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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Post by:
Filed under: Economy
soundoff (616 Responses)
  1. Thai

    Problem is, if you are a family of 4 and you make 22k, you are 1k too rich to qualify for any gov assistance. So you're screwed!!

    September 16, 2010 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Nathan

    Someone whoknows,

    If you haven't found a job in 7 years then you are being to picky or you have a problem. I supervise felons everyday in a city of 28,000. Obviously, alot smaller than Houston with alot less opportunity and they are able to at least find a job at some point well before 7 years. Go apply somehere and get off of

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

    There really is something wrong with the mind of americans!!It's as if we are told what to think by the news and those honest politicians who are just trying to make this land a better place(NOT).if your rent is 400 a month that would 4800 a year,If you pay 5000 a year for insurance,And if you have utilities at 300 dollars a month that's another 3600 that would leave your family of 4 to eat,bathe,and live on 6700 a year,try it republican's and then you will understand why nobody who lives within that (21,000)a year range is going to vote for you. Republicans do not represent the people unless we the people have all become corporate board members.

    September 16, 2010 at 12:12 pm | Report abuse |
  4. eb

    It hurts me to hear so much anger, blame, and hate. I realize that we need to vent, but we need to get past that, start healing and get to the root of the problem. It's indifference, GREED, and lack of respect for this beautiful planet that we live in. We are all humans with mother nature's beauty surrounding us. There are people out there that are close to death, in pain or dead, that can't experience it anymore. All the money in the world can not save you from death. The money you leave behind will be left for the takers.

    September 16, 2010 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lance

      Yes, the tired GREED (must be capitalized) argument explains everything, doesn't it...

      September 16, 2010 at 1:48 pm | Report abuse |
  5. hasabadjob

    I wanted to add one more thing. This woman's child has autism. Wanna know how much it is a month for autism? I can tell you because my son has a higher functioning diagnosis on the spectrum scale. For our tri-monthly visit to the dr, $95 (insurance doesnt pay for this because they have not yet accepted that autism spectrum disorder is a real diagnosis and because it is my exhusband's insurance, and he was diagnosed before the insurance was in place by 3 years, they consider this a pre-existing condition). My son's medication, per month, is $241. And of course, this is not considered when you apply for benefits. At least not where I am located.

    September 16, 2010 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hex

      Autism isn't even the most expensive. I was diagnosed with MS a year and 1/2 ago. I pay $500 for independent insurance because my work didn't offer it. WITH insurance one of my prescriptions is $600 ever 28 days. If I lost my insurance it would be 2.2k a month. It would be nice if that was my only medical bill. 2 mri's a year, with insurance about 1k, I don't want to think about without.
      It is so hard for "healthy" people to understand how much an illness can effect every aspect of your life.
      If the women in the article didn't have an autistic child I think it might be possible to live on 21k + benefits, but when you throw an issue like that into the mix, she didn't have a chance... the child didn't have a chance.

      September 16, 2010 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chad

      Damn, hearing all this makes me proud to be a Canadian. We do not pay to go and see the doctor in my country (although medication can still be pricey, you Americans have to ask yourselves: 'Why is medication made in the USA cheaper to buy in Canada?' And no, the exchange rate has nothing to do with it. When you find the answer, you will discover the source of a lot of what is going wrong with your country.

      September 17, 2010 at 12:51 am | Report abuse |
    • socialized healthcare

      I pay into the socialized halthcare in canada and I lose more in taxes than I ever paid out of pocket for my family of 4 when we all ived in the USA. Yes, that includes my wife and oldest son's medical conditions that weren't covered by our US insurance company or by OHIP. So really, who wins?? Yes, the same elected officials regardless of the country.

      September 17, 2010 at 3:58 am | Report abuse |
  6. Geshus

    Lisa, you're an idiot!! The economy tanked before Obama was even on the freaking ballot!! All this finger pointing by you self-righteous morons exemplifies why this country is in horrid shape. If you want to blame someone, blame the former senator from Texas Phil Graham for writing the legislation that deregulated the lending industry making it possible to borrow 125% of your home's value, and Bill Clinton for signing the bill into law!! It's not Obama or the democrats or the republicans that got us into this mess, it's us!! We greedy, selfish, careless self-centered capitalist pigs who must have our mansion and BMWs and four kids in private schools on 75 thousand a year – US! And it's not going to get better until we all realize we are the problem, not the government or some shmuck in high office. Finally, we all must understand one simple thing – companies and corporations DO GIVE A FLYING FISH HEAD ABOUT YOU! They don't care if you kill yourself, starve, loose everything you have and live below the poverty line!! THEY DON'T CARE!! This is the reality. If you want to affect positive change, then start caring about one another!! The least you rich folks could do is start pumping those billions you have saved in off-shore accounts into OUR economy to stimulate demand, so those careless companies can start filling the need by hiring folks again. QUIT BLAMINING THE GOVERNMENT FOR EVERYTHING!! IT'S YOUR FAULT!!

    September 16, 2010 at 12:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • FedUp

      There is enough blame to go around for everyone in gov't for creating this mess. It's truly not an issue of party lines; Bush set-up the bailout for the banks, but the backroom deals of the dems. got it through Congress and Senate after initially FAILING to pass, becuase the public didn't want it. If you want to trace back to the origin of our current economic crisis, go back to Reagan, who was a good man, but not a good president. He decided it was time to run this country like a corporation and Don Reagan went from Wall St. to the Fed, cutting taxes for the wealthy by over 50%. This was suppose to "trickle down" to everyone, including the poor, but we see how well that went (not to mention Reagan dismantled our industrial infrastructure (see outsourcing) and tried to break the unions (remember all those Air Traffic employees he FIRED because they wanted a better wage??)). There is a REAL PROBLEM in this country when 1% of the poplulation owns 95% of the wealth. I never thought I'd be a socialist, but it seems that pure capitalism isn't working (unless your the 1% – for the rest of us in the 95% we get to hear about the "American Dream" and to work hard to achieve it and it will all be ours -– BS!!!). If you don't believe that Wall St. runs this coutry and both parties, you are sorley uninformed. Now we even have wars for corporate profit (see Haliburton) and they could care less about our soldiers dying. There is a special place in hell for Dick Cheney.............

      September 16, 2010 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Screw all idiots

    anyone who blabs on that 21 is high is out right out of touch. I stopped reading these comments because I was loosing brain cells with the stupidity here. I make more than double that and I am living hand to mouth. Each paycheck falls short, I am always behind in bills, and all I see around me are people who abuse the system. My car barely works, the abusers drive lexus. I eat crappy every day or don't eat some days, they always are eating out. Let's clean out the abusers. Jail them or shoot them I don't care, but if you are honest you are punished. That is the bottom line. Every day I am punished for following the laws of the land and everyone around me who plays the system, steals, or out right breaks the laws are rewarded. I will never stood to the abusers level, so I will always be punished.

    September 16, 2010 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chase

      mmmm Genius.

      September 16, 2010 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Geshus

    Don't go ballistic over my typo -it should read "...corporations DON'T GIVE A FLYING FISH HEAD ABOUT YOU." Fixed.

    September 16, 2010 at 12:23 pm | Report abuse |
  9. markG

    The George Bush Economy.
    Its the gift that keeps on giving... misery.

    September 16, 2010 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Matt

      Oh knock it off. Obama has been in office for 2 years and our debt has exploded and the economy has imploded.

      Did you let George Bush blame Clinton for 9/11? He was only in office for 9 months when that happened (due to intelligence failures during Clinton's reign). Are you an equal opportunity blamer or are you intellectually dishonest like most other liberals?

      September 16, 2010 at 12:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • tim

      "Obama has been in office for 2 years and our debt has exploded and the economy has imploded"

      No he hasn't yet, and he had no control over the deficit for the first year of his administration, because that was locked in by Bush ($1.3T). Bush, his father and Reagan are responsible for the vast majority of the current national debt. This is a summary, with references to source information that confirms this:

      Just what does "Intellectually dishonest" actually mean? Making assertions without knowing if they're true? Or is that just plain ignorant?

      Since you don't know where the debt has come from, and can't read a calendar, I assume that the mechanics of economic cycles is also beyond your ken. It takes a lot longer than a year and a half to fix the mess we're in.

      September 16, 2010 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
  10. LizardBreath

    This family may have it hard, but there's always a way. Barter & trade for necessities. Move into one bedroom and rent the others or move another family in. Volunteer/work at a daycare to earn free care. Sitting & crying for more than a moment won't help the situation.

    September 16, 2010 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan Beach

      Learn to enjoy your poverty...make lemonade out of lemons...please if anyone tells you this they have not yet arrive at the poverty line...

      September 16, 2010 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan Beach

      How many chickens for open heart surgery?

      September 16, 2010 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Dan Beach

    Well double the number as many people falsify information to census workers especially specific to how poor they are (pride) so we are really looking at 28% that is the reality....

    September 16, 2010 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Chase

    Not poverty = small town/2 person household 40k+/yr
    Not poverty = small town/4 person household 60k+/yr
    Not poverty = Metropolitan/2 person household 50k+/yr
    Not poverty = Metropolitan/4 person household 75k+/yr
    Poverty = below 40k/yr single household

    NOT REALITY = The Census articles statistics

    September 16, 2010 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Fajita

    30 yrs ago I had an 'oops' baby and I knew he was going to cost money to raise, so I knew to stop at one. I was on my own and got a roommate to split expenses. My salary was 12K at that time. LakeShore Dr at Lawrence was our playground and bikes expanded our travelling. The free world was our playground and workout area. No car so longer trips were public transpo. The folks periodically gifted a bag of groceries and clothing was purchased ALL SECOND hand for both of us. He's in his 2nd year of Law school after having graduated from UofC. My magic potion to make ends meet? TO STOP AT ONE.

    September 16, 2010 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Jeanie

    Politicians and diapers are the same. Both need to be changed regularly and for the same reason. That covers both sides of the isle!!

    September 16, 2010 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Geshus

    Screw All Idiots – your post is the most intelligent thing written on this thread. I congratulate you on your honesty and keen insight. You're absolutely right – if you're dishonest, you get rewarded. Do what's right and you get screwed. Sux, but true.

    September 16, 2010 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
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