WGNS visited the poorest county in the United States, this is what we learned

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Mrs. Cleda Turner of the Owsley County Outreach.

For all of the pictures, please visit SmallTownBigWorld.com

WGNS' Scott Walker recently took a trip to a small community that is only 4.5-hours away from Middle Tennessee. The once thriving coal town is now overlooked by most. The name of the county that Walker and friend Justin Holder visited is called Owsley County, Kentucky. According to 2010 U.S. Census records, it is the poorest county in the United States.

Walker wrote: During our visit, we randomly stopped at a variety of houses, trailers and campers and knocked on the door and had conversations with the residents. Most of the homes we stopped at, residents invited us inside as we brought with us groceries to hand out. One house we stopped at was actually built as a school over 150-years ago. Resident Donnie Bishop and his wife live there today.


As we entered, smoke from a cigarette filled the air. The walls of the interior of the home were covered in family photo’s from floor to ceiling. 


Another home consisted of old school buses with the windows painted shut and the front door barely functioning. A man, his wife and their adult son all lived in the buses and a single camper that were on the property. The father invited us into his bus that had a large wood burning stove inside to keep warm. The metal ceiling was black from smoke. A dirty make-shift curtain made of an old blanket divided the front of the bus from his bedroom. The floor was littered with personal belongings, but he warned us it was messy before we entered. The mans' wife, who has diabetes, lives in a camper on the property about 50-feet from his bus. His son lives in a second school bus on the land near the chicken coup. We did not see any running water, but a creek was within 200-feet of their home. They did have electricity and satellite TV. They seemed happy and were eager to speak with us during our visit, but we did not record them on audio.

Our next stop was at the Owsley County Outreach Center. Cleda Turner founded the center and she is doing everything she can to help those who live in the community. 

She once used the backpacks supplied by the children, but had to stop when she got sick from meth contamination. She said that some students live in homes where meth is produced. She now sends food home in plastic bags.

We then stopped at a mobile home with wood siding that had about three children and three adults living in it. The home had only two bedrooms and a living room. The kitchen sink was actually a sink from a hair salon.  To heat the entire trailer,  they had the oven turned on and open. Plus, all the eyes of the stove were turned on, even though a three year old was running around inside the residence.

Many of the residents we spoke with, never graduated from high school. In fact, about 48% of the residents of Owsely, lack a high school diploma.

Don’t think that the poverty and a lack of education makes the residents sad… they seemed to be happy.  

We talked to one couple who live on a 100-acre farm. They told us…

To learn more about Owsely County, visit OwsleyCountyOutreach.org.

For more pictures visit: SmallTownBigWorld.com





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Booneville, Canon, Fuji, Kentucky, life, Owsley, Owsley County, people, poorest, poverty, WGNS
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