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. Layla

    Well, so much for what religious tradition teaches us–to feel compassion/empathy towards others, you know, alms for the poor,..etc. There's so much negativity towards this woman and her family. Incidently, she indicated that she sold her wedding rings, therefore, she's married, or has been married. Nevertheless, I don't see anyone attacking the Wall Street crowd, who'd rather help out "Bear Stearns," and not so much for "Joe Stearns and the Mrs." You know, help themselves/Wall Street, not Main Street. These very same people got a tremendous "wealthfair" check from the government/tax payers just like this lady, yet they are holding out on job creation, which is affecting many more Americans. Where is your negative reactions to that? Why are you all so unsympathetic to this person's plight? I am praying for her and her family. If I had a million dollars, I would surely send them some money. The way the economy is going, any of us could very well be in her shoes, God forbid. As for 21K a year income, let one person try to live on that in the Washington, DC metropolitan area, let alone a family. Good luck!

    September 16, 2010 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Deuce

    It's hard enough to live as a single person on 21k a year, let alone a family of 4.

    September 16, 2010 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Mike

    It is so weird. I know the economy sucks really bad, and my personal economy has fluxuated the past couple years.... but I have been really blessed. I have been trying to hire people for one of my businesses and no one will apply for work. It is commission only, but you would think that people would be interested needing money so badly? I feel bad for many people out there, but everyone needs to budget and maybe give a little bit more of themselves to their work. I know some people work nights and weekends... but I know many people that would rather suffer on food stamps and welfare rather than work nights and weekends.... It is like "life" gets in the way. Thoughts?

    September 16, 2010 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • rabidantirepublican

      Just because people don't want to work for commission doesn't make them lazy. A lot of commission jobs out there are scams and a waste of time.

      September 16, 2010 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan Beach

      Obviously this is sales…and if you have been doing it for any length of time you know about he good and bad months…so you will do better a hiring people at livable base pay with a low commission or spiff program while you train them and let them see what the real potential earnings are….then cut the base raise the commission and you have Rep. if as you say this is legit

      September 16, 2010 at 2:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jan

      I agree with you Mike. My company has had three commissioned poistions open (potential earnings $100K plus including full benefits). and can't get anyone to apply. Makes one wonder doesn't it.

      September 16, 2010 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
  4. rabidantirepublican

    Many of those who can't afford their mortgages were lied to by loan officers. They were told they could afford more than they could and then were lied to about what their adjustable rate mortgage payments would balloon to. Who deregulated the banking industry so that they could get away with these shenanigans? The Republicans. Just like they did during the Savings and Loan debacle under Reagan.

    September 16, 2010 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Lance

    Spend a day wandering in a southeast Asian slum, and you'll think $21K per year is wealthy.

    September 16, 2010 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan Beach

      When do we leave..sound great we will live like kings...just one more question if we get seriously ill will we die there just like here or can we trade chickens for neuro-surgery

      September 16, 2010 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Shann

    As a pregnant woman who has no assets and am struggling to get chip perinatal (which is basically like a health insurance you still pay a portion of to the government) I think it's legit to say the government is trash. People who sell drugs with no real drug can make more than these people and still manage to get government aid just because theyre flying under the radar. Hell, even here in TX illegal immigrants are still eligible for medicaid and all that hooplah. When I seen that on a medicaid application, I figured it's time to move the eff away.

    September 16, 2010 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Hog

    But let's still give the rich a taxbreak. Say YEAY for the rich white men running this country and thier tag-along trophy wives like Palin.

    September 16, 2010 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Matt

      ***But let's still give the rich a taxbreak***

      Give the rich a tax break?

      The top 1% of income earners pay 40% of the taxes collected
      The top 10% pay 71% of the taxes collected

      The bottom 50% of income earners pay 2.89% of all taxes collected.

      What are you talking about? The so-called "rich" are already pulling their own weight and the weight of the bottom 50% percent who just mooch.

      September 16, 2010 at 3:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • tim

      Actually, as of 2007, the top 1% of income earners hold 42.7% of the financial wealth in the U.S., so at least from your own, narrow perspective, they're not actually pulling their full weight.

      September 16, 2010 at 10:33 pm | Report abuse |
  8. duke

    DROID!!! That's what americans have become If you vote a senator into office to do the business of the people,How is it right/legal for that same senator to be on 12 different corporate boards as an adviser getting paid 10x's what his/her ELECTED salary would be???He'll only advances his agenda that pay his real salary..Maybe one day POOR people will get together and have a say in politics

    September 16, 2010 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Michelle

    I've been reading these posts on here, and it somehow always amazes me when people put down those who have to have gov't assistance. Yes, there's ALWAYS been some people that have played the system, but when you think about it, who's played the system, and the taxpayers worst of all? Yep – our 'great' Dumbocrats and Retardocrats, who don't care about the average citizen's struggles – they've always got theirs. Consider: Even IF they don't get re-elected, they'll ALWAYS have some kind of pension for life because they've 'served'(in my opinion, more like stole & robbed) the American people. Not only that, they get nice 'bonuses' by foreign companies/foreign gov'ts for letting laws in America go their way. For myself – I'd gotten into an abusive relationship(after being abused/put out of the house by my 1st husband), and went back to coping the only way I knew how, which was drugs/alcohol. Got into a total blackout, got myself in trouble, got myself a class H felony, and tried to stay on probation. But after losing my job....I had to do time. That was 15 years ago. After I got out in 1998, I was able to work for a while, until these last two years. Now, if you have a felony conviction, no matter how long it was, or if you're off drugs, alcohol, & out of abusive relationships, as I have been for 15 years, now, no one wants to give you a 2nd chance. Add my age (47) in the mix, & the fact that I'm homeless, and I've got a triple whammy. But our 'great' Gov't can help everyone else except its own people. Meanwhile, I'm back in school – I can get financial aid, but not food stamps, etc. So......I eat at the shelter when I can, when I'm not looking for work outside of classes. Meanwhile, my husband works at day labor jobs that just bring in enough to get the following: hearing aid batteries, food, and if we're fortunate, a payment to Child support for his prior marriage. And our 'great' gov't has no answers for us. But if we were in this country ILLEGALLY, we'd probably get all the help we could. Welcome to life in America.

    September 16, 2010 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Rodney

    if you think 21k is too little money... try being black.

    September 16, 2010 at 1:49 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Marcie Wozniak

    Government just does not get how bad people are suffering. Or they don't care as long as they get re-elected. They bailed out the banks and credit card company's. Pass a credit law and the credit companies can still get around them and charge you any inserts rate they want even if you had good credit. Now american are losing everything and still know help.
    When is someone gonna listen and help ???????

    September 16, 2010 at 1:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lance

      Easy solution: purge yourself of "credit". Google "Dave Ramsey". Fixed. Then, no matter what banking or finance law is passed – it doesn't affect you in any way, whatsoever.

      September 16, 2010 at 1:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan Beach

      Rack up as much credit as you can then buy a sh~t load of dope and a gun the n say f~ck’em go underground…chances are you will come up in the political arena somewhere probably as a candidate for something

      September 16, 2010 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
  12. smwboxer

    Glad I'm gay, two incomes and no expensive children. Plenty of money left over for travel and toys.

    September 16, 2010 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Teecee

      ...Not to mention also being blessed with consistently great taste in home decor. Sigh.

      September 23, 2010 at 10:36 pm | Report abuse |
  13. MrsCas

    Our country has been a third world country for some time now, just look at the many Indian Reservations (who are not Casino Reservations), too many of this country's indigenous people have been living in homes without ANY insulation, no indoor plumbing, no electricity, etc. Also let's look at the majority of the 229 Alaska Native Tribes, where many villages don't have indoor toilets!!! In the 21st Century they still use "honey-buckets" which they must empty into sewage lagoons themselves, they pay (if they can afford to) an average of 8.00 per gallon for gasoline and upwards of 9.00 per gallon for heating fuel. Try living off 21k/year under those conditions! I have to agree with whoever said "enough sending American $ to foreign aid, NO MORE $ as long as even one American family lives in poverty!" I don't care who is in office or which party dominates in Congress, Republican or Democrat, these poverty stricken are Americans, and those people in power have the ultimate authority and ultimate responsibility to look after AMERICANS FIRST!

    September 16, 2010 at 1:52 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Dan Beach

    You judge a society by how it treats it's poor...we fail end of story

    September 16, 2010 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lance

      The Charities Aid Foundation, using data from Gallup, has compiled a list of the most charitable countries, using “giving money, giving time and helping a stranger” and compiled those results into a “World Giving Index.” Where is the US? Tied for... wait for it... FIFTH, with Switzerland.

      September 16, 2010 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Troy

    Now if they were naked because they had sold their clothes, too, I'd believe that they sold "everything."

    September 16, 2010 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
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