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Feb. 11, 2022

Bags Full of Money

Bags Full of Money

I'm living in New York City. It is 1984/ 85. I'm now the mother of two wonderful, beautiful little girls. But I'm struggling. I am struggling financially. I am struggling mentally. I am struggling emotionally.

I am struggling spiritually. I am struggling with my marriage. I am struggling in almost any way that a person could struggle. I am struggling in that way. I am also very much a part of the mental health system . . .

Now, every day, I was praying that I need to get out of New York City because knowing New York City as I did, I knew enough to know that we did not want to be poor in New York City . . .


Transcript

Let me tell you my story. I'm living in New York City. It is 1984/ 85. I'm now the mother of two wonderful, beautiful little girls. But I'm struggling. I am struggling financially. I am struggling mentally. I am struggling emotionally.

I am struggling spiritually. I am struggling with my marriage. I am struggling in almost any way that a person could struggle. I am struggling in that way. I am also very much a part of the mental health system.

I am all up in it. I am from time to time in and out of mental health hospitals, mental health clinics. I am in therapy and I am taking a whole goo gob, a whole goo gob of medication, some for the mental illnesses and some for the side effects of the medication, for the mental illnesses. If you get my drift.

I am on welfare in New York City now on welfare in during that time. You received a card, your benefits card and you took it when it was time to get your benefits, you took it to a check cashing place and they would dispense cash.

And so they read your card and they see how much cash they were supposed to give you. So they give you actual cash and then they would give you food stamps. Now the food stamps were just that. They were little pieces of paper that were about the size of a dollar bill.

They were very colorful. They looked almost like foreign money, and they were different denominations of these little stamps or coupons, you might say. And so you'd go to the check-cashing place and you get cash and you get food stamps.

And then, of course, Medicaid was tied up in there, so you had some medical benefits. Now, every day, I was praying that I need to get out of New York City because knowing New York City as I did, I knew enough to know that we did not want to be poor in New York City.

At least I didn't. I didn't want that for me, and I didn't want that for my daughters. So my prayer every day was Get us out of New York City. Show me away. Get me out of New York City.

Now, the truth is that I had family in North Carolina and in an emergency, I could have moved. I could have left New York in a heartbeat. And I'm sure my mother anyway, even though she may have grumbled about it, would take care of me and my children.

In fact, when I finally did get out, my mother was there for me in so many ways. Now the reason why I didn't just pick up and go is that I didn't want to go back to North Carolina being dependent on everybody and being just this really pitiful, sorry, sad case.

I did still have a little bit of pride, and when I left New York, I went away, came away to New York City and I had been on Broadway. I had a lot of wonderful experiences. And now, I guess because of my pride, when I went back to North Carolina, I wanted to at least have enough money

to have my own place. I have a little money that I wasn't always in need of everybody taking care of me. And so that's how I wanted it to happen. I wanted to get out of New York City, but at the same time, I didn't want to be this very dependent, pitiful, sorry case that everybody felt sorry

for and everybody was trying to chip in to help me. If I could, help, I could avoid that. That's what I was trying to avoid, and so I was asking for that every day. I got to a point where I was a little stable for a while.

During this period of time, I was seemed to be a little stable and my sister offered me a job at her office as an office manager. So I was I took the job because I figured, OK, now I'm on my way to making money and soon I'm going to be out of New York City.

If I just can stay stable, keep my mind focused, and do what I need to do. We can get out of here. So I see the benefits stopped and I started working for my sister. Now there was like a rule or I don't know what you would call it, something that I understood that once I started working

and the benefits stopped. You would still have 30 days of medical benefits, at least for the children. That's what I understood. They would still have 30 days of coverage, even after my cash and food stamp benefits stop. They still had medical coverage, so I was two weeks into working for my sister when I took my children to

the doctor. Nothing serious, but I guess one of those child check-ups or whatever. So I took them to the doctor. And when I handed the doctor or the office my Medicaid card, they said that that card was no longer any good.

And I said, Well, yeah, I got I still got two more weeks. Because I got 30 days and they said we don't know anything about that. All we know is that the system is telling us, don't take this card.

And so I was confused and went back and told my sister what had happened. And she said, You know, I read something about that. We're in one of the papers where they're doing an experiment, where they're throwing some people off right away or something to see how it works.

She said You might want to look into that. And I did. And so I ended up with this legal aid lawyer who said, No, you, you should have gotten your 30 days. And she said, Do you want to fight this?

And I'm thinking, I said, yes, but inside I'm thinking, Oh, I don't want to fight anything. I'm just tired. I'm just tired. I don't feel like fighting. But she wanted to fight. And I'm like, OK, we'll fight. And so we got a court date so early in the morning.

one morning we went down to the court in New York City, and everybody who was supposed to be in the court was in the court. Except for the state, a representative from the state did not come. So there was no one there to argue against my lawyer.

And so the judge said, OK, we're going to give you another date. And so we got another date. And so early in the morning, we went down to the court and everybody who was supposed to be in the court was in the court except the state.

So the judge said, OK, we're going to do this again. I'm going to give you another date. OK. So early in the morning, we went back to the court. Everybody who was supposed to be in the courtroom was in the courtroom, except this state.

So the judge, I remember him hitting the gavel and saying some things that were a lot of legal terms that I was not understanding. So the lawyer said to me, she said, Do you understand what's happening? And I said no.

She said he's tired of the state not showing up that you're coming down here. This is your third time here, and the state has never sent anybody to represent them. So he's tired of it. So what he's doing is he's going to go ahead and award you.

And what he is awarding you is he is going to award you what your benefits were at times some huge number. And I'm wow. So I said to her, thank you. And I was trying to pretend like I thought this was going to happen.

Because she seemed like she thought it was going to happen, but I didn't think it was going to happen. I'm thinking that's never going to happen, that the state is going to give me some windfall of money based on the fact that my kids couldn't get their Medicare-covered at their appointment.

So I thank the lawyer and she was great. It was great. But I thanked her and I went on about my business and I figured, Well, I am working now, so maybe I can start saving some money, put in some overtime, do extra things, and eventually get that money that I want to get out of New York

City. About a week and a half later, I received a letter that said I was to take my benefits card and this letter and go to. I don't know if they said a certain check-cashing place or go to a check-cashing place, but I.

But it said in the letter said Do not go alone because this is going to be a lot of money. Take someone with you. And it also said you will not be able to receive the amount of money that you have been awarded in one day.

You will need to return a second day. So I had this active friend that I knew and I said, Would you go with me? I don't know what's going to happen, but I got this letter and I just want to see if they're really going to give me this money.

And so he went with me and I handed over the things that I was supposed to hand over and. I received a shopping bag full of money. I was using. I received a shopping bag full of cash and then I received another shopping bag full of food stamps.

OK. And then they told me, they said, this is all the after I got the shopping bag full of money. They said This is all the money you can get in one day. They said you're going to have to come back because our machine will not allow us to dispense any more money for you today.

And so me and my friend left out of there feeling like we have little, I felt like I had robbed a bank. I don't know. So I took this money home and the next day we went back. And the same thing.

They filled up another shopping bag full of cash. And so I said to my friend, I say, look, I will pay you if you can get me a truck and you can get my things packed up and take us if you will drive me and my children from New York back to Greensboro, North Carolina.

And so that's what happened. That's how I got from New York back to Greensboro with my young children. And when I got there, I was able to get an apartment. Now I'm sure my credit was all messed up, but because I had cash and I could pay cash upfront, then I was able to get us a pretty

decent apartment, a real, decent apartment, as a matter of fact. Now our life was like this whenever I needed something or we needed something that the kids needed something I would literally say, go look in the closet and get some money out of one of the bags.

That's how we lived for about a year and a half with the money in the bags. We had to go grocery shopping. I'd say, go in the closet, get some food stamps so we can go get some groceries.

And so that's how we live. I was trying to get ahead of the money renting out. I knew that it was going to run out one day, but I was trying to get ahead of it. I was looking for jobs, I was trying to do things and I was not able to get ahead of it.

So eventually, about a year and a half later, we did end up in public housing in North Carolina. But the public housing in North Carolina was a lot different than living in poor public housing in New York City.

In fact, my friends from New York City who would see me or visit me in North Carolina, thought they would say, Oh my God, how did you get this cute little condo? They thought it was a condo.

It was so cute because, in New York, the buildings, the projects are just stacked up. Where in North Carolina, they literally especially compared to New York? They look like little townhouses. And there they were, little two-story units that were connected and they were compared to New York.

Just really nice. And one of the reasons why I wanted to share this story and why this particular blessing kind of stands out in my mind is that I could have never in 1 million, 100 gazillion years have thought or imagined that the money I needed to get out of New York City would come from the state of New York. I'm going to leave that right there.