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. woodie

    I know lots of people making less than 21k per year. Most of them are under the age of 30. Young people are hardest hit by the recession. These are people who had no responsibility for the mess.

    September 16, 2010 at 8:21 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Mike B

    One issue which seems to be indirectly related to most others happens to be one of which nobody ever wants to discuss, even though we have the power to control it, and that is over-population. I myself am greatly opposed to abortions, but I see people planning families everywhere, without even a clue as to how their children will survive as young adults. Makes me wonder if anyone will ever figure out that the more we over-populate.. the less there will be for anyone.

    September 16, 2010 at 8:25 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Virgil

    It's going to get worse if we don't wake up.

    This is what we are doing to ourselves.


    September 16, 2010 at 9:18 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Rey

    Hey that is my salary in my country Philippines – excluding my wife.
    But in here we are living so comfortably we already paid the house and has two cars ang got 3 maids.
    All must learn to live a frugal life – america is just too spoiled.

    September 16, 2010 at 9:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • tim

      The cost of living in the Philippines is a fraction of even the poorest areas of the U.S. Think of how well you would fare in Manila on $5k/year, or less than $100/week, and you'll have a better comparison.

      September 16, 2010 at 10:02 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Joan

    To anyone that wants to help families in need my question to you is this, "Why don't you just look in your own community?"
    There are thousands of families that will never make the media that need help. Talk to your local Community Action Agency, Department of Human Services, Senior and Disabled Services or any number of other service agencies that work with
    families living a or below the poverty level. There will be families in your community that will be grateful for your compassion and support.

    September 16, 2010 at 9:42 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Kimberly

    I personally raise my two kids alone on 23K and we don't starve. Granted it's not not pretty but it is doable. We don't starve and we don't have to stand in welfare lines. I may not have a Cadillace but I have my self respect.

    September 16, 2010 at 10:02 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Patricia

    21 k is hard but not poverty I raised 3 children off this kind of salary and not much assistant from the goverment. My kids are teenagers almost out of school now and I make only 30 k and there r times when we have not much food in the house and cannot get medicaid foodstamps cause the goverment says I make to much. House rent for a 3 bedroom is running about $1000. a month then all the other necessities it is hard to do it very hard but there are people in this world who are in worse shape with no home or car or food that is poverty

    September 16, 2010 at 10:36 pm | Report abuse |
  8. waiting_girl213

    Wow! As I read this I can't help but to think how ungrateful we have become! If you feel this country is such a "third world crap hole" then please feel free to leave and never come back!! It doesn't matter if you are for Bush or Obama or jimmity freakin cricket it took a long time time to get into this mess and it'll take a long time to get out! And in case you think I'm rakin in the big bucks I'm not! My mom struggled with 3 children by herself my whole life and still does! We have never lived comfortably or made more than $10k combined and we've survived! True we grew up in awful neighborhoods and experienced homelessness, hunger, and illness (my lil brother had cancer and my mom has mental illness) but we made it through! 21k would've been a cake walk! So quit complaining and do something! If your without a job get one! It doesn't matter if you have a phd or not! If McDonalds is hiring and you need a job take it!! It may not give you the life you're accustom to but at least you're making an honest living!!!

    September 16, 2010 at 10:40 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Meemo

    my rent is $1525/month. cell phone (family plan)= $145/month, elec=$120/month, water=$65/month, gas=$150/month, Insurance=120/month, health insurance=500/month, Kid school=$650/month, cable= $69/month, food and gro=$740/month (3 people), continegncy about $300/month that is about $4,300.00/month a little over $50K/year....likely I do more than that....21K? is way too little.

    September 16, 2010 at 11:16 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Gigi

    I am the sole income in my husband is disabled, and cannot work He doesn't receive disability benefits because his doctors said he isn't "disabled enough." Never mind that he's paralyzed on one side. I make almost $47K and we live pretty much bare bones. We made a big move to a state that we thought would be cheaper to live, but after health insurance (almost $600), deductions and taxes, I take home a little over $2K a is $900/ you do the math.

    What ticks me off that that a lot of people around here milk the system and have kid after kid to get Welfare benefits. They live better than I do, and I have 3 college degrees. I've heard stories of women getting pregnant from random men at truck stops so they can keep milking the system. I've know people who drive Mercedes and pay for their groceries with food stamps...they admit they're fleecing the system. People come to this country and know how to work the system – meanwhile, my husband can't get a break with disability...never mind that he was born and raised in the US. I'm not against immigration, just against the scammers who make it difficult for the people who really need help to get it.

    September 16, 2010 at 11:39 pm | Report abuse |
  11. T

    People that have 100K and up homes are bound to have way more trouble getting help. You are expected to sell EVERYTHING. I have never been fortunate enough to have a home of that caliber, but if I did it would be hard to give up. I have no such thing, and have a hard time getting any type of help other than food stamps. I lost my job a little over a year ago and have not been able to find decent work since. I wish some of Ombummer's "jobs" would come my way.....

    September 16, 2010 at 11:59 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Always a SAVER and sitting pretty

    I am sorry for all those above and the economic problems you have, but one thing I see is that nobody saved for a rainy day or a recession. I have religiously saved my entire life. PAY YOURSELF FIRST. I came from a typical middle class family . We did not want of anything, but money was tight. I mowed lawns, work every summer during high school and college. Don't think that by saving I have missed life. I enjoy my scuba dviing at international locations, but I do not buy new car every 2-3 years (my car is 14 yrs old) and I do not have the latest cellphone or best TV or the biggest house. I even have a daughter in college and another one starting next year. I pay tuition in cash without any loans. My salary has always been average throughout the years and I do invest (good economy or bad). I have always lived below my salary. ALWAYS and yet, still I have had an enjoyable life. Some may say saving is boring..or saving is for nerds or savings is for my grandparents time...... Did I mention I have just under $1.6 Million in cash/investments with zero debt?

    September 17, 2010 at 12:07 am | Report abuse |
  13. Ben Cooper

    Another family destroyed by Ben Bernanke and his sixteen consecutive interest rate hikes that caused this never-ending recession. Yeah, just wait until this power-hungry, interest-rate-raising MADMAN jacks up rates sixteen times in a row AGAIN.

    September 17, 2010 at 12:31 am | Report abuse |
  14. Swamprattler

    most try to keep up with the Jones, and that will put you in the poor house. You have no idea how much Mr. Jones makes. some buy every latest gadget that comes along, and feel like crap if Joe has one and you don't. but don't listen to me, I'm retired and doing ok. but it took 40 years to get it, now get your butt out there and work 40 years and you can have it.

    September 17, 2010 at 12:46 am | Report abuse |
  15. jimmy

    untill we vote people out like john boehner 8th district ohio we all will be poor. this man is heartless.he has stopped unemployment benefits ever time out. he needs to feel how it feels to lose your job like we did.join us at come fight with us to get something done yes we have a union now for the unemployed

    September 17, 2010 at 12:58 am | Report abuse |
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