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Census data show San Bernardino poverty rates among worst in US

September 20, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
The Inland Empire knows all too well about high unemployment. New numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau show San Bernardino County has some of the worst poverty rates in the nation.

At Helping Hands Pantry in San Bernardino, the need is constant.

Carmen Rodriguez is the latest newcomer seeking help from the food bank.

"This helps a lot. This is a blessing to a lot of people," said Rodriguez.

Desiree Rodriguez has been out of work for two years and is struggling to feed her five children.

"I just feel that the prices at the stores are a little bit too high to feed any family, any size," said Desiree Rodriguez.

Poverty in San Bernardino is not something new. A 2012 report released by the Census Bureau this week paints a stark picture: Countywide, 20 percent of people are living below the federal poverty line. That number is higher, at 31 percent, for residents living in the city of San Bernardino.

But at Helping Hands Pantry they don't need the census data to tell them what they are already seeing. They need a bigger warehouse. Five years ago they served 180 families. Today they're serving between 7,000 and 10,000 people each week.

"It used to be people would come to you for maybe about six weeks and then they would get past their problem. Now we have people staying with us for months," said Helping Hands Pantry Executive Director Paul Dickau.

San Bernardino was hit hard by the recession. Five years later, foreclosed homes and empty businesses along Waterman Avenue are common.

"There is no jobs for nobody out here," said local resident Elbin Staples.

No jobs, and some here say there's little hope for improvement.

"I just eat once a day you know, like that, and buy me a razor when I have to shave, like right now," said Charles Owens, who is homeless.

"You hear about the recovery but I don't see it in San Bernardino, I certainly don't see it for the poor," said Dickau. "Doesn't seem to be getting better. If anything it seems like it's still getting a little bit worse."

And as the need grows so does the need for donations.

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