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Hispanic Heritage Month: Latinos Make Up Highest Portion Of New Yorkers In Poverty

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NY1 continues its coverage of Hispanic Heritage Month with a look at the impact of the recession on the city's Latino communities, and the U.S. 2010 Census finds Hispanics are holding on but have a higher poverty rate than any other group in the city. NY1's Rocco Vertuccio filed the following report.

Dinick Martinez of Jackson Heights, Queens has been out of work for six months. With no income, and little money saved for food or rent, he is one of the 1.6 million New Yorkers living in poverty.

"I am afraid that one of these days I will wake up on the streets, homeless," says Martinez.

According to the 2010 U.S. Census, 28 percent of the city's Hispanic population is living in poverty, more than any other racial or ethnic group. That is some 644,000 people, more than 40 percent of the total number of the city's poor.

Advocates say a more troubling fact is that the poverty rate is even higher for young Hispanic men.

"That number is concerning because these are the future generations. Latinos make up the largest concentration of young people in the City of New York," says David Jones of Community Service Society.

Advocates for the poor blame low graduation rates and say more needs to be done to invest in young people who do not plan to go to four-year colleges.

"We have one of the worst vocational, technical eduation systems in the country," says Jones.

Overall, the census found the poverty rate for Hispanics in the city is slightly improved from a decade ago. So is the median household income, which for Hispanics is $35,887.

At the bottom of the income ladder, some activists are fighting for better pay. The group Make the Road New York says many Hispanics work several jobs that pay below minimum wage.

"They stay working those jobs. Unfortunately, those are the only jobs there are out there that they need something," says Julissa Bisono of Make the Road New York.

City officials say the poverty numbers are not always an accurate measure of the problem, because they do not measure the city's response to poverty through programs like food stamps, welfare and public health insurance.

"What a lot of New Yorkers have found, they have found some work and in having that work, they still need a little assistance," says Robert Doar of the Human Resources Adminstration.

Martinez needs more than a little assistance right now, but he is trying to stay optimistic.

"I am going to keep looking. I am not giving up, that's for sure," says Martinez.

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