2010 - 2011
After I graduated from college in December 2009, I lived with my mother and had major difficulties finding work (this is when the recession started hitting pretty hard). My mother kicked me out of her house in April. I spent a few nights out on the street, but finally got a hold of some friends who agreed to let me sleep on their couch until I found work. At the time, I was struggling with major depression and suicidal thoughts. One of my friends got me in to see a counselor. The counselor was really encouraging and gave me lots of information to help get back on my feet, and demanded that I go apply for food stamps.
The process was pretty confusing and difficult. There wasn’t much information online, except for where to go to get the application. I went (to the Department of Social Services) and waited in line for 30 minutes to get the application and then found out that I had to travel 20 minutes away to another town in the county to actually apply for food stamps. The application was quite lengthy and confusing. When I went to the facility to turn in my application, I had to wait for another 30 minutes until my name was called. An older gentleman was my case worker and very kind. He walked me through the process and since I was essentially homeless with no income, he issued me a card right away (which became active at 3 AM the next day – and yes, I stayed up to go grocery shopping as soon as it was active).
Food stamps did improve my standard of living, mainly because before I had them I was going days without a decent meal… but it didn’t mean I was buying tons of groceries and cooking lavish meals. I still had to watch my budget and clip coupons.
After about a month of getting food stamps, I found a part-time retail job and they reduced my food stamp benefits greatly. I was working 20-30 hours per week. Luckily, minimum wage and the food stamp benefits I was receiving were just enough to get by. The other bills I was paying were rent, electricity, and water.
I remained on food stamps for about 6 months total. I’m really grateful that programs like this do exist; otherwise I’m not sure if I would’ve gotten back on my feet. It’s been over 2 years since my mother kicked me out and for the last year I’ve now got a stable/salaried job with benefits.