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Poverty rising in southwest ND

The number of children living in poverty in southwestern North Dakota spiked last year, a recently released U.S. Census Bureau report states, even though many southwest counties reported a dip in the number of people living in poverty in 2009.

Local agencies said applications for assistance continue to climb this year.

"A lot of people are moving into our area and they don't have any income when they get here, so they definitely fall under the poverty guidelines," said Michelle Orton, client services director at Community Action Partnership.

Marcy Decker, eligibility supervisor at Stark County Social Services, agreed.

"We've seen a lot of people that have probably taken all the money that they had and spent that to get here and before they can find employment, they have no money," Decker said.

Most clients Orton sees are employed and many are not new to the area.

"I bet every individual we're working with, there's at least one person in the household that's working," she said.

Decker said most people who apply for assistance have children.

"We're seeing a lot of pregnant women," she added.

Orton said a program that helps with security deposits for housing has seen the biggest increase in applications.

Finding housing for people is the biggest issue for both agencies, Decker and Orton said.

"We don't have a place for these people to go and rent is absolutely ridiculous," Decker said. "We have to turn them away ... we need a homeless shelter."

The climate in southwest North Dakota is making it difficult for people who don't make energy industry income to keep their heads above water, Orton said.

"We've seen a lot of individuals or households that are falling between the cracks because they finally were able to get some type of employment and the job pays well, but rent is high and gas is high," Orton said.

She attributes the dip in poverty rates in 2009 to available housing.

"They weren't needing the assistance then and then in 2010 is when we really started seeing the rental increases," she said. "Gradually everything has been increasing, so I think that's possibly why more and more individuals are falling below the guidelines."

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