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Poverty in Focus


Poverty in Focus combines print and video coverage of poverty in the Garden State in an effort to illustrate the various causes and consequences of deprivation of basic needs. It incorporates interviews with low-income New Jersey residents, legal and social service advocates, and public policy experts in areas that disproportionately affect people in poverty. Comments and questions may be sent to




Eminent domain, the process by which a government can take private property for public use, poses a unique threat to low-income homeowners across the state, but perhaps nowhere more than in the city of Camden. Factors such as a high poverty rate, state intervention in the early 2000s that enabled the city to declare the entire city a blighted area, and an ongoing financial incentive for expansion of waterfront businesses, hospital services, and the university campus make Camden a prime target for redevelopment. Interviews with residents of two different sections of Camden—Cramer Hill and Lanning Square—shine a light on the inherent unfairness of trying to remove entire communities against their will. These particular communities were successful, with the help of South Jersey Legal Services, in resisting the eminent domain designation and remaining in their homes, but the protections of the settlement only go so far. Additional redevelopment plans may be inevitable and, in the meantime, many residents believe the city intentionally ignores their requests for improvements and services in the neighborhood in an effort to eventually drive them out.

PINO, Camden: Spreading Hope One Flower Box at a Time
Pino has spent years trying to improve Camden, one neighborhood at a time. He began with his own Lanning Square block years ago and was later hired by a nonprofit housing organization to spread his idea in the North Camden area. Despite all the improvements he and his neighbors have made, he claims the city still won’t do their part.

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MARY, Camden: A Natural Lifelong Activist
Mary describes herself as “usually a quiet person,” but says “Cherokee and everything else has ruined me!” Her own Cramer Hill block wasn’t on the initial list to be taken, but she saw the struggle going on around her and was outraged by what the city was trying to do to the community. “These are people.”

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Despite local and national efforts to ensure that children are not removed from their parents for reasons of financial insecurity, estimates suggest at least 90% of children in foster care come from low-income households, and racial and ethnic minorities are significantly over-represented in the system. For this reason, LSNJ has long viewed involvement with the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCP&P) as a special concern to people in poverty in New Jersey, and has produced a series of videos on different aspects of the system. Each of these videos debuted at our annual Family Reunification Day celebration.


STACEY, Paterson: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back
Sometimes an SSI approval is a double-edged sword. Stacey received public assistance while waiting for a decision on her claim. Once allowed, her entire retroactive check was used to reimburse Social Services and her rental assistance was terminated—even though her rent still exceeds her income.

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RUTH, Passaic: One Day at a Time
Trapped in poverty by insurmountable child support debt, Ruth spent 14 years cycling between homelessness and incarceration. Though she is now in recovery and sharing a one-bedroom apartment with her 5-year-old son, the consequences of that debt will haunt her for the rest of her life.

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WAYNE, Newark: On Borrowed Time
Wayne worked low-wage jobs in Newark for years, but following the death of his mother and the loss of the family home, his health deteriorated to the point where he is no longer able to work. He has been living in a homeless shelter since becoming evicted from his apartment.

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MONICA, Trenton: A Fight to Survive
Monica grew up in the Trenton Housing Projects, and defied the odds by graduating high school and enrolling in community college. But her life was changed forever when she was attacked by a neighborhood gang and left disabled.

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