California's poverty rate continues to climb

Gather them together and California's poor would outnumber the population of Colorado — and their ranks are growing fast.

Since the start of the recession, 1.1 million additional Californians have fallen into poverty, including 300,000 children, according to new census figures released Wednesday. About 5.6 million Californians live below the poverty line, which is about $22,000 for a family of four.

The state's poverty rate grew from 12.7 percent during 2007 to 14.6 percent during 2008 and finally to 15.3 percent during 2009, the figures show. Nationally, the poverty rate increased from 13.2 percent during 2008 to 14.3 percent during 2009, the highest it has been since 1994.

In addition, 20 percent of Californians didn't have health insurance last year, up from 18.6 percent during 2008.

The census figures, which come out each summer and provide a bench mark for income and poverty in America, are estimates based on a nationwide survey of 78,000 households.

Beneath the big numbers are myriad small stories of pain and hardship.

Joaneene Colvard-Moore, 43, and her four children, for example, are homeless for the first time.

"It's been hard," she said while waiting for a meal at Maryhouse, a day shelter for homeless women near downtown Sacramento run by Loaves & Fishes. "I need to find a place that is going to be home."

Within the last decade, Colvard-Moore said she suffered two heart attacks, forcing her to get a pacemaker. Because of her health, she said she often can't work and gets by mostly on disability checks.

Her rent at her old place in south Sacramento was $1,250, typical for a home in the region. Her monthly income is $2,090.

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