Pocket of Kensington is the city's poorest place

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Wssess Ricardo visits the Jeremy Grocery store in Kensington. The neighborhood's northern section is the poorest part of Philadelphia, according to recently released census data. (Sarah J. Glover / Staff Photographer)

ANISSA MALLORY knows what it's like to live in poverty. The 20-year-old Kensington mother of 1-year-old twins, a boy and a girl, says she and her husband "survive day-to-day," but also have to sacrifice.

"It's hard to keep up with the bills and rent," she said. Although they're able to feed the kids, she and her husband will forgo buying new clothes or sneakers.

Mallory, a home-health aide, says they make about $19,000 a year - including welfare.

They live in north Kensington, an area of the city with the largest cluster of people living below the poverty line, according to a Daily News analysis of census estimates being released today.

The 2006-10 American Community Survey shows that in the area bounded roughly by B, Amber and Venango streets, and Lehigh and Castor avenues, about 57 percent of the population lives in poverty - about 18,500 people.

That represented a staggering 29 percent rise in the number of people living in poverty compared with 2000 census estimates.

The area also borders a section of North Philly where 55 percent of the population lives in poverty.

The poverty threshold last year was an annual income of $22,314 for a family of four, and $11,139 for an individual.

The north Kensington area also saw a large change in demographics from 2000 to 2010: a decrease of about 5,800 white residents and 180 Asians, and an increase of 5,600 Hispanics and 1,800 blacks. Overall, the area's population rose by about 1,500 people.

Included in the area are the intersections of Kensington and Allegheny avenues - notorious for its drug dealers and prostitution - and of Kensington Avenue and Somerset Street, "the No. 1 drug corner in the city of Philadelphia," says Sandy Salzman, executive director of the New Kensington Community Development Corp.

Salzman and others say one major reason for the poverty is the loss in manufacturing over the past 50 years: "Back in the day, this area was the textile capital of the world. When the jobs left, people were left without jobs."

People also fled the area because of crime, she said. "So anybody in that area who could get out, not just white people, moved because it was such a large drug area, and it wasn't safe."

Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez, who represents part of the area, also cited the trend since the 1980s of home ownership turning to rentals, bringing in a more "transient" community, and the "devastating" effect of slumlords.

The more affordable housing attracted Latinos and blacks to the neighborhood, said David Bartelt, a Temple University professor who specializes in housing issues. He wasn't surprised that north Kensington showed a large number of people in poverty. A large cluster of poor people existed even back in the 1990 and 2000 censuses, he said.

He attributed the decrease in the white population not to an influx of different races, but rather to their finding better housing opportunities elsewhere. He also said poverty exists in the area because of an older generation that is aging in place, while the younger generation has decided to move away.

One new immigrant in north Kensington is a 22-year-old man who gave his name as Wsses Ricardo. As he stood last night inside a corner store owned by Hispanics at Ontario and I streets, he said his family moved from the Dominican Republic to Philadelphia, by Roosevelt Boulevard, in August 2010 because they had relatives here.

Then late last year, they moved to Kensington after they were able to buy a corner store from another Hispanic. Of the poverty in the area, he said simply in Spanish: "It's hard."