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. NOLA

    BTW, I know of no one who makes $30,000 and refers to it as minimum wage .... hello, dummy!

    September 16, 2010 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
  2. timd

    I don't really care about this family. I don't care who's president either. I don't care about the unemployment rate or the tax cuts. I don't care if everybody reading this ends up slinging fries at Burger King. You know why? Because I am in the upper 2% baby. I have the money, the time, and I own the lobbyists. For all intents and purposes, I own the government and the system is built in such a way that right now you can't do a damn thing about it. So riddle me this future third world citizens of America – Just what are you going to do about it?

    September 16, 2010 at 3:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kim

      You're also delusional and an idiot. Add those to your list of attributes, moron.

      September 16, 2010 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • rabidantirepublican

      This is obviously sarcasm, get a grip people.

      September 16, 2010 at 4:48 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Matt

    @timd: Yeah, whatever. I'm probably in the top 5% income-wise and your post smacks of "troll".

    September 16, 2010 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Frustrated

    I can't believe how many heartless comments I am reading! Has everyone forgotten that this family also has a special needs child? As a parent of an autistic child, I can promise you that it is not easy emotionally of financially to battle autism! My daughter cannot attend general daycare or before/after school programs, and private care is extremely expensive. This poor family probably struggles significantly with being able to be available to care for this child while working to be able to support the entire family. I know families dealing with special needs that work complete opposite schedules to juggle care of their child and making ends meet. I encourage this family to research PACER and other advocacy non-profit programs that could offer help. Have a heart!!!!!

    September 16, 2010 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
  5. NoOneToBlameButYourself

    Its not the Reps/Dems that got us into this mess, it is those of you who choose to live beyond your means. YOU believed the banks when they said that you could afford something way out of your reach. YOU maxed out credit card after credit card after credit card...(just say no). You didn't save a dime. All of this stupid spending caused unrealistic demand that businesses strived to fulfill by hiring more and more workers. Once all your financial resources were exhausted you FINALLY stopped spending. Down came the unrealistic demand and up went the unemployment (unfortunately innocent people got caught up in this.) Point your fingers at the people who lack common sense in this country NOT the politicians who are trying to right THEIR wrong. And don't blame the banks and the credit card companies, you are responsible for your own financial decisions and its your fault you were taken advantage of.

    September 16, 2010 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Ann

    Foreign aid comprises about 2/10 of 1% of the US budget, so don't count on stopping that expense to help everyone in this country out of poverty

    September 16, 2010 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Vince Alf

    Wife & I have a combined gross income of $144k, but we still struggle with our mortgage payment and other bills. Who doesn't?

    September 16, 2010 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Disgustedwiththeseso-calledcitizens

      If you're still struggling making 140K then that is your own fault as you are obviously living beyond your means. 4 low income families could survive on your yearly income...Have you tried helping people with your money? May be more rewarding than that fancy car. Maybe you need to make some difficult choices relating to your mortgage and bills.

      September 16, 2010 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
  8. timd

    Right on Matt! See you at the country club my friend. You know the one in the gated community where we keep the undesireables out.

    September 16, 2010 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Disgustedwiththeseso-calledcitizens

    How did we become so cynical and cold to our neighbors? In this selfish society, people dare say that $21,000 is enough to live on for a family of 4? Lets be realistic here. I am on welfare, BUT I also work a 40 hour week, as does my fiance, I take a full course load at the local university as well. I have 3 children, 1 of which was born with a disability. We struggle EVERY month to make ends meet and make sure our children have everything that they need. Do the math people. The average person taking home $21,000 is bringing home roughly $600 every 2 weeks. Average rent for a safe/decent home is at LEAST $700. . . .then there are utilities, food, gas, and lets not forget mandatory car insurance for people that need vehicles because there is no public transportation. Most of you can't see the forest through the trees because you've never had to be BE THERE. Nice for you, but have some consideration for the people that have and are there. Not all of us are lazy slobs just waiting for our checks. MOST of us are working hard to get our of our situation. I have NO intention of being a lifer on welfare and I think that most of us "in the system" feel the same way. Do you think it's easy to ask for help? Walk a mile in my shoes.

    September 16, 2010 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • csnap

      Disgustedwiththeseso-calledcitizens – I said the exact same thing in my post. God bless you for working so hard and raising a family and getting an education. I wouldn't ever dare say you're lazy. It kills me to see how harshly people judge those who have less than them. They will never know what we are going through, on welfare or not, unless they get off their high horses and see for themselves what the real world is like.

      September 16, 2010 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kim W

      Not cold and distant, fed up! Been there, done that. Never asked for or received a government handout – worked three, four jobs when I had too. Government does owe me just because I'm here – I'm responsible for supporting myself and anyone else I decided to bring into this world with me. Perhaps if the government didn't have all these welfare programs we would have less of a problem. Individual responsibility has been taken away and those people are raising a whole generation of future irresponsible adults that feel they are owed by the government. This picture shows a TV and a dog, apparently rock-bottom hasn't truly arrived yet for these folks.

      September 16, 2010 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kim

      Kim W, I see where you're coming from, but times now are different. It's hard to find 3 or 4 part time jobs to "get by" because guess what? Everyone else is trying to get them to get by. Times are tough out there. The economy sucks. Remember what it was like when you had to do this, and then think what it would ahve been like if you hadn't been able to get those other jobs. Oh, and how do you squeeze in 3-4 jobs? I've done 2 jobs at once before, one full time and one part time, cooked for my family, cleaned, etc. and believe me, it isn't as easy as you make it sound.

      September 16, 2010 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Me

    I hope she gets the help she needs. This really underscores the need to get a good education so you can get a half decent job. It doesn't gurantee it but it sure does help.

    September 16, 2010 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Julie

    Amazing. Some believe it's okay for some to be stinking rich because they "earned" it, and for them to live a life of luxury. Right, Paris Hilton "earned" her spoiled lifestyle. But the working poor should give up any and all luxuries (air conditioning, decent food, nice home, etc.) that they earned because they are "spoiled" and need to learn to live within their "means".

    September 16, 2010 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kim W

      It's not about being filthy rich, it's about choices. We all have free will to make our own choices – but we need to realize that WE have to deal with the consequences of those choices – for example, drop out of HS, expect to have a low paying job; don't use birth control, expect to have children you can't afford to feed; you get laid off, sacrifice that TV and cable. People today really don't know what it is to do without – our grandparents do – no phone, TV and you took the bus!

      September 16, 2010 at 4:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kim

      I have a feeling these particular people didn't intend to have children they couldn't support, or live beyond their means. One job lost in a two income family can drive it below the poverty limit. When you've purchased a home already, and you can't unload it, it's tough. Sounds like they've gotten rid of about all they can and still get by. It's a shame these folks, who do work, are unable to get some sort of help that someone who sits on their butts popping out babies can easily get. Don't you think?

      September 16, 2010 at 5:19 pm | Report abuse |
  12. timd

    I just read that John Boehner is supporting a bill to repeal child labor laws in exchange for letting the tax cuts expire. Then, he said, we can seal off the borders and still have tons of cheap labor. He's a forward thinking. Matt and I agree on that at least.

    September 16, 2010 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Morgen

    21K poverty
    75K happiness (earlier article)
    Boy my family of four is some really serious trouble. We are just above the poverty line and barely making it and at this rate we won't ever "be happy". Makes it hard to work every day, it makes welfare look good!

    September 16, 2010 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
  14. csnap

    I find it frustrating and amazing that so many people out there think that everyone out there that lives near the poverty line is basically defrauding the system, or on drugs. let me tell you that no matter where you live, $21K/year is barely enough to survive in today's economy.

    I am the sole bread winner of my household and make almost $50K/year. My husband is out of work and currently playing the role of Mr. Mom to our daughter. Even with that salary, we are stuggling to stay above water every day just to pay our bills and keep our tiny house.

    We don't buy unneccesary items. We don't go out to eat or to the movies or shop. We haven't celebrated our anniversary in 2 years or exchanged christmas presents either. We are always 1 paycheck away from losing our home.

    it angers me to see those taking advantage of welfare and food stamps as they walk around with expensive clothes and flashy cars while hanging out on the corner. And I'm sitting in an office all day working my butt of just to be able to feed my family.

    The standard of living has increased, even in this recession. So many people are in need of jobs and there aren't enough of them out there. So before you judge too harshly those who are financially struggling to survive, remember, not all of us are drug addicts and lazy. because I am far from that. I look forward to a better life where I can live more confortably. But for now I have to accept that my life is a series of shut off notices and the constant fear that my child could go hungry or I could lose my house – and that's on a decient salary.

    September 16, 2010 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • rabidantirepublican

      "it angers me to see those taking advantage of welfare and food stamps as they walk around with expensive clothes and flashy cars while hanging out on the corner"

      And just what corner are these people hanging out on? And how do you know just from seeing them hanging on the corner in their "flashy clothes" what their source of income is? You know for a fact that they get foodstamps and welfare. This sounds more like racist fantasy than something you actually saw.

      September 16, 2010 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Ron

    You know whats sad is when we post on theses blogs.It does no good to point fingers at each other.There are actual people on here that are looking for solutions and real answers to there everyday problems and are desperate.Before there was democrats or republicans there was god and right now god prevails over anyone.No one democrat or republican is going to listen to your grievances or help you anyway.So it really does no good to complain to any of them.But a prayer to god is everything and can help you in finding the solution to your situation or problem.At times like these I know that there are people that want to lash out at one another or at anybody for that matter.But in the end what happens is you lose friendships and create negative atmospheres around you.And that is an open invitation for seclusion and depression.And believe me there are alot of people out there and maybe in your own family that would'nt have it anyother way.They in fact put them selves above others when in fact they have no answers for them selves

    September 16, 2010 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
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