I feel like I’ve fallen into the poverty trap and I don’t see a way out any time soon….

Here’s how the math works:

I’ve managed to find the cheapest possible place to live on the East side of the Seattle area, where a typical one bedroom one bedroom hole costs $1,400 per month. I found a lady who was originally going to rent her upstairs haven for a bed and breakfast couple on their honeymoon.....somehow she agreed to rent her place to me and my son. She originally wasn’t going to accept any kids. I asked her, “what changed your mind?” She replied incredulously, “I don’t know. I’m not religious, but I do believe things happen for a reason…” So there you have it. It is one GIGANTIC step towards crawling out of poverty. Rent will be $1,000 per month including utilities!!! (yes, I’m VERY excited about that!!!!!)

But here’s the problem. I’m a college educated woman with a LOT of skills. I could easily walk into a job making $15.00 an hour in the Seattle area…this seems like a lot does it not? Well let’s break it down. Let’s assume for a minute that I would work full-time at $15.00 an hour. I would no longer qualify for ANY government assistance. This is what it would then look like for me:

My gross annual salary would be $31,200, Net after taxes around 28,080. Divide that by 12 months in a year and you get $2,340. Ok, I guess we all my child support to this which is $100.00 per month.

Ok so 2,440 per month including child support….

Since all government benefits would go away with the exception of my child’s healthcare, (not mine)…this is what it looks like:

$1000 – Rent and utilities

$545 – Childcare (before and after school for my son)

$500 – Car (I do not have a car payment, so this is gas, insurance, and maintenance since I have an 11 year old vehicle).

Wait a minute! FUCK! You mean I work my ASS off 8 hours a day, and just the physical act of getting to and from work and having my kid in daycare and I’ve already spent $2045??? After all of that it means that I have $395 dollars a month left for food, a phone of some kind, clothes for my kid as he grows….not even starting to discuss any luxuries, like Netflix, or a gym membership, or healthcare for myself!!!!

Based on what my case manager told me I would need to make in order to live comfortably in this part of the country, I would need to make $25.00 an hour working full-time…and I only have ONE KID!!!!

This sort of existence is bleak at best, and life shortening at worst. I am one of the lucky ones. It feels funny saying that but it’s so true. I managed to get enough community resources to sustain me through my recovery and integration back into society after a difficult separation, escape from an abusive husband, and the aftermath of a post-break-up rebound gone wrong into sexual assault and stalking. I managed to get the help I needed to manage and deal with my depression, and PTSD, and learn how to cope with the loss of my husband (and my son’s father,) to be able to withstand the constant abuse (that we are still dealing with)….

And above and beyond all of this, I had the chance to return home, where I actually have more support and where I’m happiest…And I didn’t. You know why? Because despite the abusive jerk he can be, I still respect my son’s father and his role in my son’s life, and I still believe that even if he only sees him a couple of days out of every month, at least he sees him, and at least my son knows he’s there. We live in one of the most expensive parts of the country, and I’m thankful that somehow I’ve managed to live where my son can get the very best possible public school education honestly in probably the whole nation, and where his prospects for many great Universities will be of great benefit in the future….but to tell you the truth, it is NOT EASY! Every part of me wanted to move home where I have best friends who are like sisters to me. And just as quickly as the opportunities opened up to me, I shut the door on them, because I have a vision for my son and for myself. I KNOW that if I move my son back to gang-infested New Mexico he WILL get caught up into trouble. Maybe not for several years, but trouble will find him.

Despite what everyone tells me (and I do mean everyone) I have thought that a little boy needs his dad….After this weekend I’m not so sure. My son has always said he doesn’t want to see dad, but he’s gotten more and more vocal about it. This weekend he literally yelled at me saying, “I don’t want to see dad! I don’t like him!!!!!” I said, “Why don’t you like him!” He said, “Because he’s always mean to me and he always smacks me! And I don’t like it! And I don’t want to see him ever again!!!!”

Well it doesn’t get much clearer than that!

So I called my son’s father and told him what his son said. I asked him if he has been smacking him. He admitted to me of one time (which I already knew about) but swore that it was the “only time.” I tried to discuss the situation further and my son’s father got VERY defensive and said, “I don’t want to discuss this further. Bring him when HE wants to see me. I don’t want to talk about this anymore and I’m not in the mood to hear anything more that you have to say….”

If he had heard me out I was going to offer some insight that might have been helpful, but he shut me down before I could even speak. So I just said, “Ok, we’ll talk later then.” Then 2 minutes later he texts me with, “Sorry but I don’t want to have problems with you or him. I don’t feel good and I don’t want any trouble.” To which I replied, “Ok, get well and we’ll talk when you want to. That was yesterday afternoon and I haven’t heard from him since.

I’ve decided that I’m not staying here FOR his dad anymore. I’m staying here for myself and my son. My son goes to a great school, and I myself am in school. Maybe possibly with more education I’ll eventually crawl out of poverty. But honestly, for right now, the way I honestly feel is that breaking my back working my ass off is of no help to my son who needs me in the afternoons/evenings to spend time with him. I don’t have friends and family to help me. My mother is severely mentally ill and not competent to care for my son by herself except for cases of emergency. And my son’s father lives 20 miles away, has no care, and wouldn’t come help me even if I asked him to. So I’m going to finish school. In the mean-time I’m going to purposefully stay below the Federal Poverty Level….so that I don’t have to make AS much money. This will allow me to at least have the emotional energy I need to care for my son. I am in the last 2 months of my crime victim funding and I am honestly scared for what is to come in the new year. The safety net of my housing no longer being paid is really scary. It means I have to stand on my own two feet and make it somehow balancing between making just enough but not too much money to lose my benefits so that my son has at least one healthy parent. So I’m in the poverty trap….and I don’t know how to get out.

Views: 256

Comment by _Robert_ on October 12, 2015 at 8:06am

Your salary is proportional to how much money your job generates for your employer. A cook can make maybe 50-100K for an owner, an engineer can generate millions for a company. I have done both...frankly the six figure engineering gig is easier then cooking in a busy kitchen. I'd look at salaries and demand and then pick a path out.

Comment by matt.clerke on October 12, 2015 at 6:12pm

Rent will be $1,000 per month including utilities!!! (yes, I’m VERY excited about that!!!!!)

You could buy a house near me in Adelaide, Australia for about that. Anyway that extra money should help you alot.

I could easily walk into a job making $15.00 an hour in the Seattle area…this seems like a lot does it not?

I would of thought a college education would get you more than that. What happened to the phone operator gig? No shame in using something like that to help you climb out of a tough situation.

work full-time at $15.00 an hour. I would no longer qualify for ANY government assistance.

This is genuinely shocking to me. In Australia, I was earning about AU$55k and was still considered poor (4 year bachelors degree: still "poor") and eligible for a little government assistance. On the other hand, most of our groceries cost at least twice as much as they do in the US, I've heard.

I guess we all my child support to this which is $100.00 per month.

I know this is going to be painful to hear but, don't get used to receiving this. Things may be different in the US but my mother got almost no child support because my father worked low paying jobs until he hurt his back and was able to claim welfare. Better to plan for the worst and accept what comes as a bonus.

Belle, it sounds like your son is in a good school. That alone is probably reason enough not to move away. I hope your son and his father can learn to get along. And I hope you get to a point where you feel comfortable with your finances.

Comment by Unseen on October 13, 2015 at 11:28am

Here in Portland, Oregon, the city has required new apartment constructions to have a certain percentage of units priced for low-income people. Doesn't Seattle do something like that? I guess you must already have looked into Section 42 or Section 8 housing. Mine is Section 42 and it got me a pretty low $775/mo apartment, which is a small 1-bed/1-bath. You might want to think about moving down here. 

Just five years ago, this would have been a $600/mo apartment without Section 42, so rents have gone up dramatically here in a short period of time. This is due to a) people who've heard how great Portland is moving here and b) the housing market not keeping up with the influx, resulting in a housing shortage. People who've lived in Portland their whole lives and people like me who have lived here decades are being forced out of the city in pursuit of more reasonable rents.

However, a unit like mine is subject to a certain amount of control. My rent went up $10 with my new lease and I can sustain small increases like that quite a while. Since the Mayor recently pledged to do something about the rent crisis—probably doing something to foster a build-up of apartment units to let the market respond to more supply—rents may start going down after a while. 

Comment by Belle Rose on October 13, 2015 at 2:24pm


Here in Portland, Oregon, the city has required new apartment constructions to have a certain percentage of units priced for low-income people. Doesn't Seattle do something like that?

I WISH!!!! No around here you can go through King County Housing Authority and find low income places to live, but ALL of them have waiting lists that are years long....Just to give you an idea, there's 2 VERY nice apartment complexes that are within my son's school district. their CHEAPEST one bedroom is going for $1,440 in one, and the other one actually had a special that it was going $1,296 which was a GREAT price considering they had not been under $1,300 for the past year (I've called every month to see if the prices have dropped and they haven't.) And the other issue is that you HAVE to make 3 times the monthly rent to qualify. I asked them, "What if I can show you I've been paying $1,100 and never missed a payment. There's NO WAY I've EVER going to make 3 times the rent, but look at my credit and my rental history, isn't that enough?" to which they said, "According to the Fair Housing Laws we can't make an exception for you!" To which I said, "Well then you're basically discriminating against low income people," which of course is an empty threat and they know it because "Low income" is not a protected class....So I have no real legal grounds to press them on further....

I guess you must already have looked into Section 42 or Section 8 housing.

Yes, every so often they have an opening for Section 8 housing and I always get on the list, but because there's SO MUCH demand they do it on a lottery system. So hundreds of thousands of people sign up, and they only take 2,500 people at a time...So the odds of me getting Section 8 EVER are very slim. I am going to put my name on the list for low income housing but again, the waiting list for ALL properties is several years. My son would probably be off the college by the time it comes our turn....I'm not holding my breath.

Mine is Section 42 and it got me a pretty low $775/mo apartment, which is a small 1-bed/1-bath. You might want to think about moving down here. 

Honestly, I am thinking about moving down there. I love the Portland area, the cost of living is lower, the public transportation is MUCH MUCH better, and I would still be close enough that my son could ride the train to see his dad on a fairly regular basis. I decided I'm going to finish out my degree program and then see where things are at, and possibly this summer make a move if I decide to move. If things work out living with this lady that would be ideal. It would mean my son can continue to go to the amazing school he does....but I do have to look at the long term reality that living in this part of the country is THE most expensive place possible. This is where all the Microsoft millionaires live. Not single mothers. I am the only single mother I know who is making it basically with no support. So if I have no one, then I might as well go where housing is humanely priced.

I realize this post is really pointless. Just more of my "woe is me" complaining. I really should stop focusing on how "hard" my life is and remember that so many people all over this globe have it much, much worse. At the end of the day, we have food and clean water to drink. And even if we lost the roof over our head it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world. Ironically if we became homeless I would get Section 8 MUCH easier. I've honestly pondered it. But I couldn't put my son through being homeless unless I honestly had no other choice. I'm just sort of ashamed at how totally dependent on the system I've become, and It's really scary thinking if we elect some Republican dumbass to be President, all semblance of security will probably be ripped away from me....

It's also maddening to see the reality that the "good schools" are all in rich neighborhoods like where I live, and the "bad schools" are all in poor neighborhoods....no matter where in the country you go....so if you're poor, your kid goes to a bad school unless you fight tooth and nail like I am, and that means you have to be comfortable with living with the fact that at any moment your house of cards could fall and it could be taken away in an instant....so it's like living day to day, wondering, "am I going to make it?" and every time the legislature has a session and is down to a possible shutdown, you brace yourself wondering, "what if I lose my food stamps?" Or "what if I lose my childcare? How am I going to explain it to my kid that we have to wait until next week to get ______?"

The statistics are clear that single mom's have the shittiest health. I have to believe that it's because everything gets dumped on our shoulders and there's no one there to help. Some single moms are lucky enough to have family or a support system. But for those who don't have that at all, it requires a different level of self-sufficiency that feels impossibly to achieve living in a "rich" neighborhood. Literally having to rub two pennies together every month to pay the rent, or worse - ask your kid's dad for money, which always comes with a consequence....

I'm just tired I guess....

Comment by Davis Goodman on October 13, 2015 at 2:56pm

I remember walking around the downtowns of Baltimore, Detroit and Newark thinking WTF? How can this many people (many clearly working all day) be this poor? I cannot imagine the never ending stress. If one fracaso happens in their lives...there will be next to know one to bail them out. A car crash...a major surgery...mass laying off of every family member...a frivolous but costly court case... It seemed that many people were on the edge of an unlikely but still very possible dive to the gutter.

When I read and hear the pugnacious lies that tea party but cases tell, that the government spend too much and that government assistance is all but single black moms on welfare...I ask myself...how many of them are a calamity away from rock bottom?

When a presidential candidate starts saying this...it becomes grotesque.

I'm very sorry Belle that you are struggling. I'm sure you'll be resourceful and hard working and find a way to climb upwards.

Comment by Belle Rose on October 13, 2015 at 6:01pm
A different perspective...

Comment by _Robert_ on October 13, 2015 at 7:02pm

Belle, with your excellent writing/communication abilities, you could look into being trained as bilingual advertising copy writer (avg $49,000/yr) or technical writing (avg $65,000/yr) or something like that. I have worked with high paid tech writers that can barely put a sentence together. The job market is focused on specialists these days.

Comment by Belle Rose on October 13, 2015 at 7:04pm
@Robert where do I get my foot in the door on that?
Comment by _Robert_ on October 13, 2015 at 8:39pm

Belle, check out this on-line course list, I would bet you would kill it..... and probably even enjoy it too !


It took me 7 years to get my engineering degree. I lived in a drugged out  'hood and actually... it was sorta encouraging me to keep going as I saw the people I knew get busted or OD'd or killed in various ways. I was worried about an electronics quiz and they were worried about raising bail money.

Comment by Unseen on October 13, 2015 at 8:51pm

Here's why so many Americans are having a hard time making ends meet. Look at how little of their revenue the most successful companies allocate to labor:


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