We never had enough food for all five children in our house and I don`t remember ever having an orange.
My earliest memories are of a drunken father beating my mother and then in turn my mother yelling at me that I was ugly and I had the ugliest disposition she ever saw. After my father was thrown out of the home, we experienced having no electricity and no heat in our house. I remember my mother`s humiliation when the social worker would look all through the house and ask embarrassing questions of her.
The other girls in my Parochial School class would make fun of my uniform. It was always too short and my shoes would need soles or my socks had holes in them. If we needed money for field trips I couldn`t go and I didn`t always have money to buy the class photos.
As a teenager in High School it was more of the same not enough money for anything but the thrift stores. I quit in the first year thinking I could find someone I could love and who would love me back and create a happy family.
At 16 years old I eloped with a twenty one year old red-headed factory worker who said he loved me. He worked about 6 months after we got married and then lost his job and couldn`t find another. We had a son but split up after two years of marriage.
I worked in plastic and rubber factories breathing contaminated air and earned minimum wage which was $1.50 an hour and less than the men there were earning. I couldn`t get credit or have utilities put on unless they were in my husband`s name.
I worked in bars waitressing for years earning very little and relying on tips. You had to put up with all kinds of sexual harassment if you expected any tips at all.
I was raped at least 12 times over the years, sometimes very violently and sometimes a little violently, always hearing it was my own fault because of the way I dressed or shouldn`t have been in bars to begin with. I have been arrested in after hours bars and then raped by the police who arrested me.
I have been beaten by husbands and boyfriends who didn`t like my attitude when sticking up for myself. I became homeless for months with 4 children when fleeing a battering situation.
I have been humiliated while trying to take care of my children by the welfare department who never gave enough money to live on. One month’s cash grant didn`t even cover the month`s rent and they would order you in for redeterminations every 3 months and want you to provide all the documentation you had already supplied to them many times.
I have gone to many churches and food pantries over the years even being turned away from some of them for whatever reasons they wanted even though I had been waiting in long lines for hours.
As an adult and caregiver I have been without electricity many times and have been without heat in the winter for periods of time.
I have been denied certain medical tests and dental work that I needed. I have been ordered in to the welfare department by the Medicaid Fraud Squad and they looked at every tooth in my mouth to prove I had work done because they suspected not me but my dentist of fraud.
I have managed to obtain a BA Degree and a Masters Degree and owe $30,000 in school loans so I am in hock to the state for the rest of my life. I worked for seven years for UMass in a part time position where they didn’t take taxes out so they didn’t contribute to my social security or health benefits.
I became disabled and old and couldn`t work enough to support myself. I applied for SSI where I receive $532.00 a month. There have been no cost of living increases for three years although the cost of everything has increased. I expect to live under the poverty line for the rest of my life.
Kitty Corey is a psuedonym for a low-income woman and dedicated activist.