Charles’ Story
“I never imagined I’d get to this age and this would be my life... but if I could get $40 or $50 in food stamps, I could feed myself.”

Charles, Louisiana

My whole family was truck drivers, so it was in the blood for me to be a truck driver. I hauled government jeeps and guns all over the country. I just loved my job – going to different states and Canada.  I had a stroke nine years ago, at 62, and it shut all that down. I wasn’t about ready to retire, but the stroke kept me from working. I’m wheelchair-bound now.

I never imagined I’d get to this age and this would be my life. Living on low income you learn how to stretch your money. It was hard at first because before the stroke, things were good. My family used to go out to eat, to ball games and just had fun – invite people over for a fish fry. But now, life’s a struggle. My only income is $1200 a month from Disability. I live in low-income senior housing and get Medicare, but after the monthly bills, I can’t cover everything else I need.

I can only really afford to go to one doctor appointment a month, but that just ain’t enough.  I try to have more money to spend on the doctor by putting more blankets on the bed at night instead of using the heat, but I still don’t save enough for all the appointments I need to treat my diabetes and a heart condition. It makes me feel terrible that I can’t afford to take care of my health. After my medical, I’m only left with about $160, plus $17 in food stamps, to spend a month on food. I used to eat grits, eggs, steaks and stuff like that, but since the stroke, I don’t buy what I want to eat, but what I can afford to eat – mostly beans and lunchmeat, or something to make a sandwich with. I’m supposed to be on a special diabetes diet, but I just can’t afford to buy that food. There are times towards the end of the month when all I can afford to eat for days at a time is bread and milk. I don’t like it, but milk and bread kills the hunger a bit. When you’re hungry and your stomach’s growling, I tell yah, it really don’t feel good. Getting the commodities once a month from the food pantry helps, but if I could get $40 or $50 in food stamps, I could feed myself.

Where I live, we are low-income people and we don’t have money to buy everything we need, so we share. Sometimes the girls over in the other quarter cook turkey neck bone, or something like that, and they bring it over here. I’ve realized that’s how we’re surviving, by sharing.

My wife is dead and kids are adults now. They’re struggling too. What really hurts me is when my daughter calls and asks for $25-$30 to get her hair cut and I says “baby if I had it, I’d give it to you.” She’s in college and I don’t’ have nothing to give her right now and that’s the hardest thing for me.