Author Topic: Stories from the poor  (Read 9825 times)

lhamo

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #50 on: April 09, 2017, 07:29:39 PM »
I have a former student who I've kept in touch with for years. She moved back to the area after college and is now living with several roommates working as an intern journalist at an awesome independent news website for Honolulu.

I'm so proud of this girl; we had her over for dinner a few weeks ago and it was a treat to talk to her. The conversation turned to "adulting"--she's 22 and living on her own for the first time. She started asking questions about frugal skills like cooking for yourself and keeping a grocery bill low, and I realized that the start-up costs to frugality can actually be high. I recommended getting a crockpot from craigslist and investing in a set of basic knives and spices.

People in roommate living situations  who don't have a car to get to Costco and don't have a big freezer to store things and don't have quality pots and pans or a set of spices or good kitchen knives or room to store bulk goods have to deal with less optimized spending.

I remember back when I was in that place--living with roommates, no freezer, etc.--and how it just seemed easier and even cheaper to get takeout all the time. It's funny how frugality actually takes some money, and I think that fact is why it can be really hard to scratch one's way out of poverty.

In no place, in no time, did I ever think that take out was "even cheaper" even when I didn't eat especially well. I do remember buying low end cheap frozen dinners, but take out, no way.

In places like NYC and Honolulu, where groceries are comparatively expensive, I can see how some types of takeout can be cheaper than buying groceries.   
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jooniFLORisploo

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #51 on: April 09, 2017, 07:32:23 PM »
Yes, in many situations takeout has been cheaper for me than groceries. I currently buy groceries because I can afford the luxury of prioritizing health, but it's definitely not cheaper for me :)

englishteacheralex

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #52 on: April 09, 2017, 08:23:18 PM »
Yeah, I'm in Honolulu, and because of various thrifty living situations, there was a ten year period in which I didn't have access to a freezer. So I didn't have the option of frozen pizza or freezing leftovers. I actually would keep frozen meals in my friends' freezers and come over and eat my food at their places, which in hindsight I realize was really nice of them.

It's funny how much stuff I have that enables frugality and how it took years for me to acquire this stuff and learn to put it to good use. Financial gurus always tout the need for personal finance education in high school, but I think a good home-ec class is just as important. Which appliances are really necessary? Which recipes are thriftiest and fastest to make? How do you make a quick sewing repair to make clothes last longer? All very important skills that actually don't come that easy or cheap.
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Poundwise

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #53 on: April 11, 2017, 06:56:41 AM »
If you were ever curious about how SNAP (food stamps in the US) works, here's a very readable Q&A:
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2017/04/04/what-many-americans-get-wrong-about-food-stamps-according-to-an-economist

Also, this was amusing to me.  I didn't grow up poor, but my parents did. As a result, my mother, despite her middle class pretensions, would buy us name brand shoes two sizes too big.
http://www.cracked.com/blog/5-unexpected-side-effects-being-poor/
http://www.cracked.com/blog/the-5-stupidest-habits-you-develop-growing-up-poor/
« Last Edit: April 11, 2017, 07:13:08 AM by Poundwise »

Tasty Pinecones

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #54 on: April 11, 2017, 08:41:46 AM »
It's very sad when a society has no compassion or understanding, and shies aways from putting their money where their mouth is.

How much better the world would be if everyone was able to help their neighbour.

What drives me crazy is how our gov't in the USA spends money so friggin' freely on certain things but won't spend money on people's needs. Trump spent ~$60M on missiles plus Navy ship gas money last week that shutdown a Syrian military airport for 24 hours? He and his spends ~$5M every weekend to fly to FL where some more money is spent for him to "relax".

How about the gov't buy fewer bombs and bullets and take care of Americans?

Tasty Pinecones

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #55 on: April 11, 2017, 08:46:05 AM »
^ Yesterday I listened to a podcast on CBC radio called School Saved My Life. It was an adult's story of post-secondary, but same idea. His circumstances sucked to an extreme, and he tells of the same benefits, madgeylou.

For me, school was so awful -the place I was bullied even more, etc, just with no avenue of escape. But I can appreciate that any given option may be good for one person and sucky for another, depending on the details.

For me, salvation was nature and my dog. If I could be left alone to those, I was okay :)

You just described my childhood too. No financial woes within our family. I was just an awkward kid for reasons I think I understand better now as an adult. Give me the freedom to wander with the family dog alone - and I was good. Send me to school - and I wasn't happy at all. Mix in a pair of parents who loved their high school experiences and thought high school grades defined your entire future - and there wasn't much relief except for wandering around with my dog.

jengod

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #56 on: April 11, 2017, 11:57:24 AM »
https://longform.org/posts/the-longform-guide-to-debt--3

This is about debt, not poverty per se, but some informative pieces nonetheless.

Several years earlier, one of my sons played on a mainly Hispanic soccer team in Bell Gardens, a working class Hispanic suburb of Los Angeles. I got to know one of the fathers quite well. He was from Guatemala City.

“What’s Guatemala City like?” I asked him one day.

“The days are very long in Guatemala City,” he said.

That was all he said about his life there. And that would probably be the best description of life as a homeless person. The days are very long.
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shelivesthedream

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #57 on: April 17, 2017, 05:48:16 AM »
I've been thinking lately about how at school, we tell all poor children that we think are remotely able to go to university because it will be their golden ticket to a better life. As the tenure-track professor in the link in the first post shows, academia does not make you rich. However, we never tell rich children to consider becoming a plumber or a bricklayer. Why is it that a genuinely wide range of career options are only pushed for bright poor children, whereas rich children (bright or not) only have the option of going to university and aiming for a professional job?

I grew up (upper) middle class, and I have friends who grew up surrounded by maids and nannies and cleaners. You don't do chores when you live like that because you don't need to, so you don't learn - so of course you dig yourself into debt as an adult. Because life skills are only for poor children. But then Mummy and Daddy can bail them out as many times as they need.

I don't mean to be all "woe is me, I grew up too rich" about this, but what I'm getting at is that in a society obsessed with upward social mobility, we are forgetting that some people will move down too, and they need to be prepared for that. But when will Eton and Harrow start offering cooking, cleaning and budgeting classes? When hell freezes over.

Zamboni

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #58 on: April 17, 2017, 06:27:14 AM »
From the first article:
Quote
When I was an undergraduate contemplating going to graduate school, my favorite professor encouraged me by saying, “If there’s anything worth going big-time in debt for, it’s education.” I never questioned her.

At this time I just want to shout a big "thank you!" to my former boss, Larry. When I was finished up undergrad, and working part time for Larry, he asked me about graduate school and I explained that I had a small stipend but that I was eligible to take out loans, so that was how I would float my living expenses. He looked at me for a moment, then said "Just remember, you will have to pay that money back. It sucks!"

And so for the duration of graduate school I resisted loans as much as I could and worked a part time job at night. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Larry!

That first piece still really resonated with me. There are fewer and fewer "normal" jobs in academia. The Lords and Ladies who have those few coveted "normal" academic jobs by and large treat everyone else like shit, although they will never admit this. At my current place of employment, an extremely wealthy institution, I ended up initially taking a job teaching (in STEM) for $30K . . . It was 2009, and there were simply no other jobs. After the first year, they told me they were laying me off. And then, a few months later, they changed their mind and gave me a big raise instead. They needed someone to do the actual work, it turned out, and I was still their cheapest and best option.

I will never forget how my employer treated me. How they grossly underpaid me because "they could get away with it" due to the economy at the time. How disposable I am to them despite what I am repeatedly now told is my spectacular performance. It was what led me to this site.

I am acutely aware of how easy it would have been to fall into poverty.

jooniFLORisploo

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #59 on: April 17, 2017, 06:43:38 AM »
^ I'm likewise eternally grateful to the school/academic counsellors who suggested school/graduation was not necessary, and pointed me to unschooling waaaaaaaaaay back before that had become common; the employment training program that urged me to get out and become self-employed (and then sent me all their overflow clients); and the employment counsellor that urged me not to spend my time working at entry level jobs like McDonald's.

How I got all these groovy people, who saw how vulnerable I was to everything yucky, I don't know! One after another actively and explicitly taught and encouraged me to ninja this fucked up system built to keep certain people down.

Awesome!! I remember each of those people, including two by name, and am forever grateful.

Prairie Stash

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #60 on: April 20, 2017, 12:14:43 PM »
I've been thinking lately about how at school, we tell all poor children that we think are remotely able to go to university because it will be their golden ticket to a better life. As the tenure-track professor in the link in the first post shows, academia does not make you rich. However, we never tell rich children to consider becoming a plumber or a bricklayer. Why is it that a genuinely wide range of career options are only pushed for bright poor children, whereas rich children (bright or not) only have the option of going to university and aiming for a professional job?

I grew up (upper) middle class, and I have friends who grew up surrounded by maids and nannies and cleaners. You don't do chores when you live like that because you don't need to, so you don't learn - so of course you dig yourself into debt as an adult. Because life skills are only for poor children. But then Mummy and Daddy can bail them out as many times as they need.

I don't mean to be all "woe is me, I grew up too rich" about this, but what I'm getting at is that in a society obsessed with upward social mobility, we are forgetting that some people will move down too, and they need to be prepared for that. But when will Eton and Harrow start offering cooking, cleaning and budgeting classes? When hell freezes over.
If their parents want them to learn cooking or cleaning couldn't they job shadow the cook or maid?

Downward mobility is a lot easier than upwards. The problem is that when people move down they refuse to adjust; regardless of what they know. How often do you hear about someone getting laid off and keeping cable, maid service, dining out and car payments? Knowledge isn't the problem so much as the willingness to accept the situation.

SomedayStache

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #61 on: April 20, 2017, 12:31:51 PM »
Moving up or down in social class you may find yourself out of your element.

I grew up solidly middle class and took for granted health insurance  and doctor visits whenever needed.  When I got out on my own and didn't have such things I didn't know how to navigate the world.  I lived for 4 years in a small town never seeing the doctor until an emergency situation forced me to go in - and then we were referred to the free medical clinic.  Ha!  I could have used that medical clinic for years if I had known such things existed.  (Question 17 below)

Here's an interesting link (I can check off all the middle class boxes but practically none of the poverty or upper class items).
http://www.asanet.org/sites/default/files/savvy/introtosociology/Documents/Hidden%20Rules%20of%20Social%20Class.htm

Surviving in Poverty

_____1. I know which churches and sections of town have the best rummage sales.
_____2. I know where the nearest food bank is and when it is open.
_____3. I know which grocery stores garbage bins can be accessed for thrown-away food.
_____4. I know how to get someone out of jail.
_____5. I know how to physically fight and can defend myself if necessary.
_____6. I know how a person can get a gun even if they have a police record.
_____7. I know how to keep my clothes from being stolen at the Laundromat.
_____8. I know what problems to look for in a used car.
_____9. I know how to live without a checking account.
_____10. I know how to get by without electricity and without a phone.
_____11. I know how to use a knife as scissors.
_____12. I can entertain a group of friends with my personality and my stories.
_____13. I know what to do when I don't have the money to pay my bills.
_____14. I know how to move my residence in less than a day.
_____15. I know how to feed 8 people for 5 days on $100.
_____16. I know how to get and use food stamps.
_____17. I know where the free medical clinics are and when they are open.
_____18. I am very good at trading and bartering.
_____19. I know how to get around without a car.
_____20. I know what day of the month welfare and social security checks arrive.
« Last Edit: April 20, 2017, 12:33:23 PM by SomedayStache »

Poundwise

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #62 on: April 21, 2017, 12:34:26 PM »
Interesting TED Talk here: https://www.ted.com/talks/j_d_vance_america_s_forgotten_working_class/transcript?language=en

Quote
it's sometimes hard to even know what those choices are when you grow up in a community like I did. I didn't know, for example, that you had to go to law school to be a lawyer. I didn't know that elite universities, as research consistently tells us, are cheaper for low-income kids because these universities have bigger endowments, can offer more generous financial aid. I remember I learned this when I got the financial aid letter from Yale for myself, tens of thousands of dollars in need-based aid, which is a term I had never heard before. But I turned to my aunt when I got that letter and said, "You know, I think this just means that for the first time in my life, being poor has paid really well."

So I didn't have access to that information because the social networks around me didn't have access to that information. I learned from my community how to shoot a gun, how to shoot it well. I learned how to make a damn good biscuit recipe. The trick, by the way, is frozen butter, not warm butter. But I didn't learn how to get ahead.

SEAKSR

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #63 on: April 28, 2017, 12:36:46 PM »
I grew up in an interesting juxtaposition of poverty and middle class. My father is a minister. The church is on an Indian Reservation. The generational poverty on the rez is... well just that. It is so ingrained that a fair number of folks know how to get services, but do not know how to work. I know families where the parents are deliberately not married so that the non working parent can claim to be a single parent to increase their benefits.

I grew up with my folks doing foster care, and having new kids randomly show up at our house to stay for extended lengths of time. As a kid I actually couldn't differentiate which ones were living with us or were being babysat, and that lead to some odd discussions with my mom in recent years. A fair number of the ones who stayed a while had food hoarding issues. Some of them were so afraid of men they couldn't speak in front of my dad. But except my brother, they all left again.

Mom grew up solidly middle class. Dad, not so much. The pains we exprience as children really do haunt us as adults. I had a pair of shoes I adored, they were canvas and had a small hole in the side. It was barely noticeable, and the soles weren't worn, so I kept wearing them. My dad flipped about the shoes, and threw them away. I got new shoes, mostly because when he was my age, he couldn't.

There are foods my dad won't eat for the same reasons. No citrus fruits, no cherries, and certainly no plums. No bologna.
All of the fruits were fruits he gleaned as a child and teen, when my grandparents were divorced. He ate bologna sandwiches for years. As a kid he worked in his uncle's plum orchard. That branch of the family makes prunes for a living. You don't eat the plums.

I honestly feel like I should be doing foster care.  But I'm not in the right house for that yet. Every kid deserves a look at a healthy homelife. I firmly believe that there are quite a few that will never actually see a healthy home ever, and that makes me a bit sad.

pachnik

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #64 on: April 28, 2017, 02:29:26 PM »
I grew up in an interesting juxtaposition of poverty and middle class. My father is a minister. The church is on an Indian Reservation. The generational poverty on the rez is... well just that. It is so ingrained that a fair number of folks know how to get services, but do not know how to work. I know families where the parents are deliberately not married so that the non working parent can claim to be a single parent to increase their benefits.

I grew up with my folks doing foster care, and having new kids randomly show up at our house to stay for extended lengths of time. As a kid I actually couldn't differentiate which ones were living with us or were being babysat, and that lead to some odd discussions with my mom in recent years. A fair number of the ones who stayed a while had food hoarding issues. Some of them were so afraid of men they couldn't speak in front of my dad. But except my brother, they all left again.

Mom grew up solidly middle class. Dad, not so much. The pains we exprience as children really do haunt us as adults. I had a pair of shoes I adored, they were canvas and had a small hole in the side. It was barely noticeable, and the soles weren't worn, so I kept wearing them. My dad flipped about the shoes, and threw them away. I got new shoes, mostly because when he was my age, he couldn't.

There are foods my dad won't eat for the same reasons. No citrus fruits, no cherries, and certainly no plums. No bologna.
All of the fruits were fruits he gleaned as a child and teen, when my grandparents were divorced. He ate bologna sandwiches for years. As a kid he worked in his uncle's plum orchard. That branch of the family makes prunes for a living. You don't eat the plums.

Thanks for taking the time to share this, SEAKSR.   Very touching and sad about the little foster kids hoarding food and being so scared of men.   A friend of mine's upbringing was similar to your dad's - he avoids raspberries/raspberry jam etc because wild ones were the only fruit they had at times when he was a kid. 

MayDay

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #65 on: April 29, 2017, 05:59:22 AM »
SEAKSR, my parents didn't grow up super poor (both had stable housing, etc) but both have similar idiocyncracies like the shoe thing.

My dad, as an adult, owns an absurd number of coats and is constantly buying new expensive ones. He is not otherwise a hoarder. He never had a warm coat as a kid.

My mom buys my children almost all their shoes, and nice ones, because shoes were always an extremely stressful expense for her.
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Zamboni

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ariapluscat

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #67 on: May 08, 2017, 12:58:58 PM »
[snip]
I honestly feel like I should be doing foster care.  But I'm not in the right house for that yet. Every kid deserves a look at a healthy homelife. I firmly believe that there are quite a few that will never actually see a healthy home ever, and that makes me a bit sad.

there's nothing like the realization that not all kids are constantly thinking where their next meal is coming from to help you realize you are poor and/or abused. i used to share a moment w the one other girl who had been in foster care at my college dorm when the middle class/rich kids were 'joking' about being hungry or 'surviving' off free pizza.
and i'm in the same place about wanting to foster, but it's better to take the time to get settled than try too soon. for you and the kid.

ariapluscat

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #68 on: May 08, 2017, 01:06:04 PM »
a funny to me story:
one of the nicer foster homes i was in had nice home cooked meals, really great. but one of the common ways we had rice was this instant 'rice pilaf' so rice with little oblong bits of almond.
i refused to eat the almonds.
the foster family, not knowing why i was eating around these bits, was very confused. plain white rice: i ate normally. brown rice: also ate normally. just this one type of rice: i ate slowly after carefully sorting. this observation of my weird meticulous habit continued for about two months. finally, they broke down and asked me.
the almond bits reminded me of when i'd had to eat rice with larva in it bc in my birth family home we didn't have anything else in the house and couldn't afford to throw the rice away without eating it.

when i tell this story outside of foster care context, ppl do not understand that it was humorous. it's a lot of little weird habits that build up when you're poor and you don't realize how strange they are until you are exposed to something different. even then, it can be nearly impossible to break all of the habits, be they around eating or how you think of spending money.

tyort1

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #69 on: May 08, 2017, 03:33:41 PM »
My mother is one of these stories.  It is really heart breaking, and while a lot of my mom's story is about making some bad choices, I really believe that trauma complicates everything and can make it tremendously difficult to walk the right path, even with the best natural gifts and a lot of hard work......

One of the best posts I've read on MMM.  Thank you.
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WhiteTrashCash

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #70 on: May 08, 2017, 03:38:06 PM »
a funny to me story:
one of the nicer foster homes i was in had nice home cooked meals, really great. but one of the common ways we had rice was this instant 'rice pilaf' so rice with little oblong bits of almond.
i refused to eat the almonds.
the foster family, not knowing why i was eating around these bits, was very confused. plain white rice: i ate normally. brown rice: also ate normally. just this one type of rice: i ate slowly after carefully sorting. this observation of my weird meticulous habit continued for about two months. finally, they broke down and asked me.
the almond bits reminded me of when i'd had to eat rice with larva in it bc in my birth family home we didn't have anything else in the house and couldn't afford to throw the rice away without eating it.

when i tell this story outside of foster care context, ppl do not understand that it was humorous. it's a lot of little weird habits that build up when you're poor and you don't realize how strange they are until you are exposed to something different. even then, it can be nearly impossible to break all of the habits, be they around eating or how you think of spending money.

Are we related? I have done something similar at mealtimes and for the same reason.

SEAKSR

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #71 on: May 08, 2017, 07:47:10 PM »
a funny to me story:
one of the nicer foster homes i was in had nice home cooked meals, really great. but one of the common ways we had rice was this instant 'rice pilaf' so rice with little oblong bits of almond.
i refused to eat the almonds.
the foster family, not knowing why i was eating around these bits, was very confused. plain white rice: i ate normally. brown rice: also ate normally. just this one type of rice: i ate slowly after carefully sorting. this observation of my weird meticulous habit continued for about two months. finally, they broke down and asked me.
the almond bits reminded me of when i'd had to eat rice with larva in it bc in my birth family home we didn't have anything else in the house and couldn't afford to throw the rice away without eating it.

when i tell this story outside of foster care context, ppl do not understand that it was humorous. it's a lot of little weird habits that build up when you're poor and you don't realize how strange they are until you are exposed to something different. even then, it can be nearly impossible to break all of the habits, be they around eating or how you think of spending money.

One of my oldest friends wrote a poem describing the exact feeling of being served bollwievlle (sp?) rice. And, I see how it's funny, but it might be that context isn't needed in my case.

One of my sisters graduated from college with her BA in Business yesterday. She did it all on her own, working full time and raising her daughter. She started out 18, pregnant and freshly dumped. She posted a picture of her old foodstamp card today, that she keeps so she will always remember where she started. I'm so proud of her, I don't know what else to say. She is the first college graduate in her biological family ever, and there was never any reason to believe she would amount to anything, certainly not her background.  But she did it. Determination is strong with that one.

westtoeast

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #72 on: May 09, 2017, 09:06:55 AM »
My current job (teacher at a school for students who have experienced trauma and will not attend other schools, or have been expelled) puts me in contact with extreme poverty daily.

It's lazy to say that people in this situation are there because of their choices. When their lives have literally affected their brain development (for the worse) it's a very haughty and slovenly attitude that families in extreme poverty could make more of their situation. Especially when drug, alcohol and generation violence are a part of the picture.

Commend for you A'spy, you get it fam.

This thread is great. I have a lot of thoughts on this. I also teach in a high poverty area and sometimes see "choices" that I don't understand, but the constant trauma of growing up in poverty actually harms brain development. Also, I don't think anyone on this thread mentioned scarcity mindset yet? It's the idea that when you are used to financial scarcity, used to constant financial stress, and haven't experienced the benefits of delayed gratification, your decision making changes. You are more likely to seek immediate gratification by spending because you don't know when you will have the extra money again. A few links...

http://www.npr.org/2014/01/02/259082836/how-scarcity-mentaly-affects-our-thinking-behavior

http://www.economist.com/news/books-and-arts/21584303-those-too-little-have-lot-their-mind-days-late-dollars-short

I do wish the professor mentioned in one of the original links would come on this site and post a case study! I have empathy for his situation (I'm the kid of a humanities academic so I know the challenges) but I also think there are lots of other directions he could explore before selling plasma!


hunniebun

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #73 on: May 09, 2017, 02:47:36 PM »
This thread is so interesting and has inspired me with so much gratitude.  My heart breaks for children growing up lacking in so many things that I think of as basic human rights. Food, shelter, personal safety, Love and affection.   I have never missed a meal in my life. I have never not had the love and support of family and extended family. I can't even begin to imagine how people navigate these circumstance. I am a university graduate, with RRSP, RESPs, savings accounts and the rest, and I still struggle to stay out of the red sometimes.   I think that it is so easy to judge people by their poor decisions, like is it the best idea to spend your diaper money on take out pizza, likely not. But the temptation to feel, if only for a moment that, that life is abundant and joyous and easy is trumps the abstract idea of 'the future'.  I know that feeling myself.  Stories like these are why I still donate to charity despite my lack of early retirement...

tyort1

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #74 on: May 09, 2017, 03:06:39 PM »
I think a lot of people that grew up middle class don't realize how much better off they are than the poor.  The middle class child (and young adult) see/have a clear path to being successful in our society.  To get off that path you have to screw up. 

So we see people screw up, become poor due to bad choices and then generalize that to all poor people.  Maybe not consciously, but subconsciously that's certainly in play. 

I know I felt that way for a long time.  I don't any more, because I see now, how much the deck is stacked against young people growing up in poverty.  They don't have an easy path to success like I did. 
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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #75 on: May 09, 2017, 03:28:16 PM »
I think a lot of people that grew up middle class don't realize how much better off they are than the poor.

+1. A moment for me was hearing a young, shiny middle-class woman declare herself "broke...I only have $15,000..." ?!?!!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?! It was almost insulting, her absolute lack of awareness in terms of the group of people she was saying this to. We'd all been eating out of dumpsters (not by choice), because we had literally zero dollars and no safe way of getting any on most days.

I recently heard an argument between a broke person and a wealthy one, in which the wealthy one tried to empathize with the broke one's homeless parenting saying "I know, I've had my challenges too..." Um. I don't think they're in the same dimension.

It's okay to not be able to know, sympathize, even empathize. Sometimes the best we can do is believe, accept, step up.

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #76 on: May 09, 2017, 03:45:07 PM »
I think a lot of people that grew up middle class don't realize how much better off they are than the poor.  The middle class child (and young adult) see/have a clear path to being successful in our society.  To get off that path you have to screw up. 

So we see people screw up, become poor due to bad choices and then generalize that to all poor people.  Maybe not consciously, but subconsciously that's certainly in play. 

I know I felt that way for a long time.  I don't any more, because I see now, how much the deck is stacked against young people growing up in poverty.  They don't have an easy path to success like I did.

Something I've been thinking about a lot lately is how easy it is to be poor if you're really middle class. Like me. I was raised to trust people in authority and to see minor bureaucrats as my social equals. Not to mention useful skills like grocery shopping from a list and menu planning and how to use a bank.

Those are skills that make it really easy to do things like apply for reduced lunch at my kids' school, apply for health benefits, come BACK to apply AGAIN after they turned me away the first time for being 15 minutes late, and serve my children fruits and vegetables on a low grocery budget.

Plus, if I ran out of money, I COULD just ask my mom. I mean, not my first choice, but the option is there in a real emergency. Hell, I have friends from college who've asked if I need money. There is a lot standing between my low-income self and actual destitution.

It takes a certain amount of time, energy, and organization to be an effective poor person, three things that are hard to come by in generational poverty.
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Axecleaver

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #77 on: May 09, 2017, 04:14:33 PM »
Great thread.

I grew up working class until I was nine. My father was killed in a motorcycle accident, and my mother spent the next 18 months in the hospital recovering from her injuries. She sustained brain injuries which prevent forming short-term memories - having a conversation with her, she will say the same thing about 20 times over the course of a meal.

My grandmother looked after my sister and I for that time, but when my Mom came home they fought terribly, and then we were on our own. On the day of my father's funeral, my grandfather told me, "You are the man of the house now." I had to grow up fast, and managed our house budget from age ten, doing the grocery shopping, paying the bills, budgeting. We survived on food stamps (SNAP today), SSDI payments, a small life insurance policy, government cheese, and the kindness of churches and community groups (we got some good prices at a co-op in exchange for cleaning the facility, which my six year old sister, crippled mother, and I did every week).

I was fortunate in that I had all the training I needed for success by the time I was nine. My Dad was an entrepreneur and worked incessantly, showing me the value and joy of hard work by example. In addition to his full time job as a tractor mechanic, he hunted and trapped, selling the furs; raised 30 hives of honeybees, selling up to a ton of honey per year; and grew marijuana in the bee fields, selling to his friends. He taught me to read when I was four, and bestowed a lifetime love of learning and curiosity.

I benefited from the social safety net. Without that, I am not sure how I would have fed my family. I still suffer from the scarcity mindset; no amount of savings is ever going to be "enough." I have a hard time releasing things, because I remember when the simplest things meant so much to me. And I benefited from a really progressive public school system with a gifted education program that exposed me to a semester's worth of college credits by the time I graduated, allowing me to work full time and graduate in three and a half years.

Burning in the crucible of poverty has given me things that my middle class peers can't get. I take wild career risks that sometimes pay off. I'm not afraid of failure, because I've been poor before. I learned persistence. Last year, my business made $540k in net profits. That would not have been possible with a traditional middle class upbringing.

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #78 on: May 09, 2017, 04:54:07 PM »
I have noticed when talking to friends and aquaintences that the more insecure their upbringing, the more  risk tolerant that are, and Axe I think I now understand a bit better why. Thank you for articulating what so many have difficulty conveying. I've tried to articulate a legitimate reason someone would say pursue dealing drugs, and the nothing to loose argument usually falls flat with most middle class folks.

I have so many friends who are genuinely good people who did NOT learn a useful trade or skill growing up, who literally only learned how to steal, fill out forms, part out a kilo, and drive. Most can't cook, not don't or won't, but can't. Throw in a life of drug use/abuse, and the associated insecurity that goes along with those environments, and it's no wonder kids grow up assuming they will go to jail at some point in their lives.

All that said it's no wonder I didn't find orange is the new black very funny.

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #79 on: May 09, 2017, 05:47:47 PM »
_____4. I know how to get someone out of jail.
Yeah I've always been curious about the mechanics of posting bail. If I want to release someone for say $5,000, how do I go about that? I've got money but I don't have $5,000 to be withdrawn from an ATM in the middle of the night. Can I request an emergency wire transfer, or what?

MayDay

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #80 on: May 09, 2017, 07:10:26 PM »

All that said it's no wonder I didn't find orange is the new black very funny.

I don't think it's supposed to be funny?
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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #81 on: May 09, 2017, 07:14:47 PM »
I have noticed when talking to friends and aquaintences that the more insecure their upbringing, the more  risk tolerant that are, and Axe I think I now understand a bit better why.

Interesting. I had a pretty chaotic childhood -- mom died when I was 5, dad drank a lot, we moved three or four times every year and I ate a lot of potato chips for dinner -- and I think that I am not super risk-tolerant when it comes to money. I have always had a day job or money in the bank to back any risk-taking. I just ... know what it looks like to be 50, 60, 70, 80, and 90 and be as poor as a church mouse and I really don't want that for myself. So, yes, I've taken some risks, but not that many. I crave calm in my life, including with finances. I like that steady paycheck coming in twice a month...
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shelivesthedream

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #82 on: May 10, 2017, 09:50:51 AM »
Yesterday morning, I spent two hours on the phone, stuck in a cycle of bureaucratic insanity related to a house move. The gist of it is that I need a visitors parking permit for the moving van to move us in, but I can't get a visitors parking permit unless I can prove my address, and I can't prove my address until after I've moved in... but I can't move in until I have the visitors parking permit for the moving van. In the end I gave up and decided the moving van could just get a damn parking ticket and I would just pay it for them. I came off the phone so profoundly grateful that:

1. I am literate enough to decode the epic webpage about how to navigate the visitor parking permit system.
2. I have enough free time to spend two hours on the phone.
3. I have enough money to have a phone plan that accommodate two extra hours of phone calls.
4. I think it's appropriate to ask administrators to go and find things out for me, and argue with them if their answer doesn't suit me.
5. I have enough money to think, "I'll just pay the damn parking ticket."

I can see how someone could feel totally overwhelmed and helpless in my situation. I mean, heck, I felt pretty overwhelmed even with all my advantages.

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #83 on: May 10, 2017, 10:27:21 AM »
See - that's one of those things that would drive me nuts - having to deal with city regulations. Thus I don't live in a city.

DW and I have both witnessed people around us being prosperous long enough that they have lost sight of what it means to be poor - and how this shapes their outlook and opinion on so many things. They are insulated. So easy to see how wealthy politicians can't truly relate to their constituency.

We don't want our kids to get too comfortable and assume that prosperity is automatic.

We've discussed with them how we've met our financial and career goals (now coasting) and how that's enabled us rehab our house and some of our things after 20 years of making the frugal choices. It was not like that for a long time.

Eldest is just entering the teenager job economy (job, license, car, drive thrus, dates). Last night his car started making a noise. Yeah - that's going to cost you. We can fix it but you still need to buy parts.

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #84 on: June 09, 2017, 09:44:44 PM »
I just caught up on the last few months of this thread.

Thank you to everyone who contributed!
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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #85 on: June 10, 2017, 12:21:49 AM »
Posting to follow. Lots of interesting stories here.
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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #86 on: June 10, 2017, 05:33:17 AM »
I was just thinking today about how grateful I am for the help I have received in my life that allowed me to escape from poverty. I'm grateful for the student loans from the government that allowed me to get an education and work certifications, the food assistance I had as a child (free school lunches, WIC, food stamps, etc.), the church food pantry and clothing drives, the Christmas gift-giving drives in my community, unemployment insurance, free trainings over the internet, etc. I know a lot of people out there think these types of assistance are wastes of money and create dependence for the poor, but at least in my case, they helped me survive and become a good productive, tax-paying citizen. I wish more people heard about the success stories that come from these programs.

jooniFLORisploo

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #87 on: June 10, 2017, 08:40:56 AM »
+1 to WTC's. (Except my receiving was adulthood.)

GrumpyPenguin

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #88 on: June 10, 2017, 12:00:20 PM »
Great thread!  I appreciate all the stories people have shared.

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #89 on: June 12, 2017, 05:17:57 AM »
As with all things in life, it's all relative. I imagine if you're living in Dubai, you're probably near poverty because your kids have to share an ipad. In the states the poverty level is just under $12000. I'm from South Africa, where the state pension is around $120 a month.

Many grandparents people raise their grandkids on that as the parents have either passed away or don't have incomes. It's really not easy. I travel a lot for work, to really poor countries like Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Malawi etc. They can't even fathom the fact that the South African government gives people money for nothing, let alone a fortune like $120 a month which is more than double the average monthly wage for the unskilled.

Even though i understand everything is relative, it hits me harder when I see old people struggling because they don't have the asset of time to help themselves. They're often poor and homeless and have been that way their entire lives.

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #90 on: June 12, 2017, 10:04:45 AM »
I was just thinking today about how grateful I am for the help I have received in my life that allowed me to escape from poverty. I'm grateful for the student loans from the government that allowed me to get an education and work certifications, the food assistance I had as a child (free school lunches, WIC, food stamps, etc.), the church food pantry and clothing drives, the Christmas gift-giving drives in my community, unemployment insurance, free trainings over the internet, etc. I know a lot of people out there think these types of assistance are wastes of money and create dependence for the poor, but at least in my case, they helped me survive and become a good productive, tax-paying citizen. I wish more people heard about the success stories that come from these programs.

I wish we heard more success stories, too, as well as more big Thank Yous to the citizens of the country who pay for these programs. Look, I kNOW there are many struggling families out there helped by social services. Unless you (the generic you) work directly withh them, you dont see it.

Instead, the dominent media message I hear is "we dont help people, the controbutions made by the taxpayers are miserly, you rich people are arrogent and mean (using the word 'mean' in both senses),  anyone who does not wish to pay more is an ogre" and etc.

Fortunately in my retired state I have a low income and couldnt be considered "rich"when the common measure is income.

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #91 on: June 12, 2017, 11:18:57 AM »
Heartbreaking stories but also very interesting and well written. Thanks for sharing!

One of the things we need to own as a society is what William McPherson, the author of the Falling article, called "the spell of magical thinking." A common theme in many stories involving middle- or even upper-class folks who've plunged into poverty is a sense that it was okay, even laudable, to pursue a dream or ideal without considering the financial consequences. It's not their fault for buying into this because mentors and people they trust are usually telling them this nonsense.

Of course it's not surprising that companies are all too eager to promote this through advertising. Makes me quite angry when universities, which profit from people going into massive debt to obtain degrees that likely have negative ROI, engage in this behavior.

jooniFLORisploo

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #92 on: June 12, 2017, 12:58:08 PM »
Quote
Unless you (the generic you) work directly withh them, you dont see it.

There are many, many more ways to hang with folks receiving services, and then you too get to hear the happy gratitudes :)      I hear some cranky complainypants, for sure, and I have no patience for them, but mostly I hear incredible gratefulness, even for $10 here or a bowl of soup there.

I don't fret about the "taxpaying" part. I pay taxes and am happy to, and see it only as a redistribution of an extreme imbalance. i.e., Taxes schmaxes, what's ridiculous is some people being paid $150k and others being paid $20k for essential services. I like where social service programs smooths that imbalance out a teeny tiny bit (because that's better than not smoothing it out one iota).

WhiteTrashCash

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #93 on: June 12, 2017, 02:57:58 PM »
As with all things in life, it's all relative. I imagine if you're living in Dubai, you're probably near poverty because your kids have to share an ipad. In the states the poverty level is just under $12000. I'm from South Africa, where the state pension is around $120 a month.

Many grandparents people raise their grandkids on that as the parents have either passed away or don't have incomes. It's really not easy. I travel a lot for work, to really poor countries like Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Malawi etc. They can't even fathom the fact that the South African government gives people money for nothing, let alone a fortune like $120 a month which is more than double the average monthly wage for the unskilled.

Even though i understand everything is relative, it hits me harder when I see old people struggling because they don't have the asset of time to help themselves. They're often poor and homeless and have been that way their entire lives.

My mother used to tell me when I was child that we weren't really poor because poor people have distended bellies from malnutrition and flies on their face. That never really seemed accurate to me when my stomach was rumbling. Like most poor people, she was just ashamed of what we were, because American society says that poor people are immoral and deserve every bit of suffering that they get.

I suppose there will always be people who say the poor actually have it easy, because poverty is frightening and a lot of people worry that they will catch it like a disease. It's probably comforting to be able to rationalize it as a character flaw, because then you don't have to have bad feelings about encountering it. If people are really just whiny and lazy when they are cold and hungry, then you don't have to feel bad about not wanting to help them do better.

madgeylou

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #94 on: June 12, 2017, 05:19:09 PM »
Like WTC and dear Jooni, I am also super grateful for all the help my family and I received when I was a kid, and as an adult, too.

- Food stamps / WIC
- Social Security payments after my mom died
- Lunches and financial assistance at school
- Pell grants
- Student loans

And more than anything else, I am grateful for public education in this country. Without the attention and support and vision I received from my many teachers over the years, I have no idea where I'd be now.
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ariapluscat

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #95 on: June 13, 2017, 12:35:54 PM »
Like WTC and dear Jooni, I am also super grateful for all the help my family and I received when I was a kid, and as an adult, too.

- Food stamps / WIC
- Social Security payments after my mom died
- Lunches and financial assistance at school
- Pell grants
- Student loans

And more than anything else, I am grateful for public education in this country. Without the attention and support and vision I received from my many teachers over the years, I have no idea where I'd be now.

this^. plus i acknowledge that the school assistance i got was multiplied by being in a nicer area, even if that eventually was super tenuous. i think the other stories that are helpful are about how (presumably) well intended people can shame kids on assistance. i assume the (middle class) school officials were thinking, 'this kid must be forgetting to tell their parents. if we stamp them, then the parents will see for sure!' not anything malicious. but that intent can still cause bullying and make it hard for the kids to focus and learn.

http://www.today.com/food/school-stamped-kids-lunch-money-when-account-was-low-t110073

i was on assisted school lunches. i'd scrimp the portion my mom gave me so that once a week i could buy an item that wasn't covered by the assistance program. that way other kids would sometimes see me eating a 'fancy' food, trying to signal that i wasn't poor and shouldn't be bullied. kids are super smart and poor kids have an eye for what can make it hard for them to learn or get by because of their meaner peers.

marielle

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #96 on: June 13, 2017, 01:05:31 PM »
I don't ever remember being going hungry but definitely lived in some weird situations... I was born in Ukraine and moved here because my mom married an American. I was 6. I barely remember Ukraine but it was far from glamorous. I think we had break-ins and such pretty often.

He turned out to be abusive and we ended up living in a women's shelter for a bit, then back with him again when he was apologetic (no idea why!?!). Eventually got out and lived in a facility for brain injury rehabilitation, but before it was actually open to patients. I'm not really sure of the details of how we were able to live there. I know we hitch-hiked a lot which people would probably think is crazy nowadays. Sometimes in tractor trailers which was really cool as a kid! I don't really remember if we were getting benefits during this time, we were only greencard holders so maybe not even eligible? I do remember free school lunches.

She ended up online dating again and remarried when I was about 9, but I was still the only one living in a trailer/mobile home in school so it was a bit different even if we weren't actually poor anymore. We had cows, chickens, and geese which was a bit different from the norm even though everyone lived in a pretty rural area. People thought I lived on a farm if I mentioned it...nope we just had some cows.

It was strange getting to college and meeting people who grew up rich or in really nice houses. I don't think I met a single person who had cows growing up. I particularly was jealous of how everyone seemed to get to go on cool vacations, disney world, cruises, etc. This seemed like an uber rich person thing, or maybe just a city/suburb thing since I grew up in a rural area. In my experience, people in rural areas aren't interested in vacations like that and might go to the mountains in the same state, but that's about it.

I didn't know what a garbage disposal was until college and never used a dishwasher until my first college apartment. It was weird living in a MUCH nicer place in college than I ever have my whole life. And that's with renting one of the cheaper apartments in the area!

It still blows my mind how I'm able to take vacations pretty much anywhere I want now.

ariapluscat

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #97 on: June 13, 2017, 02:29:01 PM »
my other poor friends from college had a similar experience to marielle, mainly around having to move around a lot and dodging abusive people.

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #98 on: June 13, 2017, 02:42:24 PM »
As people have already alluded to in this thread, knowing basic middle class skills, viewing bureaucracies as filled with social equals who you can argue with (their job is to help you out, why aren't they helping you?!), and understanding how to talk to people within that kind of mindset in general is an incredible leg up. I grew up very comfortable with authority, taking it for granted that my priorities deserved the time, attention, and good behavior of people in various roles around me. While I was never an extravert, I understood the social element of the game being played and the rules for playing it. That skillset gave me the ability to do everything from explain to a teacher why I should be forgiven for missing an assignment, to demand doctors pay attention to my symptoms, to present myself as as a professional in job app situations. I once spent 3 hours on the phone arguing that a community college class should count for my graduation, which saved me thousands and thousands of dollars. That's an incredible hourly ROI for knowing how to insist politely and feel entitled.

A very hardworking friend of mine has gotten turned down after interviews in the past despite her excellent skillset just because she didn't understand the unspoken conventions for interviewing. She's working on it and improving, and I have a lot of hope for her, but it opened my eyes to how much that unspoken understanding had benefited me. Of course you don't tell interviewers the real problems with your last job in a way that reflects badly on your previous employer! But when I think about it, no one ever sat me down and told me that, and I never had to put effort into learning it. Everyone CAN work to learn these skills, but it's sure easier to never consciously have to.
« Last Edit: June 13, 2017, 02:45:13 PM by freshstash »

Chippewa

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Stories from the poor
« Reply #99 on: June 13, 2017, 04:28:04 PM »
We moved constantly when I was growing up. Decent houses as I remember. But it sucked losing good friends and needing to make friends all the time. My mom went through two divorces before I entered junior high. With abusive men. (Listen to Suze Orman when she says a woman should have her own money to allow oneself to leave a relationship if needed).

We ended up in HUD housing. Fortunately it was a new place. But the area was really sketchy (drugs/gangs prominent). Walked 3-miles per day to/from school (bus limit was 2-mile radius). We had food stamps and WIC. We ate breakfast a lot. I realize now it was because money was scarce. Now its my favorite meal.  Aside from the area I didn't feel poor in regards to shelter, clothing or food. I always had.

Then I ended up in group homes/foster homes until graduation. That sucked. But clothing and Christmas gifts were provided by social services.

Somewhere I must have felt worried we were going to lose it all, because I can be a minor hoarder when it comes to food and I always have a ton of blankets if anyone needs one to stay warm.

I just read an article that only 3% of kids in the foster care system graduate from college. Happy to say I am part of that percentage. So yay to federal aid and SLs being available.
« Last Edit: June 13, 2017, 04:39:08 PM by Chippewa »
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