Census: Poverty worsens in Reading; city now #2 in US

Posted: 5:32 PM EDT Sep 19, 2013   Updated: 6:15 PM EDT Sep 19, 2013

Poverty in Reading has been a problem plaguing the city for years, and now it appears to be getting worse.   

New numbers released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau showed Reading is now the second poorest city in the country behind Detroit.

The title may be unflattering, but it is not killing the dreams for people like Wilfred Rodriguez. He has been working on cars since he was 7-years-old. He wants to start his own business one day, but right now he's trying to get back on his feet. He spent six years in jail, but then landed a full-time job. Four months ago, Rodriguez was laid off, and now he's living at the Hope Rescue Mission.

"Right now, I'm just starting over again and getting everything back again little by little," said Rodriguez.

Rodriguez is among the 40.5 percent living in poverty in Reading. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, that percentage increased from 40.1 percent.

"It's bad. I've been homeless since May 1," said Sandra Hara, who was laid off and couldn't make rent.

The new statistics showed poverty increased in 2012 through all of Berks County. The Greater Berks Food Bank said it's spilling out of the city and landed on their doorstep. According to the food bank, the numbers are up some 13 percent.

"We're seeing a real increase in the numbers of people coming for emergency food assistance," said Peg Bianca, executive director of the food bank.

It may be another setback for Reading, but people like Rodriguez are determined to overcome it.

"If you really want success, you gotta look for it and find it, but some people think everything is going to come to them, and that's not going to happen," said Rodriguez.

In 2011, statistics released by the U.S. Census Bureau put Reading as the poorest city in the country. In 2012, Reading ranked number six.