23 replies on “Share your story”

  1. “I wanted to thank you for this wonderful read!! I absolutely loved every little bit of it. I’ve got you book-marked to check out new things you postÖ”

    While this sounds like a logical piece of advice, human babies take an awfully long time to develop into solid and stable adults. On average, 18-20 years. At least. It has been my experience that a lot can happen in that time frame.
    I am the oldest daughter of a upper middle class family. My father retired from NASA. I followed a path, like most of my peers, that was all but assured to lead to a financially stable life. I graduated from High School with honors while taking advantage of the local community college’s dual enrollment program. I moved to West Virginia at 24 years old and met an intelligent young man who I fell very much in love with. He was a medical professional, and I worked as a waitress while he built his career. We soon had a daughter together and I had a little girl from a previous relationship. I finished with a degree in Early Childhood Education. We bought a beautiful 4 bedroom home with a large fenced yard. The elementary school was visible from it, with the Greenbrier River Trail just beyond our gate. I often walked our oldest daughter to soccer practice. We adopted a dog. It was the perfect home to start my business and I began an in-home childcare licensed through DHHR and immediately started accepting subsidy clients. I ran as a 98% subsidized childcare for 5 years. It was the joy of my life. My partner’s father died, unexpectedly, the Christmas my youngest daughter turned 3. We took in his teenage brother and our house and heart were full, though Grandad’s passing left a void much larger than I could know at the time. My wonderful, kind, funny, intellectual man began to change. I thought it was grief. I missed so many signs. We had another child, a son. Things were tumultuous. Unbeknownst to me, this man had struggled with addiction when he was younger, though he had pulled out of it, finished school and now had a thriving career, family, and beautiful home. He confessed one day to having a problem with drugs and decided to go to rehab. His job was notified and he took time off through FMLA. We thought it was going to be ok. It was not. He never made it through rehab. He lost his job. He decided to leave our home to continue to use. We were both devastated. I continued with my business and despite having to take some time off do to all these things, it was thriving. I was great at what I did and offered a wonderful, play based program. I didn’t have a lot but was making the payments on our home and doing ok financially. Things changed after the flood. Because of where our home was located we were only able to be insured through FEMA for flood insurance. Though our home had not flooded while we were living in it, it had several times before. After the flood that rocked Richwood and White Sulfur, our home was declared to be in a “repetitive loss” area. When the bill was enacted to phase out FEMA subsidies for flood insurance my house payments started to balloon. I couldn’t keep up. I lost my home and with it, my business. I am a single mother of four children. Finding affordable rental housing for 4 children and a large dog is like finding the holy grail, but God has been gracious. I live in a large, 4 bedroom apartment with a fenced in yard. It is hard to heat, but I’m so grateful for it. I’m starting my life over now with these little people in tow. I don’t receive child support, and therefore must rely on foodstamps to get us through. It is humbling, and often embarrassing, to use that card at the grocery store in town. In years past I would often take an angel or 2 off of the charity Christmas tree to sponsor families in need. This year my children were on that tree. I took an AmeriCorps (domestic version of the Peace Corp) position last fall. Though the living stipend is VERY small (1,050.00 a month) it does pay for childcare and grants a 6,000$ bonus to be used on higher education. I intend to use it towards a Bachelor Degree in Social Services. Raising 4 little children on 13,000$ a year is incredibly difficult. Working 2 jobs is almost impossible. Someone has to raise them. I live in a rural area where childcare is almost nonexistent. I mean, I WAS the childcare. I do without most of the time so my children don’t have to “feel” poor. I keep the stress, fear, and pain locked in my own heart. I get sick a lot now. Chronic stress and anxiety is physically toxic. Luckily, my privileged upbringing and fact that I am caucasian coupled with an education means that, in all likelihood, this will be a temporary situation. Sadly, this is not the case for so many. I honestly do not see how this could be a sustainable life for anyone. Sometimes our life choices lead to terrible consequences. Sometimes shit just happens.

    1. Meghan,
      Thanks for sharing your story. I know firsthand the struggles with raising children here in WV with such a lack of quality, affordable, AND accessible child care. I appreciate your transparency. Let’s talk about what building a movement of folks like us would look like here. I have an idea in my head and would welcome the input from you.
      Hugs, sista.
      -Amy Jo

  3. I was raised in poverty. Growing up, my Mom worked graveyard at a grocery store and my Dad worked days as a framer. My Dad was an alcoholic and addict, as was his dad. My Dad also had been hit by a tree when he was a logger and this created constant hospital visits. I have never known a home. I have moved 19 times. I have lived in a tent with my family for 3 months, I have squatted in an abandoned house for 2 years. I have lived in a motel for 3. I have lived with numerous relatives. My Dad could not afford the surgies to get rid of his pain so he drank and got high. He lost his job. There were days when he couldn’t move because of his pain when we had no money for drugs or alcohol. He would lie in bed and moan. My mom would work double graveyard shifts to try and support us. We didn’t qualify for food stamps, we didn’t qualify for assisted housing. There was a time when we were squatting outside of town and my mom would hitchike to her job. I went without meals. My younger siblings went without meals. We lost our storage unit with all our valuables. I have no baby pictures. I have been depressed for so long. I’m 20 now and have been lucky enough to land a well paying job. I live with my boyfriend. I am doing better now. I help feed my younger sisters still.

    1. I want to thank you for your transparency and the courage it took to share your story. I also want to congratulate you on moving ahead despite all of the obstacles, which I know created their own sets of struggles and obstacles, most of which I can only imagine. The resiliency of your spirit is beautiful. If you don’t mind, could you share with me which state you’re living in? And please share any ideas of what would have helped/will help in terms of policy and the way things are done.
      Again, thank you.
      Amy Jo

  4. Let me start by saying I am one of those families that make to much to receive government assistance but I also dont make enough to get by. We have only one child who is almost 2 that we adopted privately so no adoption assistance either.
    I have several mental illnesses. To name a few Bipolar disorder, Borderline personality disorder, General anxiety, and clinical depression. In order for me to function normal I need medication. In order to receive medication I need to see a doctor, and for my illnesses, a specialist. We have private insurance thought my husbands work that takes 600$ a month away from us every month. My family brings home around 2200$ a month AFTER taxes. Even though my insurance takes 600$ a month from us ( 6,000$ a year ) my bill for my therapist is 120$ that I have to pay out of pocket. My meds? One of them cost me 80$ a month. Seeing a regular doctor to get a referral to see a psychologist cost me 50$ out of pocket. So what is 6K paying a year for then? We literally have to choose between food or meds, bills or doctors, bills and food or clothes for a growing 2 year old. I live in the state of SC where if you have missed medical bills they take it out of your state refund every year.. we had 1700$ taken from us this year and we still owe 5$.. that 1700$ was my 2 year olds FIRST year doctor appointments to make sure she was growing and was healthy.. 1700$ for that.. We have no extra habits that would cost us extra money. We have a strict budget and no matter how strict it is.. we never make enough to even try and save in case something happens like the car breaking down.. instead I have to ask my family for money to help.. you know how awful that is? Its degrading.. specially when my family looks down on me for it. I have applied for assistance.. we couldnt even get WIC when we first brought our daughter home because we made 43 cents to much……43 cents stood between my family and a little bit of help.. I have applied for SNAPS several times hoping that maybe this one time I would get a little light at the end of a dark tunnel.. nothing.. I have applied for disability because my mental illness ( without meds ) make it hard for me to function on a daily basis which in turn makes it hard for me to keep a job. I have been denied several times for that as well. The reasoning? Im not medically disabled.. even though I have given them doctor written and signed proof of all my issues and the effects they have one me..
    I dont expect to be rich.. ever.. but I do expect to be able to live knowing that I dont have to worry about the roof over our head disappearing or if we are going to get to eat that night.. Specially when the head of the household works over 80 hours a week just to bring home 2200 a month.. To be honest, we have literally thought about going to part time ourselves so we can at least survive. We havent.. but the thought has crossed our minds several times. I have been saying for a long time.. if youre not rich.. and youre not dirt poor… youre not important to our government.. and as someone who desperately wants to be a productive part of our society.. but she needs medication to do it.. that hinders us a lot.. You want us to be productive.. you want to make money off of us.. but you dont want to put money into us to get money back.. their logic is very flawed.

    1. Anon,
      Thank you for your bravery in sharing your story. There was a survey that I put out asking for the obstacles to escaping poverty and three things which would help folks to move from assistance to self-reliance. Health care was one of-in not the-top answer to both questions. It’s that gray area of too much for help and not enough to survive that we need to address in a much bigger way here, in my opinion. If you have any ideas as to what would help and how, please feel free to share them. Working 80 hours a week shouldn’t leave us wondering whether we’d be better off on assistance, and I have had that thought myself more times than I’d like to admit. Also, if you don’t mind sharing, which state do you live in?
      Thanks again for sharing.
      Amy Jo

  5. I am a 35-yr old divorced mother of 5, ages 16 down to 5. My oldest is a type 1 diabetic with other autoimmune diseases. He put himself in the ICU a year ago because he didn’t want to tell us he had run out of insulin earlier than expected and didn’t think we had the $40 to fill his prescription. He is well aware that he could have died and still risked it thinking he could go a day or 2 until payday because he knows how tight money is and didn’t want to add to the enormous weight on my shoulders. I have a good job making well above minimum wage and it is still not enough to pay rent and food and expenses. We can’t afford a car and can’t save enough to buy one. If my ex didn’t have excellent health insurance through his employer I can say with certainty my son would already be dead, and I am TERRIFIED of what will happen when he ages out in a few years. I don’t make enough to pay my rent on time, and the fridge and cupboards are always bare, but I make too much to qualify for any welfare. I don’t eat at home so that my kids can have at least 2 meals a day, I eat once a day at the restaurant I work at. If I don’t work on a particular day then I don’t eat that day. Today was my middle child’s 13th birthday and we couldn’t give him a single gift. A family member lent us money to buy the poor boy a cake. Happy birthday baby, Mommy is doing her best and your government couldn’t care less about you or your quality of life.

    1. Delilah,
      Your story brought about a lot of emotions for me, and I thank you for the courage it took to share. I can personally relate to so much of what you wrote, especially the part at the end about mommy doing her best. Thankfully your son is covered by insurance, and I hope that our country has a fix in place before he ages off. What do you think would help you, as a working parent, the most? I imagine health care would be at the top of the list, but what else? Maybe think of it as “if you could change one thing about the system, what would it be?” And, if you don’t mind, could you let me know which state you’re living in, just for my own curiosity.
      Thank you again for sharing.
      Amy Jo

  6. Raises every year are 3% and are equal to or less than the insurance 3% increase so not a raise at all. Not to forget that our deductible has raised to $5700 before they pay anything. So if your kids get sick one of the Bill’s are not getting paid. Also a lot of Congress get free health care. These house seats should not be lifetime politicians because after a few years even the best intended people get corrupted some how. CONGRESS SHOULD HAVE TO LIVE BY ALL THE LAWS THAT THE PEOPLE DO and also have to pay for insurance and air fare like us so they can feel the woes. Further more they should not get paid at all. They should pass a law after they put in a 60 hour work week like most of us Americans. Not to mention after they pay no taxes because they know every loophole in th book! Which leads me to believe that’s why that dont want to show their tax documents. I know a lot of families that make $100k a year and still can not find a way to get assistance for college. So here come the loans that they will be in debt to for god knows how long. Meanwhile that household is getting max taxed because they are working 60 plus hours a week to provide for the kids while at the same time neglecting them because you never see them which digs up a whole other set of problems. I really think that all these government assistance should be more realistic!

    1. Hi! Thanks for sharing with us! You’ve brought up quite a few things that I’ve heard a lot lately, such as term limits and assistance to further education. I have had several conversations about what the trade off is for working so many hours and not spending time with your family, especially for single parents. If Congress would give you one guaranteed change in the way things work, what would you ask for?
      Amy Jo

    1. Thanks, Clint, for the vote of confidence! I think my time is best spent these days building power on the ground with folks who know what they need and are looking for a way to tell the powers that be. 🙂 Who knows? Maybe one day I won’t mind sitting in an office, but for now I feel as if I have work to do out here.
      Amy Jo

  7. My story is probably not the typical but one that may hit home to some. I am 54, a cancer survivor, work full time and still I struggle. I currently make $113,000/ year and to many that seems like a dream. It did to me once, as well. I feel like I should be living well yet I am struggling. I have no retirement left, I am behind on my mortgage and there are days when I struggle to get out of bed because I am so afraid I will lose my home and have no where to go.

    How did I get here? Simple, I tried to better myself and followed the process that was laid before me by our government. As a single Mom, I went to school and that required me to get loans. I graduated with honors and looked for work. I worked some good jobs but never made enough to feel like I was doing well. I was always struggling to pay everything on time and the last thing I thought about was the loans. It’s hard to think about making student loans a priority when you are trying to keep utilities on and food on the table. I planned to get to them one day. Well now I am forced to deal with those choices. Choices I wished I did not have to make back then.

    My take home pay is approximately $3600-$3800/month! The rest of the $113,000 is eaten up by the student loan garnishment, taxes and insurance. Yes, out of $9416.67 I am lucky to see $3600-$3800/month. People seem to forget that annual salary is gross not net! By the time most of us get the mo way in the bank it’s far less than the quoted salary! Taxes, insurance, wage garnishment, retirement, etc. we must figure out how to live on what is left after we MUST pay for all those other things. It is the reality of life! I am lucky because I managed to buy a house before my student loans went into default. I had to because I could not afford to rent and be forced to move every few years when the landlord chose to not renew the lease or raised the rent. My mortgage is $3300/month. You do the math! One extra bill and I am stuck between a rock and hard place. Do you think I like the struggle? Hell no! It’s embarrassing to not be able to cover my basic living expenses. I work hard every day. I would love to be able to afford to pay my student loans but I cannot. I tried to prevent them from going into default. I truly did. The truth is the amount garnished is the lowest payment I could get and that is because they can only garnish a certain percentage.

    The numbers my be different but the premise is the same. The struggle is real. So many of us are working and simply cannot make enough to survive. We wish we could but we simply cannot.

    Politicians do not understand because they also get lots of perks that come with the position. Employees? We don’t always get perks! Some of us rarely get raises.

    So many people are screaming for free this or free that. I don’t believe that is the answer. Most of us simply want a chance to succeed. We are tired of working so hard for nothing. I would love to pay my loans back but I have not had a real increase in income for almost 6 years. I get maybe 1-2% if I am lucky. Everything else is raising in cost while my income stays pretty stagnant.
    People can feel overwhelmed and lost no matter how much their paycheck is. Poverty is the loss of control over ones financial future. When I was a single Mom struggling with 4 kids the only thing I wanted was to figure a way to prevent them from this fate. Now I am seeing my grandkids struggle as well. We must stop this from continuing!

    1. Hi, Stephanie. You brought up so many points with your story. Thank you for sharing! Student loan debt is something that most everyone I know struggles with, especially when the degree doesn’t give you a guarantee for a livable wage while paying the loans back. I found out the other day that in order to qualify for a loan to purchase a house, I would be responsible for making a house paymet that included 1% of my student loan debt, making the possibility of home ownership laughable for me. We shouldn’t have to suffer through financial insecurity when we’ve done everything we were told to do to achieve the American Dream. What is one thing that you think would help you turn it around?
      I appreciate your honesty and story. Thank you again for sharing.
      Amy Jo

  8. So… poverty has been something I talked about ever since I was a pre-teen. My situation? My story? It’s not all rainbows and butterflies to strap into your seatbelts for this ride. To make a longer story just somewhat shorter, I lost my dad to cancer at the age of 7 then got sent to my drug addict mother after he passed. I actually lived in Florida before I moved here to West Virginia due to me being kidnapped from people that knew my father so my mom and I moved here. My mom is also on disability so she got that check, got my survivors benefits check, spent in on groceries, bills, andddd drugs. She never taught me (now 19) to get/keep a job, pay my taxes, save money, I had to learn that on my own. Due to losing my father I didn’t want to leave my mom and become an orphan so I stayed until I was 17 and finally spoke up. My foster family taught me very little as well as they were alcoholics that were bad with money. Now where am I you may ask? Out of a job because I was laid off, living with my boyfriend and his parents, trying to go to college (but am nervous to balance a job and college, I have anxiety and other mental issues that weigh in on that), and get our own place. He has a part time job and that’s all you can really find around here. “Low income housing” is downright outrageous for even a one bedroom so we can’t get our own place as quick as we’d like to. I also would really want to go to classes to help with experience for work or to help us learn to keep a job. Or they should have shelters for college kids so I can chase my dream of being a Forensic scientist. I’ve been losing hair and losing sleep because I’m so stressed about my situation. I want myself and my friends to be able to not be looked at as a disgrace to society when we’re just trying to make it ourselves.

    1. Kristine,
      First of all, thank you for being so transparent and real about what you didn’t learn and what you needed to learn. I think that’s a big piece of this that doesn’t get enough attention. I was telling my own story of this just yesterday: People without money don’t know how to use money because they’ve never been taught or, in my case, had anyone explain it to them. Also, if you could somehow let me know which county you live in, I may be able to connect you with some folks who could point you in a direction. I can’t guarantee anything but it’s worth a shot. If you can’t reach me here, then feel free to send a message to me on Facebook. I’m Amy Jo on there as well.
      Again, thank you for being so real.
      Amy Jo

  9. I have students who come to school wearing the same worn clothes everyday. Students who struggle to stay awake in class because they can’t sleep due to anxiety or depression related to their economic situation. I’ve had students who couldn’t complete homework because they had to work after school and on weekends to help make ends meet. Students who lost parents and loved ones due to drugs. We can’t help educate the next generation of West Virginians if there are so few support systems for them and their families.

    1. I experience this in our schools here in the small country of Trinidad and Tobago. It is definitely sad. Poverty is like a cancer. You can treat it and think it helps but sometimes it comes back harder and even if it goes away, it leaves trails. Its effects are beyond speaking about it. However, sadly, it’s not always a topic of discussion with the people who are not directly affected by it.

      It’s hard to watch a child come to school, eat from the school feed programme (twice a day) , still want to play and then cry to you saying “Miss, I’m hungry”.
      I am a young mother and wife to another public servant. Together, our salaries don’t qualify for a fancy home, two rides, “great” education for our children and safety. Still, we manage. Unfortunately, compassion can only go so far when you don’t have enough resources to expend to make other children’s lives better.

      1. Kyna,
        What a beautifully written comment! You’re absolutely spot on with all of your statements, and the one about poverty leaving trails gave me goosebumps. We don’t speak enough about poverty here either. The topic brings with it a number of stereotypes and punitive thoughts from those who don’t understand the experience, as well as a great bit of discomfort for everyone.
        Thank you for all you do. Hopefully we can figure out a system that alleviates some of the lingering effects of poverty and help to build a future that our young ones can benefit from.
        Amy Jo

    2. Brendan,
      First of all, thanks for realizing the circumstances behind these situations. A lot of times that deep thinking doesn’t exist and just adds to the situation in a negative way. As an educator, what do you feel that you could learn more about as far as how to work with kiddos living in poverty? I have said time and time again that our education system isn’t going to be effective here until we acknowledge poverty.
      Thanks for all you do. Mad respect.
      Amy Jo

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