LAWRENCEVILLE - Nearly 54,000 Gwinnett County residents are below the poverty line, according to Census data released this week.
The new data for 2005, using the American Community Survey, gathers figures on poverty using different methodology than previous counts. David Powers, a Census statistician, said the number of people below the poverty threshold in 2005 therefore can't be compared to previous years. The number is lower than it had been since 2003.
The poverty threshold in 2005 was $10,160 for an individual and $19,806 for a family of four, Powers said. Pretax income levels below those numbers qualify people as being below the poverty line.
Kelley Mautz, the planning and evaluation manager for the Gwinnett Coalition of Health and Human Services, said poverty is a serious problem in the county.
"We're on a rise, actually," she said. "We in Gwinnett find it to be a pretty serious issue and one people aren't aware of. There's an image of Gwinnett being affluent, forward-moving. People don't have the image of poverty existing here, but it does."
The 2005 estimate shows the number of county residents below the poverty line at 53,915. Between 2000 and 2004, for which Current Population Survey data was used, Gwinnett's poverty population was estimated to grow from 34,972 to 64,119 people.
Gwinnett's total population was 713,678 in 2005, according to Census estimates.
The Census also released data for children in poverty. The Gwinnett County Public School system was estimated to have 12,239 students in poverty between the ages of five and 17, while Buford City Schools were estimated to have 298 students in poverty. Barrow County had 1,448 students in poverty, according to the estimates.
In Barrow County, estimates show 6,313 people below the poverty line in 2005.
Cathy Kimbrel, the director of Health and Human Services in Gwinnett County, said the number of requests people have made for emergency assistance have increased over the past several years.
Poverty in the county accounts for a lot of the problems with homelessness, Kimbrel said. Mautz said the number of residents in poverty has increased the need for homeless shelters and bus stops at extended stay hotels.
"It's serious," she said. "It's always serious when people are going hungry or don't have enough money for their rent."