In our home, the main source of income is our son's SSI (Supplemental Security Income). We are a family that knows the shame of living off of an 11 year old.
It's not a thing that you boast about. It's not something that makes you look forward to the stereotypical "first of the month" payday. While it's a moment to gasp for air, it's a reminder every 30 days that we are, essentially, failures.
Our second source of income is the occasional temp-work that Justin can find. He had a relatively steady gig through the fall last year. It was an hour away from home though, so he scheduled in 4 day blocks and would stay with his grandmother who lives near the factory. He slept all day and would work the nightshift folding boxes and pushing buttons for $8.50/hr. He sent all his money home and drove up to see us on the weekends.
Then, the transmission went in his car. And I don't say "his car" like it's a bragging right. One of the only perks our little family has had until recently is that Justin's parents had gifted him with a $3,000 SUV. When the transmission went, so did the car and we were left with only my little Hyundai. My old girl is in her last days as well. She is 13 years old, rusted and beaten. She has over 230,000 miles on her and squeals and pings so much that it's like driving an arcade.
Being a one car household, Justin could no longer work so far from home. He has been looking for a local job since December 23rd of last year. We got one nibble last week. We spent $15 worth of gas driving to the interview. When he got there, their computer system crashed and they couldn't finish. They never called back and we were out all that gas.
So, our household has been living on our son's $744/month for a while now. That, and food stamps (thank goodness!). Too bad our bills are more than double our income.
Now, I'm not sharing this with you to gain pity or solicit anything. I'm sharing this to show the world what poverty in America looks like. And we're one of the lucky ones! We have a car. Most of my neighbors don't. We have food. Many of our elderly neighbors don't. We were lucky enough to get into subsidized housing. Some people have no housing help and pay $700 or more a month for a home.
I show you this for transparency. To show you that we're not "lazy", we're immobilized.
It's SSI payday tomorrow, but it really doesn't matter. The $744 that will be deposited by 6am tomorrow is already gone. It will be sliced thinly and automatically withdrawn until one of them bounces. Then the fees will be applied and the bill collectors will wait until April's payday to fight over our pennies once more.
THIS is poverty. We have no savings account. We have nothing set aside for emergencies. Our last credit card has less than $400 available. There are no churches nor charitable organizations paying our bills. We have family as a last ditch effort when things go REALLY wrong, but they have their burdens too and can't always help. We bargain with companies. We defer loans for 90 day blocks, knowing that the interest is still building. We pretend our son doesn't want to join the basketball team or go to the public pool on hot days. I tell my guy that I don't need a diamond ring on my finger to show the world I'm his.
We cry a lot.
We may not be starving (due to SNAP, outlet grocers, and elaborate menu planning on my part), but we are still drowning.