Profile of a Single Mother
Counselor’s note: The client was reasonably well dressed and articulate. She was clearly anxious about having to ask for assistance, apparently never having had to reach out for help before.
Client narrative: I’m forty six years old, single, and have a seven year old son. I was married in my late teens and have two grown boys. My first husband left me several years ago and I remained single for a time before I met a partner who seemed like a good man. After one week of marriage, I realized I had made a horrible mistake. One night he was late returning home. I became worried and called his cell phone. When he returned home he pushed me into the bedroom, slammed the door leaving my young son outside, shoved me up against the wall and screamed into my face, ‘Don’t you ever do that again. Don’t you ever call to check on me. This did not bode well for our relationship. Thank God, I’m rid of him.”
More than anything I just need to talk to somebody today. I really need somebody to help me figure out what to do. I stayed in school and have a good job, earning $1800 a month. I’ve owned my own home for the past five years and have a $1000 monthly house payment. I have fairly large credit card debt from trying to cover living expenses. My home payments along with $200 in credit card payments and utility bills take most of the $1800 each month. With extra high utility bills this winter, I have really fallen behind and need help keeping my utilities connected. At the present rate things can only get worse. I have good credit and want to keep it that way. I don’t want to revert to food stamps. There are lots of people who need that kind of help much more than me. I’m planning to refinance my home to make the payments more manageable and am looking at ways to get a better handle on the credit card payments, maybe get a loan and consolidate them.”
Counselor’s note: We were able to help the client with her utilities and she was considerably relieved. She was very grateful for what we did for her. To my shock she gave me a big hug before she left. That doesn’t often happen.
Struggling With Hard Times
A story from a Social Services Counselor:
The woman sitting in front of me was probably in her early sixty’s. It was obvious by her appearance she was a hard worker. Her hands showed significant wear like she did a lot of outside work, maybe she had a garden. She was dressed modestly and, in spite of her difficulties, had an air of confidence. She spoke well in presenting her situation, and I later learned she was an avid reader. She has never had to ask for help from St. Vincent de Paul or anyone else before. Somehow she and her partner always pulled the money together to cover emergencies. This time they were hit by multiple difficulties. Her boyfriend lost his construction job and was out of work for seven or eight months. She had to go in for serious surgery which kept her away from her job for several months. With all that it was difficult to make ends meet. And then her young daughter and her two year old had to move in. “It’s family, you know, so now we have two more mouths to feed. Her husband joined the Army and won’t receive regular pay until he finishes his basic training.”
“We rent a unit in a old farm house and the power can get crazy at times. Our landlord, bless him, has agreed to lower our rent to help out. It’s still not possible to come up with the money for the gas for cooking and heating.” I could see in her demeanor it was tough for her to be asking for our assistance.
Initially, I was afraid we wouldn’t be able to help. I planned to focus on the rent but only her boyfriend was listed on the rental agreement. Later I realized since both names were on the utilities, that is where we could help. During the interview you could see her desperation and several times she said she was afraid she might cry. Regardless, she kept a firm demeanor throughout our discussion. At the end she emphasized she couldn’t thank me enough. She ended by asking if she could donate some money to St. Vincent de Paul when they got back on their feet.