Homeless Debate Why Poverty Is On the Way Up

More Americans aren't making ends meet. Census Bureau statistics show that from 2002 to 2003 poverty in this country grew by one point three million people. Once again Mississippi has one of the largest number of poor people.

Who is to blame for poverty? On Tuesday afternoon Kevin and Scott turned their lunch table into a roundtable of discussion. Both men are homeless.

"It's basically a little pawn game," said Scott. "If you're in that little group of poor folks, you're going to stay poor folks because the rich boy doesn't want you to come up. That's all the way I see it."

Kevin disagrees. "I handled million dollar properties for 10 years. I had a break. Took it and lost it. Now I'm living in my truck, but I have a truck. How many people here don't have a truck. I make my own breaks. If you don't make your own breaks, you deserve to be here."

Five days a week people arrive at this Ocean Springs soup kitchen looking for hot meals. They claim that in Mississippi good paying jobs are hard to find if they can find work at all.

Scott says the United States companies "go down to Mexico and they hire people for dirt cheap labor and that's steals jobs from the U.S."

He also complained of foreigners being brought into the country and taking American jobs.

Barbara Ruddiman oversees the soup kitchen now.. but she arrived here someone needing help. She believes the state can do better with education.

She wants people to realize "the importance of staying in school and receiving an education. I think people just get discouraged and they drop out and that's that. It's a vicious circle that just continues on."

Some people dismiss poverty statistics as outsiders are trying to dictate how Mississippians should live.

"You grew your own corn," said Kevin. "You ate your pigs and milked your own cow. All of a sudden the Yankees come down and say "Hey, you're poor." I am. Jeez, I didn't know that. Now, we're poor."

Mississippi tied with Louisiana for having the third highest poverty rate in the country.