September 16th, 2010
10:41 AM ET

A family's first time at the poverty line

"Maria, " who was too embarrassed to give her true name, sits with one of her sons as she finds herself living below the poverty threshold.

The Census Bureau has released its annual poverty report showing more people are living at or below the poverty threshold. This means many are finding themselves there for the first time.

“Maria,” who was too embarrassed to give us her true name or allow us to photograph her face, says she and her husband have had to sell their most cherished possessions.

“We sold our wedding rings, our furniture, everything,” said Maria.

Trying to get help from government agencies is presenting problems too she said because their house, the mortgage for which is more than the its value, is considered an asset. She has two sons, the younger one suffers from Autism. During the interview she begins to break down and her older son, only 12-years-old, has to take on the very adult role as comforter.

CNN’s Jim Roope says it’s one of the hardest interviews he’s had to do. Filled with emotion and sometimes despair, but “Maria” does have hope.

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Filed under: Economy
soundoff (616 Responses)
  1. chris k.

    Well I hope that all you rich folks feel good about yourself while reading this article. Hope you get another bailout so you dont have to give up driving that 250.000,00 $ Ferrari. If you try hard you might come up with a couple more fancy ideas of how to take our money. Quite disgusting whats going on in America.....

    September 16, 2010 at 2:37 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Dan Beach

    'Embrace poverty it is your friend...not homeless "Professional Outdoorsman"

    September 16, 2010 at 2:38 pm | Report abuse |
  3. david

    i find that many people who claim poverty do it to themselves. for example, this family values paying for a dog more then good paying for food for the children and medication for autisum.
    and yet these people want my money and i am poor and i dont have a dog or cat. tx

    September 16, 2010 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Ron

    It is great that the majority of you have posted here. The bad thing is that you have missed what the whole story was about entirely and turned it into a complaining session. Maria is not the only one this is happening to, obvouisly. Sometimes people do not want a hand-out and want to do for themselves, but can’t for seen and unseen reasons. Yes, I admit that there are people who would rather sit back and wait for the 15th and 31st to come for a check. But then there are those that will get up and leave the family behind to find work. The same type of people who sell their tangable promise to one another that they gave in front of one another or God himself. People who have decided that would rather have their kids eat than sit and watch TV. Leaving the kids home without a babysitter due to cost. Living in campsites because its cheaper than Motels/Hotels. Sleeping in their vehicles and doing what they need to do to stay way from a handout. Doing whatever it takes eventually comes easier and easier. Sometimes all they want is a prayer and thought and hope the economy turns for the better. So as you complain while you sip your latte’s twittering or speaking on your phone of issues you have no clue about because you have never been in that position, but you do walk next to that homeless person on your way to work so this must make you Mother Theresa because you gave it a thought to buy Him/Her/Them a sandwich for lunch…but don’t because it would be better if he took ATM. Don’t pity someone who does not want pity, try to think positive for them instead. Say a prayer for them. It will last longer. Speaking of this firsthand…….Now!

    September 16, 2010 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan Beach

      Human nature dictates that eventually a lot of people won’t’ wait or settle for a hand out…they will just take

      September 16, 2010 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
  5. GOP hate america

    socialist republican conservatives that have transferred middle class wealth to CEO's making $40 million when they get fired in hopes that it will trickle down rather than buy the yacht that they usually do.

    September 16, 2010 at 2:41 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Craig Thelonius

    If only they had all of the facts. You know, the things people don't talk about. Like the hairdresser that I know that quit her salon job and put a wash basin and salon chair in her house and "stole" all of her regular customers from the salon that she worked at and brought them to her home and now makes $1000 a week under the table. Then she talks about how poor she is, and that she thinks she qualifies for social services because she has three kids.

    The underground economy is booming right now. And, many of those crying poor have been on welfare since they were in diapers.

    September 16, 2010 at 2:49 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Nappeal

    I make $32,000/yr after taxes...I have 3 children. No cable, very basic Cricket cell phone service, a decent car I pay very little for, and a small but nice 2 bedroom apartment. I find that I am literally scraping by. I can barely afford groceries, and I do everything I can to cut corners when possible. I have an education and live far from a comfortable or lavish lifestyle, yet I can't even manage to live paycheck to paycheck, and I've been told I make way too much for any public assistance. I could never in my life imagine me and my family of 4 living off of $21,000/yr...that's impossible.

    September 16, 2010 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kim

      Thank you. Someone who actually understands where she's coming from and makes an educated response.

      September 16, 2010 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
  8. RedBicycle

    The Obama White House knows exactly what they are doing to us Americans. This new poverty is by design. Everyone needs to add alternative media (You Tube, Internet Forums, Google...) to get the truth and to understand what is happening.

    September 16, 2010 at 2:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • rabidantirepublican

      Oh shut up PLEASE! The Democrats may be incompetent, but they aren't out to screw the poor and middleclass while lining their pockets and the pockets of their war-mongering, weapons manufacturing friends. That role has always belonged to the Republicans and always will.

      It's like Dave Barry said back in the 80's. "The Democrats are the types who would pull over to help you fix a flat and wind up lighting your car on fire. The Republicans wouldn't even bother to stop because they're late for ugly pants night at the country club."

      September 16, 2010 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Somethng Wrong Here

    "...the mortgage for which is more than the its value, is considered an asset."
    I'm no financial wizard but wouldn't this give them a negative net worth?

    September 16, 2010 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Dave

    "Poverty in this nation is 3 square meals, free medical, a cell phone and a color tv."

    Cool! Which country is that? Where do I sign up?

    September 16, 2010 at 3:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Agrajag

      The UK.

      If she is classed as the disabled child's full time carer, a single mother in her situation can easily get the equivalent of $30K per year, which includes free housing, health, and other benefits.

      September 16, 2010 at 6:21 pm | Report abuse |
  11. NOLA

    OMG, I cannot believe some of you people ... did anyone notice that she has a son with autism. The more I read these selfish posts, the more I like my dogs ...

    September 16, 2010 at 3:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kim

      AMEN! And my dogs are stupid, but they're smarter than the people making those comments.

      September 16, 2010 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Anon

      Amazing, isn't it. I see it more and more - people with no compassion.

      September 16, 2010 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Daveed Michaels

    Learn to speak spanish, say your from Mexico & you'll get everything free.

    September 16, 2010 at 3:04 pm | Report abuse |
  13. lorien816

    To all the self righteous people who say "get rid of vehicles and air conditioning": in my part of the country, we have lousy public transportation. No vehicle means no way to get to work. And no air conditioning??? It gets HOT here! That's like telling New Englanders to give up heating their homes. On my way to the thrift store today, I passed a county health clinic. Not a Mercedes or BMW in the parking lot. Sure, some folks may cheat the system, but a lot of folks don't.

    September 16, 2010 at 3:05 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Susan Neely

    To clarify my earlier comment, I was forced to sell my St. Augustine property because of injuries that allowed me to work very little. My Mom had Alzheimers disease and lived in a "Christian" assisted living an hour away. Under thie emotional strains, I signed a contract to sell the whole property for $300,000. It was almost a two acre property within the city. A similar property had been split into 5 lots and sold for over a million dollars, but I didn't know that when I signed the contract.
    The appraiser knew. Altogether, by conservative estimate, I lost more than $140,000 plus the $55,000 I had to pay to the "injured" parties when I refused to sell for $300,000. I had no money for legal advice and no one would help me.
    It is tre that my taxes on such a large lot were very low so the city was anxious for more revenue. Things didn't turn out as well as planned for the developer...poor dears.

    September 16, 2010 at 3:08 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Kim

    To all of you saying she should be okay on 21K a year, should sell the house, etc. YOU try to sell a house right now. It's nearly impossible, especially when you ow more on the house that it's currently worth due to the economy. YOU try to raise, clothe, and feed a family on 21K per year, including heath insurance that you are now required to buy. And for those of you who are saying she can live well on food stamps, etc. SHE CAN'T GET THEM BECAUSE THEY OWN A HOME! Actually READ the article before you shoot your superior mouth off. I'd be willing to bet those of you who are making those remarks have a job that pays well over 21K, or you have no family to support on that amount of money. Walk a mile in her shoes before you make your judgemental, holier than thou remarks.

    September 16, 2010 at 3:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • TimFinnegan


      I'm a single dad with an autistic child who lost my job and have not been able to get another one for two years.

      $21,000 is nothing when you're going down the tubes, financially, with a sick child. It takes that much just to survive from day to day.

      September 16, 2010 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jade

      I would like to state that Maria could get food stamps. If you own a house or land that is not included in as your asset. If Maria was trying to get Cash assistance or TANF then her house would count as an asset and she would not qualify.

      September 16, 2010 at 6:47 pm | Report abuse |
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