Jean Bowen, a single mom living in Stony Brook. “When you have two incomes it’s different.”
In Stony Brook, 234 individuals are living below the poverty line; in Setauket, that number rises to 387.
Unemployment and changing family structures are just two of the reasons why this may be the case.
“One of the stories I hear a lot, unfortunately, is that whether it’s due to financial or other stresses, families are in transition stages as they are breaking up,” said Steve Riberdy, social worker at . ”As they separate, I find that some of the fathers leave the house and are not fulfilling their financial responsibilities to the family.”
In 2010 there were 213 children in the Three Village School District between the ages of 5 and 17 living in households affected by poverty, according to the Census. This number is less than half of the 437 local students who qualify for the district’s free or reduced lunch program.
Over the last six years the percentage of students taking part in the program has jumped from 3.24 percent to 5.98 percent.
In addition to the free or reduced lunch program the district offers, Mercy Junior High School has a food pantry widely used by the families of Three Village, according to Riberdy. The district also pairs up with the Three Village community, girl scouts, and local organizations to help out families in the area.
Still, living in Three Village as a single parent can be difficult due to the lack of affordable childcare and assistance programs, according to Bowen.
Over 20 percent of family households in Three Village are headed by single parents, according to the Census. At the Stony Brook Child Care Center alone, 17 to 20 percent of the children come from single-parent households, according to employee Denise Masone.
Local single parents may find comfort in programs such as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).
“I use the WIC program. I don’t get food stamps but I was looking into it,” Bowen said. “It is so difficult if you’re a low-income family to apply for food stamps out here.”
While Bowen admits that hers might be one of the more extreme cases of single parenthood, she still speaks for a portion of the community that needs more assistance than is readily available. Although the community does have a couple of food pantries and thrift stores such as the Stony Brook Community Church Op Shop and Our Daily Bread at St. James Church, they need more help from the community to remain stocked, according to Riberdy.
“I think the district and social workers recognize that there is a need for support for these families," Riberdy said, "and they’re working to put things in place."