State’s poor benefiting from strong economy

Herald staff

SEATTLE — The strong economy means the number of poor families in Washington and around the country is dropping, but many still do not have adequate health insurance, according to a study by the Urban Institute released Tuesday.

The Washington, D.C.-based research group’s new report, "Snapshots of America’s Families II," is based on interviews with 42,000 households in 13 states. Among the 13, Washington was one of six showing significant movement of poor families to higher income brackets.

The report found adult and child poverty rates had fallen over the past two years. It also found more working single parents, more children living with two parents, more families able to buy food and more adults receiving health insurance coverage from employers.

In Washington state, the percentage of low-income households fell from 27.5 percent in 1997 to 22 percent last year.

  • Vagrant charged in fatal attack: A homeless man was charged Tuesday with first-degree manslaughter and two counts of fourth-degree assault, accused of knocking three women to the ground in unprovoked attacks and killing one of them. Robert Ladson Gregory, 35, a homeless man who told the court he takes medication for mental-health problems, was ordered held on $500,000 bail. Arraignment was scheduled for Thursday. Deputy King County Prosecutor Steven Fogg noted Gregory had been booked 58 times since 1990 for assault, fighting and menacing and harassing. He has been the subject of 52 warrants since 1990 and pleaded guilty to two charges — residential burglary in 1991 and second-degree criminal trespass in 1992 — during an apparent obsession with rock singer Ann Wilson. Kathleen "Rose" Ryan, 75, of Seattle suffered fatal head injuries when she was shoved to the ground just north of downtown Thursday by a wild-haired man wearing pants and a dirty trench coat but no shirt, shoes or socks. Ryan died Friday at Harborview Medical Center.

  • County considers resort: A Pierce County hearing examiner has issued a permit for a proposed 400-acre resort west of Mount Rainier National Park. Construction on the $70 million project could begin next fall along Highway 706. Plans call for a 270-room lodge, condominiums, a conference center, 18-hole golf course, tennis courts, spa, shopping mall and train station about 10 miles from the Nisqually entrance to the park. Environmentalists and area residents opposed to the development have said it would ruin the upper Nisqually Valley, doubling the area’s population.

  • Hunters’ tiff turns deadly: An argument between hunters near Mount Rainier ended in the shooting death of one man and the arrest of another. The shooting happened Monday night in the woods south of Ashford, the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office said. The shooting victim was not immediately identified. An unidentified Tacoma man turned himself in to authorities Tuesday and was arrested for investigation of murder. The sheriff’s office says the two men did not know each other but got into an argument after they’d been drinking.

  • Gyrocopter crash fatal: A Yelm-area man died when the gyrocopter he was piloting crashed in a wooded area south of Yelm. Austin Wildman, who was in his 60s, was pronounced dead at the scene Monday, Thurston County Coroner Judy Arnold said. An autopsy was planned. Gary Henslee, who lives about 500 feet from where the gyro crashed, said he waved his hat at the pilot as he flew over his house in the aircraft, a simpler version of a helicopter. Henslee said he saw the gyro’s tail move abruptly and he thought the pilot was acknowledging his wave. But instead of a return greeting, the abrupt movement was probably a sign that the gyro was about to crash, he said. The craft did a nose dive from about 350 feet into some trees on a neighbor’s property. When Henslee arrived at the crash scene, "it was just a pile of rubble on fire," he said. Authorities were investigating the cause of the crash.

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