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Census Bureau: NM poorest state in the country

By Vanessa de la Viña, vanessa@kvia.com
Published On: Sep 21 2012 04:54:01 PM CDT
Updated On: Mar 06 2014 01:43:19 PM CST

ABC-7's Vanessa de la Viña reports.

LAS CRUCES, N.M. -

The latest numbers from the Census Bureau reveal New Mexico has the largest population of people living in poverty in the country.

The reports show 22.2 percent of the state's population is living in poverty, which is higher than the country's overall poverty rate of 15 percent.

Employees at Jardin De Los Niños, a day care for homeless children in Las Cruces, told ABC-7 they've seen a higher number of parents coming in searching for help.

The center also helps homeless parents find jobs and prepare for job interviews, providing them with clothing and resume advice.

Celia Valdez, a children services coordinator at Jardin, said many families get stuck in a cycle of poverty that's hard to break out of.

"I think it's getting worse. Everything is really high prices -- gas, groceries. That just affects everything else," Valdez told ABC-7.

Valdez said people of all skill levels are struggling to find jobs.

Annaliza Gourneau is one of those parents. She tears up just talking about the master's degree in education she earned that didn't manage to get her a job for months.

"It's been a trying time. That experience is something that I don't think anyone will ever understand unless they've actually gone through it," Gourneau told ABC-7.

Being homeless is a difficult situation on its own, but when you add six children to the mix, it can be devastating.

"You don't know what you're going to do. You don't know how you're going to make ends meet from one day to another. It's tough to be in that situation," Gourneau said.

Gourneau turned to Jardin De Los Niños. They gave her a place for her children to stay while she spent her days hunting for jobs.

They also gave her a glimmer of hope.

"When you're at Jardin, it's like being in your own home. They've provided diapers. They've been here for my kids and for me. They've helped me with clothing for interviews," Gourneau said.

Valdez said while the need is definitely going up, the center's funding keeps getting cut.

"We used to have funding to help people pay first month's rent and deposit and we lost that funding," Valdez said.

Regardless, Gourneau says every bit of help from Jardin has been life-changing.

"I'm very appreciative for Jardin. They've helped me and my kids. It's meant a great deal to me. I don't think I can show as much appreciation as I have for them," Gourneau said.

Las Cruces Mayor Ken Miyagishima said he hopes the city can work together with Jardin De Los Niños to try and find more funding in the future.

As for Gourneau, she said she's finally found a job as a family services coordinator. She starts work on Monday, and she said it's all thanks to the help form Jardin De Los Niños.

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