Camden, N.J., is the poorest city in the nation. According to figures from the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly 32,000 Camden residents live below the poverty line. For a family of four, the poverty line is an annual household income of about $22,000. In an expensive state like New Jersey, that’s not enough money, says longtime resident Wendy Corona.
“You have rents that are $900 or $1,000 per month in poor neighborhoods,” she said. “And you have to count your blessings because you don’t know if you’ll get shot.”
One reason for the high poverty rate is the lack of jobs. The state unemployment rate has risen to 9.9 percent. But it pales in comparison to Camden’s jobless rate, which is about 19 percent. Without jobs, residents say some people turn to crime to survive.
“Frankly, Camden is usually considered the most dangerous,” said Karen Talarico, executive director of the Cathedral Kitchen. “We have the poorest and most dangerous, that’s a double whammy. And for people living here it’s hard.”
But Talarico says her organization, Cathedral Kitchen, is there to help. It has a soup kitchen which feeds hundreds of people in need each day. And Cathedral Kitchen provides other services, from free dental exams to job training.