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. rcpr

    It is baby Bush's war machine that has broken our country. Just ask the Soviet Union!

    It is the World Free Trade Aggreement! MADE IN CHINA – a country that is run by a military regime...

    It is offshore outsourcing! Just try to call Dell to purchase a computer... It is a joke...

    We all know what it is. But can we turn it around before it is too late?


    September 16, 2010 at 11:21 am | Report abuse |
  2. Robin

    There are so many people who try as hard as the might, just aren't making it out there. Someone needs to wake up and pay attention......we ARE IN A MAJOR DEPRESSION, – RECESSION...I don't care what you want to call it and I don't care what the government claims!!!! So many people are losing their homes, their jobs, losing everything. While Obama and his wife sit up there in Washington, taking vacation after vacation and at the American peoples expense no less. They are a good example for our younger generation, what a joke! We have children here in America who go hungry every day even when both parents work and some work two and three jobs when they can find them. Grocery prices keep going up and up, gas goes up and up, and forget about buying clothes for your kids. We now have to supply our school systems with things we never thought we would have to before because they do not even have the money to educate our children properly. When is it going to change? I do not see anything changing anytime soon. We worry about childhood obesity yet try to feed a family healthy food when you have to worry about keeping a roof over their heads, cloths on their backs. You buy what is cheap and trust me that is not good. Forget about going to the doctors, who can afford that? Change.....right....don't see it happening!!!

    September 16, 2010 at 11:21 am | Report abuse |
    • hasabadjob

      "While Obama and his wife sit up there in Washington, taking vacation after vacation and at the American peoples expense no less. "

      I will never forget right after he was elected, he took his wife on a date that cost $24,000. I remember that because that was a year and a half salary for me! Gee, wish my Significant Other could take me on a date like that.

      September 16, 2010 at 11:37 am | Report abuse |
    • Bunnie

      I know this is hard to believe, but Obama had his own money before becoming president. His books sold extremely well, he's published another book and his wife is a LAWYER. Why don't you come down hard on the people really spending our money, like whiny CEOs flying into DC in their private jets to beg for bailouts for screwing up a company? Or how about those self-serving republicans and tea parties demanding 'fiscal responsibility' which is code for 'screw the poor, pay us first'.

      September 16, 2010 at 11:40 am | Report abuse |
  3. Maria

    Obama has been in office for 19months. HOW is this his doing?? Keep drinking the hate-radio-kool-aid, keep voting in the fringe republicans because when they are in charge you you will be the next to go over the cliff.

    September 16, 2010 at 11:23 am | Report abuse |
  4. mttrailboss

    Sad story.., and its happening all over America. If we don't come out of this terrible economy, current recession and job loss in America, there will be more people of families in this same predicament as we approach the holidays. When you throw in that senior citizens and people on Social Security will 'not' be receiving their cost-of-living-allowance (COLA), again. There might be a lot of senior citizens and people on Social Security that will be homeless and below the poverty level in America. I am started to ask.., "Why did I vote for President Barack Obama ?" Mike in Montana

    September 16, 2010 at 11:23 am | Report abuse |
    • CeeBee

      Senior citizens not receiving COLA on social security was not due to some "whim" on Obama's part. It is calculated via a formula that considers the cost of living-which did not increase.
      How are these poor seniors going to feel if one of these teatards that wants to eliminate these programs completely gets into office?

      September 16, 2010 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
  5. rcpr

    i know and help many that are in poverty. the horizon does not show any changes for them and they are falling into despair.

    we have to help the less fortunate. we have to care. if help is asked for – give it!

    please don't turn away from those in need. give them hope!


    September 16, 2010 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
  6. Susan

    You can't do alright on 21,000.00 a year. I work as a teacher, work part time and Walmart supporting a son who lives with me while he takes a double load in college so he can get done faster and with my 83 year old mother who can no longer live alone all on that 21,000.00. You don't qualify for food stamps, you don't qualify for medical because your not poor they say. When you have to work an hour and a half at Walmart to buy your self one meal for Subway something is wrong. The income to cost ratio in this country is out of control. If incomes don't go up or prices come down this country is going to go into a depression that make the 1920's look like vacation. All these people who lost jobs, all these people who were forclosed on are going to have no credit for the next decade. Who is going to buy houses, cars, credit cards when a quarter of the population has "bad" credit. It's not over it has just begun.

    September 16, 2010 at 11:26 am | Report abuse |
  7. Shelby

    And yet Oprah can flying her entire audience to Australia. God Bless America!!

    September 16, 2010 at 11:27 am | Report abuse |
    • Teecee

      Apparently the Australian government is picking up the tab for Oprah's's earmarked from the dollars they spend on promoting tourism. God Bless Australia!

      September 23, 2010 at 10:16 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Matt

    Only in America do the so-called poor have TV sets. And only in America do the so-called poor have an obesity problem.

    September 16, 2010 at 11:30 am | Report abuse |
  9. Jennifer

    The cost of everything is so expensive. It is difficult to pay for the basics even if you make a decent salary. In my case I obtained large student loans trying to get ahead with a good future career and yes I make more money than average but I am spending my working career paying huge amounts per month for a student loan. It costs a lot for groceries, gas, car insurance, home insurance, rent/mortgage, medical bills, medical insurance, utilities, phone etc, repairs... If I calculated just these things it cost a lot of money to survive. It seems that most of us have to work very hard to get by and good luck having some luxuries because if you put it on credit it just makes the situation worse. I am not sure what the solution is except to work as much as possible, save as much as possible and forget about vacations and fun. Maybe someday when you are 90 years old you can stop working and saving so much and go on an Alaskan cruise – the American dream realized.

    September 16, 2010 at 11:30 am | Report abuse |
  10. Joe

    "Poverty in the US spikes".....and it's only going to get worse.
    There's nothing we can do about it.
    And it has NOTHING to do with Obama.
    It doesn't matter who is president now–Obama, Gore, Bush, Reagan, JFK, FDR, Lincoln–no one can fix this because our economy is broken and we are simply reaping what we have sown for decades.
    And the teabaggers want their money back. Right...

    September 16, 2010 at 11:30 am | Report abuse |
    • BellaTerra66

      I agree with you, Joe, 100%!!

      September 16, 2010 at 11:38 am | Report abuse |
    • Robert

      and then you showed your true liberal colors with your closing remark--–

      September 16, 2010 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
  11. hasabadjob

    Hmmm, $21K/year could be poverty depending where you live. I survive on $16/year, single working parent and full-time student. Rent, food, necessities for the children (dont have cable TV and only have cell phones-no home phone), are expensive. Especially when products raise, but the pay doesnt. AND, good luck trying to find a decent paying job in most communities because businesses want you to have a bachelors degree at the very least and pay you $8-$10/hour with benefits costing $300-$400/month, out of your paycheck. It is reality. And I think one of the BIGGEST reasons people want to blame Obama is that he promised a whole bunch of "Hope" and "Change" and no one is really seeing the "Hope" and "Change". A lot of people, myself included, dont care about the lip service, show me what Hope and Change can do and then, I will take it under advisement and go from there. That is the reality of it, not the sunshine and rainbows of living. And most people cant wait for the Hope and Change to take effect. We needed results yesterday!

    Perhaps politicians in general should wake up, read posts such as these and see what they can do to change public opinion instead of being voice boxes for their political buddies?

    September 16, 2010 at 11:31 am | Report abuse |
  12. Rondo

    You ain't seen nothing yet. The deification has yet to hit the rotary oscillator.

    September 16, 2010 at 11:32 am | Report abuse |
  13. cardinal14

    My wife and I are both RNs and make pretty good money, over 100k a year. However, by the time I pay the mortgage on my 3/2 that is worth 1/3 less than we paid for it, the electric, insurance, water, gas, phone, food, auto payments (both 8 yrs old cars) auto insurance, pest control(got to have if you live in FL) homeowners association, doctor and dentist bills casue my ins. sucks and won't pay but 20% of anything, orthodontist, and everything else we live on about $200 for two weeks until we get paid again. IN the last two years we have dropped, cell phones, cable TV, yard service, and about five other bills. We are doing many more things for ourselves. Even with the cut backs we still are right at the poverty line after expenses. MAny other are like us. We are the middle class and we have nothing.

    September 16, 2010 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
    • lorin

      You have jobs, two bathrooms, two cars, pest control (no, you don't "gotta" have it, lots of us spray our own bugs), a homeowner's association so I'm guessing CPR community, regular doctor and dental visits, and you think you have NOTHING??? Your poverty is in your emotional and spiritual life, my friend. Look around you and count your blessings!

      September 16, 2010 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Matt

      @Cardinal: Who cares if your house is worth less than you paid for it? It's a home, not an investment. Your payments are no more now than when you bought it. Just pay for your house and live in it.

      September 16, 2010 at 12:39 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Matt

    @Jennifer, who said, "The cost of everything is so expensive..."

    No it's not. My Albertson's has eggs for 0.88/dozen, milk is $1.68 a gallon and countless other things like flour, sugar and frozen vegetables are constantly on sale. Gas prices are fairly low.

    It sounds like your problem is that student loan. It's too bad the American populace has been fed a bill of goods – that it is somehow smart to go into debt to get a degree. I never went into debt for education – dropped out of college as a junior and have never looked back. I take make (very low) six figures and my wife stays at home with our daughter. Who needs a degree?

    September 16, 2010 at 11:34 am | Report abuse |
    • JaneyZ

      Well lucky bleeping you.

      September 16, 2010 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Z

      Matt... Just wait till you get laid off from your sales position. Have fun competing in an overcrowded, educated, experienced hungry workforce. Your lack of a degree will come back to bite you in the a$$.

      September 16, 2010 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Realtor

    I pray to the LORD that this family's wounds heal and that they find happiness in their lives. I especially pray for that young boy who suffers in silence, in ways that are not easily understood by most in our society. May there be purpose in his pain and that he grow strong and serve you well.

    September 16, 2010 at 11:34 am | Report abuse |
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