From $70K to food bank, one family’s struggle

Posted by Kendall Harmon

When she was laid off in February, Patricia Guerrero was making $70,000 a year. Weeks later, with bills piling up and in need of food for her family, this middle-class mother did something she never thought she would do: She went to a food bank.

It was Good Friday, and a woman helping her offered to pay her utility bill.

"It brought tears to my eyes, and I sat there and I cried. I was like, 'This is really where I'm at?' " she told CNN. "I go 'no way;' [but] this is true. This is reality. This is the stuff you see on TV. It was hard. It was very hard."

Guerrero is estranged from her husband and raising her two young children. She's already burned through her savings to help make ends meet, and is drawing unemployment checks. She has had to take extreme measures to pay for her interest-only mortgage of $2,500 a month. In fact, her mother moved in with her to help pay the bills.

Guerrero even applied for food stamps, but was denied.

Read it all.


Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomy

7 Comments
Posted March 28, 2008 at 4:13 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. Katherine wrote:

Very sad story.  However, she would have benefited from some basic financial planning advice.  Having six months of living expenses in a bank account in cash before going into a mortgage would leave her in a stronger position.  The $2500 interest-only (!!) mortgage is 43% of her gross income before she was laid off, way too much.  The rule of thumb used to be 25% PITI (or rent).  Granted, she’d still have trouble without a job, but she could have managed better if she weren’t cash-poor and overextended.

March 28, 8:08 am | [comment link]
2. Allan Bourdius wrote:

To add to Katherine’s comment (1) above, it’s also somewhat ironic that Ms. Gurrero previously was employed as a loan processor!!!  In other words, she really should have known better on that mortgage.

One other item from the article that makes me suspicious that they’re not telling the whole story is the subject of her “estranged” husband.  What I’m curious about is whether or not she and her children are receiving any support from the husband.  If they weren’t I’d expect the story to pump up the whole “deadbeat dad” angle too.

March 28, 8:15 am | [comment link]
3. Knapsack wrote:

The deal on food stamps is that she’s gotta sell that house, because whatever the value is on a 2.5K int-only, it busts the formula.  Estranged dude or not (and if they’re informally separated, his income has to be counted, even if she hasn’t seen him for months).  We get people in the system here in central Ohio who don’t understand how they make “too little” to be helped with rent/utilities, but every agency and group that works with housing issues knows that if you’re making $800 a month and your rent/mortgage is $1000 a month, our money just makes the landlord happy, but you’ll still be out of luck 30 days later, and harder to help.  Now, we can help you find more affordable housing, but folks tend to walk out saying “you can’t tell me to leave the only home my babies have ever known,” and we don’t see them again until they come to us from emergency shelter programs.

That’s where church-based food banks are good, but they work best when faith groups use the food assistance as a gentle prod towards sitting down with a financial/budget counselor and getting real.  The very best match people coming in with trained mentors who keep in touch and offer guidance over time, which can also lead towards a faith commitment as their head clears.  If you just hand out sacks of groceries, though, you’re putting band-aids on major lacerations.

March 28, 12:43 pm | [comment link]
4. Clueless wrote:

Agree with number 3.  Bin there and done that.  Sold a home I bought for 325,000, for 275,000, (bringing 25,000 to the table) and lived in a tiny apartment with two kids a dog and a cat for 2 years.  Worked 3 jobs, saved up and got another significantly cheaper house that is now paid off.

It does require major lifestyle changes for the entire family, however.

March 28, 1:16 pm | [comment link]
5. John Wilkins wrote:

She made some bad choices.  And actions have consequences.  Fortunately, we wouldn’t stop there, and offer some empathy, support and encouragement.  I do hope one doesn’t need to be perfect in order to survive. 

We don’t live to work: we work to live.  And it is the Sabbath where we place the “cathedral of the soul.”  It would be best to have an economy where people could work, spend time with the family, and feel that the future is getting better.  It’s possible.

March 28, 1:47 pm | [comment link]
6. libraryjim wrote:

I’ve survived in a borrowed home (in return for repairs), in a mobile home (twice!) and in two houses we bought, one in a previous town and the other where we currently live.  We lived in an apartment before we sold the former house in order to have a good cash downpayment to bring down any mortgage payments on the new one. 

At one time we had to go on the WIC program, we never had to resort to food stamps.  We have known hardships and hard times, but it seems that God always provided in some way a job for us, even if it were part-time, that we could manage to live on.

One need not live in a mansion to have a home.  Our current home is 1640 sqft, three bedroom, and while I wish there were more storage space and closet room, it keeps the rain out the same as a 16,000 sqft home would.  My sister and her husband have an even smaller home down south, and they managed just fine, as well.

we happy.  grin

The problem is that people today think that they need MORE—more space, more square footage, more stuff to put in it, more cars, more everything—in order to be happy.  That’s simply not true.

Peace
Jim Elliott <><

March 28, 4:51 pm | [comment link]
7. libraryjim wrote:

Oh, and I’m still not even half-way to earning $70K a year.

JE

March 28, 4:52 pm | [comment link]
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