Whenever Nasunya Dean of Gulfport has enough gas money to make the drive, she loads up her four children and mother and heads to Feed My Sheep, a Gulfport soup kitchen.
Dean and her family stood in a line that snaked around the large dining room at lunchtime Monday to get a good meal, since her job as a hotel housekeeper pays less than $24,000 a year -- about $3,000 under the poverty line for a family the size of hers.
But Dean isn't alone in her struggle to make ends meet. Since 2000, the number of people living in poverty has risen, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Numbers released Monday show that 14.9 percent of the total population lived in poverty in 2010, but those people aren't spread out evenly across the nation.
In the South, the number of people living in high-poverty neighborhoods climbed from 21.8 percent in 2000 to 30.8 percent in 2010. Those numbers came as no surprise to Jill Cartledge, emergency assistance caseworker at Back Bay Mission in Biloxi.
"There's a lot of different advertising campaigns about world hunger, but this isn't a world thing anymore. This is right in our backyard," Cartledge said. "Things are so tough right now."
In 2000, only four states -- including Mississippi and Louisiana -- saw at least 30 percent of their residents living in high-poverty communities, but by 2010, 15 states had reached that higher percentage.
"Other agencies are seeing the same thing we are," Cartledge said of the influx of people needing help. "They're frustrated, too. We can't help all the people we know that need help."
Though Harrison, Hancock and Jackson counties seem to be in better shape when compared to counties in the Mississippi Delta, Census data still showed at least 25 percent of the residents were living in high-poverty areas.
Toni Brisco, vice president of St. Vincent de Paul Society, said her organization is definitely feeling that increase.
"We have a huge crew every day," she said. "We're open Monday through Thursday and we're just packed every day."
Brisco said many of her clients are on disability, which isn't enough to make ends meet. Others have lost a job or had their hours cut back at work.