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Surviving Below the Poverty Line

Have you ever experienced living in poverty? If not, have you ever taken a deep dive into finding out what it's like living in poverty or needing to rely on government programs? Let's explore the budget of a person living on Supplemental Security Income(SSI) as their sole income. The following is an example of what many of Agape Center Lynchburg's clients are dealing with. Let's say you injured your back several years ago and you lost your job because you could no longer stand on your feet for hours at a time or lift moderately heavy items any more. It took two years of numerous medical appointments and tests, dozens and dozens of phone calls, and multiple appointments with social services, but you finally were deemed qualified for SSI. Fantastic, right? Not necessarily. Let's break it down.

Generally, disability payments are around $900 a month for an individual on full disability, and let's say you're living alone in Section 8, or government subsidized housing. The portion of monthly rent that you are responsible for is 30% of your disability income, or $300 for a small one room apartment. Now figure in utility payments: electricity = $125; water & trash = $65; and phone bill = $45. You don't have a washer & dryer, so you must spend another $20 each month on laundry. At least $100 will be spent on food, but that won't be enough with today's grocery prices. This leaves $245 for all other necessities including toiletries & hygiene items ($35), clothing ($25), and transportation ($100). Now there's only $85 to last the entire month, which leaves no room for incidentals or sudden expenses like car repairs or uncovered medication or healthcare.

Not all persons living with a disability qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), often referred to by the older term, "food stamps". Even if they do, there are a lot of items that do not qualify to be purchased this way. It is a fallacy that SNAP benefits can be used for purchasing hygiene items, pet foods, cleaning products, beer/wine/tobacco products, etc. On top of this, many of our clients' SNAP benefits are only $23 per month now that the pandemic emergency increase has been taken away. No one's diet can subsist on that alone!

This is where Agape Center Lynchburg thrives. Community outreach programs, like Agape, fill the gap. Clients can obtain food and other items here that will free up what little cash they have left for other bills and needed items they can't get anywhere else. Did you know that each month Agape can provide an individual client with the amount and variety of food similar to what's in the pics below for a fraction of what it would cost the client to purchase in a grocery store? That's a lot of food!

Additionally, mentors and volunteers at Agape assist the clients in prioritizing items by what they can save. For example, selecting laundry detergent as one of their items at Agape can save them more money than choosing a lesser expensive item like dish soap, which is fairly inexpensive at a store. Shopping for gently used free clothing at Agape saves money that would be spent buying new clothing at a department store or possibly used clothing at a thrift store. Agape also offers larger items such as appliances and furniture to our clients. This saves a lot of money that can be spent on other necessities! Relying on federally subsidized programs is not easy and it's difficult to get out of this cycle once it begins. If you are disabled and cannot work, you don't have a lot of choices, especially if you have no family to help. Please consider how you might assist Agape Center Lynchburg in helping our community. Click the 'Serve" button below to explore the many options of how you can volunteer with your time, your skills, or your resources. Monetary donations supporting our ministry can also be made by simply clicking the "Donate" button below. Thank you for joining Agape Center Lynchburg as we help give a hand up to members of our community who need it most.

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