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Census Survey Finds NYC Poverty Rate On The Rise

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The latest U.S. Census data is drawing a troubling picture of the struggles of many New Yorkers living in poverty.

It also shows the number of city residents living below the poverty level is on the rise.

According to the data, 21.2 percent of New Yorkers are in households below that level.
That includes 31 percent of children age 17 and under.

Meanwhile, 19.1 percent of those 65 years and older are also below the poverty level.

Nationwide, for a family of four, poverty is defined as living off less than $23,492 a year.

Advocates say the increase poses a threat to all New Yorkers, even if some people have seen their personal finances recover from the recession.

"Essentially I think we were all disappointed because poverty inched up in the City of New York, it was already higher than the national average. Now it inched up almost a half of a percentage point. I guess what's worrisome for us is that this is the recovery where incomes are booming the stock market is up," said David Jones of the Community Service Society of New York.

At the Part of the Solution or POTS food pantry in the Bronx, many seeking help say the struggle to make ends meet is a growing challenge.

"I had to apply for public assistance because even though I was working, my income wasn't sufficient so I had to supplement it somehow,' said Siomara Mejias, a food pantry client.

POTS has seen a 25 percent increase in people needing their services, with around 14,000 either needing the food pantry or eating hot meals at their community dining room.

"We have so many people not only working but homeless that wouldn't know where to go or what to do at the end of the day if it wasn't for us," said POTS Emergency Food Programs Coordinator Taina Rodriguez.

POTS says it is glad to be able to provide food for the people who come in but also want to point them in the right direction to get other assistance that they may need.

"Hopefully when they come to POTS someone will look them in the eye and they get that recognition that there is a human dignity behind it, so hopefully we can provide that and the meal," said POTS Executive Director Christopher Bean.

With more New Yorkers hungry, agencies that help are also feeling the pinch as they struggle to keep up with the demand while fighting for funding.

"While we wanted to see just the opposite poverty going down, it's inching up, and with that inching up people are having to struggle more than ever to put food on the table," said Vice President of Community Impact for City Harvest Jennifer McLean.

"It shouldn't be a shock given the high costs of rents in New York and low wages that so many New Yorkers just can't afford to get by anymore," said NYC Coalition Against Hunger Executive Director Joel Berg.

The Census data shows 15.9 percent of Americans nationwide, or roughly 48.8 million, lived below the poverty level in 2012.

That works out to be 2.5 percentage points higher than in 2007, just one year before the economic downturn began.

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