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Myth: People in poverty are lazy and unmotivated. They want to live off the government.

On September 27, 2019, “Rebecca” walked into my office looking for help. She was struggling with homelessness, unemployment, had medical conditions, and limited family support. I sat down with her and started talking through an action plan. Rebecca said she was told to file for disability due to her medical condition by several people, but she did not want to depend on a Social Security check to provide for her and her son that could be terminated at any time. She was determined not to let her medical condition stop her from succeeding.

We started by paying for two months of rent ($1,000) to help her avoid eviction and then began training. She completed an online customer service certification program and re-enrolled into a four-year Business Administration program at Wayne Community College. We gave her a referral to Verizon Wireless, helped her write her resume and prepare for the interview. Rebecca had been hospitalized and lost a lot of weight due to her medical condition, so we worked together to find her interview ready clothes that helped her feel confident.

On October 9, 2019, Rebecca let us know she had an interview with Verizon Wireless for a Business Account Manager position. Two days later, Rebecca was offered the position, which came with a starting salary of $38,400. Rebecca said she will never forget the support she received from WAGES, but especially from her Case Manager who was more of a family support than a resource. - Story provided by WAGES, Inc.

Your paycheck comes in. You can either pay rent or buy food for your kids.

Your car breaks down. It’s your only way to work but you don’t have an extra $300 for the repair. If you’re lucky there will be public transportation, but if you live in any of the 80 rural counties in North Carolina, you won’t have that luck. So you’ll miss work. Without work you can’t make money and your car will never be fixed.

These are some of the issues that people living in poverty face. In fact, according to FRAC, "two-thirds of Americans will experience at least one year of relative poverty at some point between the ages of 25 and 60.” 66% of all Americans will experience situational poverty for at least a year. That year of poverty may be while you’re earning a higher degree, or after retirement, or after a death or job loss anywhere along the way, or because of a pandemic. Regardless of the situation that puts you there, the stress is the same. And your feelings are the same. You don’t want to be living in poverty, and you’ll do your best to get back to stability. It’s the same for everyone.

Living in poverty is incredibly stressful. No one wants to be poor, and they don’t choose to be poor. Rebecca went from living well to living in poverty within a matter of months. It would have been easier for Rebecca to file for disability and live off the government than to become self-sufficient, but she was determined to live independently. Thanks to WAGES, she accomplished her goals with just a few weeks of support from her case manager. Her story is not unusual. Life happens, and sometimes that life includes divorce, loss of a career, losing your home, and physical or mental illness, and hospitalization. People living in poverty do what they can to be self-sufficient, but they often need just a little help and support to get back on their feet.

Living off the government is not a choice, but a requirement to survive for many people in poverty. If they could, they would gladly get that better paying job that would allow them to provide for themselves. For millions of people, government aid is often needed to help prevent people from falling into poverty. An NPR article explains, “The 2018 supplemental poverty measure found that Social Security benefits kept more than 27 million people out of poverty last year and that refundable tax credits did the same for almost 8 million people. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, known as food stamps, also kept an estimated three million people from becoming poor.” The government invests money in poverty because of how many millions of people it impacts.

But maybe you’re still not convinced. Our friends in Mississippi developed this game based on the life of their clients. It’s a poverty simulation and a challenge. Can you make it through the month living in poverty? Try it

Want to Help People in Poverty?

  • Donate | We use your money to help run our programs, and provide training that helps organizations and individuals make their way to self-sufficiency. You can donate on our web page or find an agencies local to you.

  • Volunteer | We can’t do this alone. Join us! Find one of our agencies in your county and check out their website for volunteer opportunities.

  • Become a Member | Did you know you can become a Community Action Member? Membership provides discounted tickets to our various events, an inside look into our organization and more. Membership fees start at only $25 a year for an individual, or $300 for an agency.

  • Partner with Us | We are humbled by the many non-profit and for-profit organizations that partner with us to bring services, educations and events to North Carolina. If your organization is looking for a non-profit to partner with, please consider us. Email us at We would love to hear from you!

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