Insiders: Living and Trying to Survive In Poverty

Insiders: Living and Trying to Survive In Poverty
Posted at 11:00 PM, Apr 16, 2015
and last updated 2017-12-13 05:25:12-05

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) --Thousands of people are living in poverty in north Florida and south Georgia. If you look at the latest U.S. Census Bureau numbers, in 2013, the population of Tallahassee was 186,411.

Between 2009 to 2013, 30.2 percent of the population was below the poverty level.

In that same time period, Valdosta was higher at 32.9 percent, with a population of 56,481 in 2013.

Many people are hungry. In this week's Insiders report, we take a look at the maximum amount an individual can get from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in Florida, a program that used be known as food stamps.

According to the Florida Department of Children and Families web site, the maximum amount one individual can receive for a month of food assistance is about $194.

If you divide it out by 30 days, it comes to roughly to $6.50 per day.

If you have to depend solely on that amount, can you get three meals out of it? I decided to take a shopping trip to Walmart to see what I could get.

Food is what we need to survive, but when you're living in poverty it can be just the tip of the iceberg.

You have to factor in medical bills, rent, and utilities. Often times, you're not just worrying where you're next meal will come from.

Hope Community resident Diana Banks says she lost her job, her home, and her truck. To make matters worse she was in an abusive relationship and her baby was born premature.

"He was coming out of the hospital and me and my daughter Isabella she was two and we didn't have anywhere to go, and so we got into hope at the last minute," said Banks. "He was getting out it was just a real blessing for us to get in here."

Diana Banks has been living at Hope Community for the last four months now. It's a Big Bend Homeless Coalition program that offers temporary housing and support for families to get them on their feet.

"They provide three meals a day, and if I didn't have diapers, they assisted me with that," said Banks.

"The problem is the folks that are not here, that are still living in their cars and still couch surfing," said Kim Galban-Countryman, the assistant director of the Big Bend Homeless Coalition. "How do they get fed? Well that's when the food pantries step in, and our partners at Second Harvest."

"We are receiving food stamps and cash assistance," said Banks. "It's not something I really want to do, but it's something we have to do at this time until we can get self-sufficient."

Even just one setback can send someone into homelessness.

Raven Marlett says she was scammed on Craig's List, trying to rent a home in Oregon.

She says she filled out a rental application and sent about $400 via Western Union.

She never saw that money again, and she was forced to live in her van with her children on and off for three months.

"We've even done something I hate doing," said Marlett. "We parked in the Walmart parking lot and asked for money for money from people."

One big concern is caring for her autistic daughter to get the resources she needs.

"Jessyka has high-functioning autism," said Marlett. "She needs to get into a program for therapy."

Though I was able to make three meals under $6.50, these women remind us that the struggle of poverty isn't just a lack of food.

 If you have a story idea for the Insiders, send us an email at "attention Insiders."

The Big Bend Homeless Coalition is having a fish fry to raise money for their programs. You can click here to learn more. 

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