Oakland County debunks Lighthouse poverty report

In a press release, Oakland County, Mich. stated that is has launched a webpage that exposes the errors in the “Combating Poverty in Oakland County” report released last month by Lighthouse of Oakland County. It also shows that Lighthouse is shamelessly utilizing the report to increase donations. Click on www.OakGov.com/LighthouseReport to view the webpage.

“The Lighthouse poverty report is full of egregious errors,” said George Miller, director of Oakland County’s Health and Human Services Department. “Plus, it violates ethical standards for presentation and use of data.”

Two Oakland County epidemiologists who hold master’s degrees in public health with a concentration in statistical analysis evaluated the Lighthouse report. Nicole Parker and Shane Bies of the Oakland County Health Division then reviewed the American Community Survey (ACS) from which Lighthouse drew its data. Their complete analysis is on the webpage. Here are just a few of the errors they uncovered:

•        Lighthouse conveniently ignored that poverty has been on the decline in Oakland County since 2011. Also, it issued the poverty report one month before the ACS was set to release another year’s worth of data that is expected to show the improving trend continues

•        Lighthouse said poverty increased by 77 percent in Oakland County when it was actually four percentage points.

•        Lighthouse falsely claimed that the rate of growth of poverty in Oakland County suburban communities outpaced the growth in Pontiac. When the percent in poverty in the City of Pontiac grew by 15 percentage points which is much greater than the 4 percentage point increase that all of Oakland County experienced between 2005-2012.

The very next business day after Lighthouse released its poverty report to the media, it sent a letter to donors and other stakeholders that began with the sensational language of “We have seen a seismic shift in Oakland County poverty….” The letter is also posted on Oakland County’s webpage.

“Lighthouse is using the poverty report to tug at the heartstrings of donors,” Miller said. “It is clear the purpose of the letter is to extract money from individuals who are legitimately concerned about the care of those living in poverty.”

The webpage also points out that when Lighthouse initially unveiled its poverty report, it was freely available on Lighthouse’s website for all the public to see. Now, one must send in a name and email address to receive a copy.

In addition to debunking the Lighthouse poverty report, the webpage also shows how Lighthouse spends its revenue. For instance, the webpage highlights:

•        The Lighthouse of Oakland County spent more than 54 percent of its revenue on executive and employee compensation, benefits and related expenses over three years during the years when poverty was peaking.

•        Lighthouse President/CEO John Ziraldo’s total compensation increased more than 20 percent from FY2010 – FY2011.

Finally, the webpage that reveals the errors in the Lighthouse poverty report encourages the public to take action by contacting Lighthouse CEO John Ziraldo or writing its Board of Trustees.

“Oakland County was not immune to the Great Recession. In response, we partnered with dozens of human service agencies to solve issues together,” Miller said. “It’s indefensible that Lighthouse waited until after poverty is on the decline to produce this erroneous report in order to drive donations.”

About Sarah Hovis

Freelance wordsmith, arts appreciator, grammar geek, sports spectator, stationery snob, and world traveler, Sarah charts her own course as the owner of saliho creative. She uses her creative mind and engaging dialogue to fearlessly bring the written word to life in print and online… all while keeping a watchful eye out for the next literary adventure. You can reach her at sarah@rochestermedia.com.

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