Report pinpoints areas with growing poverty numbers in Phoenix

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By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas

PHOENIX -- Growing poverty in the heart of Phoenix. The think tank City Observatory crunched some census numbers and found the high poverty rate has doubled in 57 neighborhoods since 1970. Some of these neighborhoods are "newly poor," meaning they used to be places middle class and working class families lived.

The report points out that we often look at once-poor neighborhoods that are getting a facelift and think that is the norm. But the reality is that's the case in fewer than 10 percent of these poor neighborhoods.
The Garfield neighborhood is filled with small mid-20th century homes. It sits between Van Buren Street and McDowell Road, Seventh Street and 16th Street.
"It's not ghetto," said a young woman named Rebekah. She and her friend, Mercedes, said the neighborhood used to be worse.
According to the City Observatory report, 22 percent of the families living there were in poverty in 1970, but that number in 2010 was as high as 55 percent.

"People are struggling," Rebekah agreed. "But since it’s a neighborhood, people are connected and there's more helping out."
Two miles to the south, in another neighborhood where poverty has grown to 40 percent, we met Noreen Ayonayon. She is a local artist who grew up in poverty and says she heard a repeated message to rely on government assistance.
"It was just a big cycle," Ayonayon said. "Everybody was just doing the exact same thing. New generation doing what old generation was doing and promoting it like it was positive when it wasn't at all."
Ayonayon said art saved her by getting her out of the neighborhood for a period of time.
"With everyone I met, it just opened my eyes to different things," she said.
But the report indicates she is not the norm and there are reasons for cities to be concerned. People in poor neighborhoods often don't stay put and, therefore, don't invest. Those who stay have a harder time getting ahead. The numbers show if a neighborhood slips into poverty, it is rare that it will rise again.
"Not enough of us aspire to really finish school," Ayonayon said. "Go to college and get degrees. That's more of an issue."
The report doesn't address the question of why this happens. It only points to the trend of neighborhoods becoming poorer and what that often means for people living there.