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. Manish

    My name is Manish, from Bangladesh, my earn $58 USD a month, we work 75 hours week, 4 family live in one room, , I want move to America and live on 21K. You have water, electric, roads, car, cell phone, home, school, cable, internet, food everyday. you wear the clothes I make for $58 not worried about us, you all greedy people,
    I laugh you have everything but only complain, you not speical...

    September 17, 2010 at 12:59 am | Report abuse |
    • Always a SAVER and sitting pretty

      Manish, you are correct. We are a country of whiners and complainers. If you have lived overseas, like I have and seen how it is in other countries, it almost make you embarassed to be from the US. Everyone in the US should be made to live in SE Asia for a month and I bet all the complaining would stop immediately.

      September 17, 2010 at 1:12 am | Report abuse |
  2. Thomas

    While "The Office of Management and Budget defined the poverty threshold level as less than $21,954 for a family of four in 2009 and $10,956 for an individual." I'm amazed most people and above our government can't get their head around the fact cost of living varies as far as where you live //and// work! Living in a city is generally more expensive than living in the country, conversely as we all know, income tends to be lower in rural areas. The 1st thing the government needs to do is work out a more realistic benchmark taking location into consideration.

    September 17, 2010 at 12:59 am | Report abuse |
    • Always a SAVER and sitting pretty

      Thomas, get over the government numbers. If you spend more than you make, you are poor or are on the way to becoming poor. With that said, do you really want some overpriced government committee to actually go out there and get the "real" city numbers and the real "rural" numbers at a cost of $10 Million to the taxpayer??

      Let's all get over the number.....your finanical well being or dispair is YOUR responsibility and NOT the governments. As Thomas Jefferson said "A government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have".

      September 17, 2010 at 1:09 am | Report abuse |
    • Thomas

      Always a SAVER and sitting pretty- Unfortunately as far as food-stamps and other assistance for those truly in need, some standard guidelines //must// exist and they have to be realistic and not an average or you will have poor families falling between the cracks. Financial disaster is not something everyone does to themselves, you should know that especially in today's recession. As far as your $10 million price tag, the alternative is having people who are //not// in need, standing in line for a free hand out! As far as your minimum cost of living estimates I'm sure there are many out there (not necessarily with Internet access) who would beg to differ with you. "As Thomas Jefferson said "A government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have"." I don't equate helping people in need survive hard times (especially children) with giving them everything they want!

      September 17, 2010 at 2:36 am | Report abuse |
    • tim

      @Always a SAVER....

      Jefferson never said that. Gerald Ford did. Big difference.

      http://wiki.monticello.org/mediawiki/index.php/Government_big_enough_to_supply_you

      Tea Bag anyone?

      September 17, 2010 at 10:08 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Viji

    Wife of Manish, we no food tonight, baby sic. I wat to poor in America thank god for you county many us no hope, wok
    to liv i want 21k

    September 17, 2010 at 1:15 am | Report abuse |
  4. JKale

    The poverty line has always been too low. This is called "the government not wanting to face reality" If they raised the poverty line to a realistic level the government would have to admit to a lot more people living in poverty.

    Let's be realistic for a moment. Let's say for a studio apartment you pay $400 a month (this is going to be in some crime ridden neighborhood obviously) and definitely not in Los Angeles. Let's say food is $300 a month if it's going to be remotely healthy. Electricity $30 a month. Phone $30 a month. Gas $15 a month (you live in a warm climate) Let's say you have no car. In fact, let's say you have to walk everywhere. Let's say additional items cost an average of $50 a month...clothes, cleaning supplies, laundry detergent, etc. That's $9,900 for one person.

    Let's be a little more realistic. You live in a crime ridden area in a major city. Rent is $600 a month for a one bedroom apartment. You have a child who sleeps on the couch. Food is $600 a month. Electricity plus water and trash is $50 a month. Gas is $30 a month (you still live in a warm climate). Bus fair is $50 a month. That's a $30 pass for you and a $20 pass for your child. Additional expenses are $100 a month (household items, clothing, things your kid needs). You and your child don't have health insurance. You don't pay a babysitter, your kid is latchkey. Your phone is $30 a month.

    That's $17,100 a year.

    September 17, 2010 at 1:25 am | Report abuse |
  5. jeff

    @Jade it"s a good thing YOUR parents were wealthy enough to choose not to abort you. But maybe, rather than apply for assistance for things such as food and electricity, Jade and others like her would advocate that all abortions be gvt. funded, for those below the poverty line-or those for whom another child would "cost" too much?

    September 17, 2010 at 1:36 am | Report abuse |
  6. Help here

    Hey guys, will you visit SaveStan.ORG a friend of mine with 4 young babies is fighting for his life…… thanks.

    September 17, 2010 at 2:00 am | Report abuse |
  7. Karl Marx

    The only solution is revolution the only direction is insurrection, time to overthrow this government an establish a true socialistic society. We should all have exactly the same opportunity wealth, medical, education, homes, etc. Why should anyone have more than you? We don't need a government, we can take care of ourselves. Once we establish a true communist society everything will be better.

    September 17, 2010 at 2:07 am | Report abuse |
  8. Walter

    It amazes me that we care so little about good honest families trying to survive. We bail out large banks and corporations who use the money to fund lavish vacations and bonuses, while decent folks get swept under the rug and left to die.

    September 17, 2010 at 3:29 am | Report abuse |
  9. Jackie

    Well, another family that has 2 unemployed parents and 2 children, this is becoming more and more frequent after bush got elected. GO TO WAR WITH IRAQ! Not the best idea...

    September 17, 2010 at 4:14 am | Report abuse |
  10. Jackola

    $21K income is ridiculously low for a family. How can they afford eating out 3 times a week... cable with 6 movie channels... two vehicles.... movie outings with popcorn & soda every weekend.... cell phones with unlimited calling for all members of the family? Life can be tough when you are poor.

    September 17, 2010 at 5:38 am | Report abuse |
  11. NMEast

    Come to New Mexico. 21K will give you a pretty good lifestyle here. No, you might not be able to afford a house, but you can find a nice apartment, have a decent car and be able to buy food. I know many families that are living quite well on less than that.

    September 17, 2010 at 5:55 am | Report abuse |
  12. realtor

    we get by with around $24k a year but have a huge tax debt. It's tough. We are both realtors and didn't get licensed until the market tanked, we don't have a small fortune stashed away from back when every dog could get a mortgage and homes sold all day long. We lost our house, we lost our truck and our camper. We have jobs on the side and we haven't gone hungry...yet. No health insurance. We were denied public assitance and reduced school lunches. We have one daugther and it's hard to not be able to buy her new clothes when school starts. Times are tough and life ain't fair but I found in the past that I've learned the most when life wasn't fair. I guess we're not going to be able to afford much for a long time but we're rich in experience.

    September 17, 2010 at 6:36 am | Report abuse |
  13. Bob

    Jack – We will be feeling the effects of the Bush puppet for decades to come.

    September 17, 2010 at 7:11 am | Report abuse |
  14. Shiloh

    I'm a mother of an autistic 10 yr. old boy. So I know first hand that stability is everything. Anytime there are big changes in lifestyle the child reacts in behavors most people can't imagine dealing with. So add financial stress to a woman who already has such a huge psychological strain and I'm sure she's finding it almost unbearable. Everyone one of us would sent her a dollar if we had any clue how intense her suffering is. Many of this countries people are sorely lacking in compassion. There's not enough being done to support autistic families special needs.

    September 17, 2010 at 7:56 am | Report abuse |
  15. saganhill

    I agree that 21K is low. But is a person has skills such as computer, auto, building/handyman, or you can fix things, you can make money under the table and make your life a whole lot better than the status quo. Im in the computer IT for my main job and I work on the side to up my income 10-15K a year. That pays for my hobbies and my large pole barn. Screw the government, I have to look out for me. Because no one else will.

    September 17, 2010 at 8:18 am | Report abuse |
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