Faces of Poverty
4 months ago
Two women living below the poverty line share their stories
By Thomas Pearson
Brenda has spent most of her life living in Hattiesburg, working full-time and raising four daughters, mostly on her own. At 51 she now faces, for the first time in her life, the scary reality of unemployment and poverty.
Six months ago she lost her job as a home caretaker due to legal problems stemming from her identity being stolen. After living in various apartments, shelters and even her car during the hot Mississippi summer, she was befriended by Jessie, a man who is now her boyfriend, and is now living with him in his one bedroom apartment.
"This is a temporary thing," she says, "but we make the best for now and I'm just grateful to have a place for us to stay."
Brenda and Jessie live on about $100 a week—money she makes from braiding hair and government assistance. They also receive support from a local food pantry once a month. Brenda says she is grateful, but confused that she cannot find work.
"It's hard to find a job. I'm willing and able and I have been working all my life, but I usually get passed over for someone younger," she says. "I feel like it’s partially my fault in some ways, because I lost my job and I don't feel like there’s an excuse for that, but at the same time I feel like people don't care. I just want to work and provide stability for my family, and I don't understand why I can't get that opportunity. I'm supposed to be settling down at this point in my life and I have nothing and it really scares me."
To make matters worse, Brenda's daughter is nine months pregnant.
"I'm not ready, it's really scary. This baby is coming and we're going to be okay, but this isn't how it's supposed to be," she says.
Brenda would like to braid her way out of poverty, and relies on her faith to keep pushing toward that goal.
"I've been braiding my whole life, my grandmother taught me when I was a little girl and I think that it is a gift that I'm just now understanding," she says.