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  • Mindy Utz

    I am a divorced mother who suffers from Bilateral Atypical Trigeminal Neuralgia (ATN, Bilateral Trigeminal Neuralgia (TN) aka "The Suicide Disease) - (worst known pain to mankind), Occipital Neuralgia (ON), and other diagnosis'. I am raising my 20 year old moderately autistic son alone. I have since he was only 20 months old. I finally had to give up working completely a few years ago after a Discectomy, Fusion, & Laminectomy on my lower lumbar spine as well as a radiation brain surgery (and discussing my second). I am only 43 years old. I am now 26 years into my illness. No cure for my son and no cure for myself. We live in poverty...not by choice. I began working at 15 and at times worked two jobs (even while pregnant). Our only crimes? We're disabled. That's it. We're not smoking, drinking, shooting up, selling crack, or practicing in the "lobster on the EBT card", "Drive an Escalade", etc. stereotypes. We are simply DISABLED.
    Because of our crime...above and beyond our SSI (which is not much), we were lucky enough to receive about $137/month on our EBT card. Please let me make it clear that I realize it is not someone elses responsibility to care for me, and it IS appreciated but I want to prove a point to those who constantly put down those on assistance. $137 x 12 months = $1,644 / 365 days a year = $4.50 / 2 adults = $2.25/day / 3 meals per day = $.75/meal. As I said...I am appreciative of even that, but just last week I received a notice that due to cost of living at the national level, our EBT balance beginning 01/01/2013 will now only be $93/month. Let's break that down too. $93 x 12 = $1,116 / 365 days per year = $3.057 / 2 adults = $1.528/day per person / 3 meals per day = $.509 per meal. My 20 year old son and I are expected to survive on $.60/meal beginning the first of the year. So for the next person who gripes about how "good" people on assistance have it...I challenge you to live on $.60/meal for one entire month. Then come back and tell us if you think we abuse the system. Thank you.

    • carme s.

      Goodness. God bless you and your son. I will pray for you and your son which is all I can offer. I'm so sorry for your situation. I am your age and single, no children and I complain about not having. Shame on me! Hang in there Ms. Mindy, somebody is praying for you. Thank you for posting.

  • Krystina

    Thank you, Liz! This highlights what so many experience, but so few outside of the situation seem to understand. It *isn't* just about food, it's about structural issues, and an institutionalized attitude of dog-eat-dog. There is so much that needs to be done, and it goes so far beyond just making sure people have full bellies.

  • Nicolette Pizzitola

    Thank you for a thoughtful perspective and poignant reminder of - "...just how much that child had to overcome to simply get to school every day."

  • Anthony Ware

    Dig this article Liz. The best part is your real world experience vs. stats from some report. People can knock Corey Booker. At least he's trying to do more than just throw money at the issue by living in the conditions faced by millions of people. I wonder how many organizations and leaders are looking to the people actually living in poverty for solutions. Do you know of any? I think the people living in poverty are the ones with the best solutions even if it is a step-wise approach. Just a thought.

    • carme s.

      It's not hard to figure out who the hardest working mayor in America is! I don't even live in New Jersey and admire what he is doing for that state. Anyway, I agree with your next to last sentence. You're right on!

  • Hannah Wasserman

    This is a great piece. Thanks, Liz! Have you seen any efforts that have been effective in moving the needle in terms of the collective will to end poverty? I feel like there are wild misperceptions when it comes to poverty in America.