When Hurricane Katrina blew across the Gulf Coast, it also blew the lid off America's dirty little secret. For years, the poor people in the United States have been virtually invisible. But now there is no denying the truth—37 million Americans live in poverty. In 2005, Oprah drove 70 miles from her home in Chicago to the township of Pembroke, Illinois, to see the reality firsthand.
In the township of Pembroke, the state's most impoverished community, 55 percent of the residents were living beneath the poverty level and 40 percent were living without running water. At the time, the average income was $9,700 a year.
With no opportunity for jobs in the near future, Pembroke had no bank, no drug store, no real medical facility and very few paved roads. The mayor, the Reverend Jon Dyson, says every day is a struggle for survival.
"The people here live in those kind of conditions that the people from the great city of New Orleans have just got faced with," says the Reverend Jon Dyson. "What's really amazing is these people have survived here all this time with little or nothing—third-world conditions in some areas."