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How I got off of welfare

Updated on August 22, 2013

How things can get started

Welfare can be a life saver when left bereft of a husband who has felt the need to see if the grass really is greener ‘over the septic tank’. (Erma Bombeck - The grass is always greener over the septic tank) Generally speaking it should be used as a hand up not a hand out. It doesn’t take long for it to become a regular routine in accepting that check each month.

This is my story, the one of how I got off of Welfare, never to return. It spans through the years sporadically of being on and off welfare to finally come to a final conclusion. A decision that I have never regretted and can only feel proud of.

My husband left my in 1982 with a 6 month old child. He left me with a $10 bill, because I needed diapers, and also told me I would never see a dime of child support. I had a part time job at the time, but was unable to meet the income that I needed to pay my bills. I spoke with a neighbor and she directed me to my local welfare office. I applied and was soon accepted, I was to continue working, report my monthly income and I was good to go. This was easy!

Getting caught in the trap

Working part time left me with plenty of time for playing with my son and meeting new people. My bills were all on vendor, (sent to the proper places) so I had no worries, they were never late and I didn’t ever get any shut off notices. The money that was left over was mine free and clear, it wasn’t much but it was free.

Only 1 time did I forget to send in my monthly report form, I learned quick not to do that again. You get cut off instantly, no money, the bills weren’t paid what was I going to do? I had to move out of my apartment and into my parents basement. They helped me out as much as they could, I paid rent and was still able to save. I moved within 3 months to a place of my own.

I had to quit my job from harassment of my soon to be ex-husband, I notified my case worker, she said that was fine. We filled out the proper paperwork and I was getting what was called ‘full’ benefits.

I met and married my second husband and he decided that I didn’t need to be on welfare ever again. ' Ever' didn’t last very long. It was difficult for him to find a job that paid well, so we got back on welfare, because he didn’t have a driver’s license we were eligible. Didn’t make sense to me, but hey, we needed the money.

So for the next 10 years we would be on and off welfare whenever the mood hit us. If he wanted to quit a job because he didn’t like it, he’d quit. We’d go apply and we’d get our welfare checks, Medicaid and anything else we needed including food stamps. All good things must come to and end.

Learning not to abuse

The year was 1996 in the fall, my husband purposefully lost his job. He had gotten his CDL (Commercial Drivers License) 6 years prior and could not pass a drug test. He had driven for 3 companies by this time and at the most he worked for 1 company almost 3 years. He didn’t want to work for this company any longer due to illegal practices. Rather than look for another job then quit, he did it ass backwards.

I went to apply for welfare, this time it was a little more difficult. I filled out all the paper work as required, there was 1 thing I couldn’t prove. 2 years prior we had won $1000 on an instant lottery ticket (No we were not on welfare at the time) they wanted to know where the money went. It was gone, spent on bikes for the kids, bills and whatever was needed at the time. I couldn’t prove that. How could anyone?

Time was passing, bills were due, food was gone. My husband was looking for work, and couldn’t find a job. He’d cleaned up his act and could pass a drug test blindfolded. My cupboards were getting more empty by the day. Thank goodness the kids got free lunch at school, sometimes it was their only meal of the day. November came and along with that deer season, my Dad came over and shot a deer on our property so at least we had venison, but that wouldn’t last long. When you have 5 kids and 2 adults and that’s the only thing to eat a deer really doesn’t go far.

My phone had been shut off so I had to make some trips to the welfare office. This was difficult because what gas we had in the car would need to last. The case worker kept putting me off, telling me more paperwork was needed. I was beginning to get desperate. I was finally able to get a job, my husband also got a job but neither of us had gotten a paycheck yet.

I got a shut off notice in the mail for my electric, it was due to be shut off in a couple of days but I hadn’t heard from my case worker yet. My refrigerator was empty, my electric was due to be shut off, with no electric I could cook food, but if I paid my electric we wouldn’t eat. My license plates on my car were expired and of course I had no insurance on it either. I drove to the welfare office yet again, not even having the required quarter for parking, I just hoped and prayed that I didn’t get a ticket.

I went in signed in and waited, the place was full of people waiting. Finally my name was called, I expected to be taken back to a cubicle as was the norm. Instead because I didn’t have an appointment, my case worker talked to me in the waiting room. This was quite possibly the best thing anyone could have ever done.

She informed me that ‘No‘, I would not be receiving any type of welfare, ‘No’, I would not be getting assistance in my electric shut off, and ‘No’ I would not be getting any food stamps. I didn’t understand, and she really didn’t have an explanation for me other than that $1000 we had won 2 ½ years prior. I began begging. I asked her if the money was coming out of her pocket. This was the one time I REALLY needed the system. I invited her to my house to look through my cupboards and refrigerator to see how empty they were. I told her how my youngest daughter was losing weight, she was only 3 and tiny to begin with, but with no food in the house she was starving. This was the first time I had not been able to provide for my children.

I stood there crying being totally humiliated in front of 30 or so people, begging for food stamps and being denied. The only thing she could tell me to do was go to a local Community Action Agency to see if they would help with my electric bill. Trying to see through my tears, I dejectedly left the building not sure of where to go or what to do.

As I reached my car a lady who had been following me, got my attention. In her hand she had a scrap of paper and she pushed it toward me. She asked me to call her later in the day, she said she had some groceries for me. That brought on fresh tears, to think that someone had heard my story inside and felt sorry for me. If it was possible I suffered even more humiliation, realizing that I’d just begged for food stamps and was turned down.

I made my way to the CCA and was turned down for assistance, they had run out of money for the month. This was after all December 18th, I was informed if I wanted help I needed to call on the 1st, the money went fast. They did allow me to use their phone to call the electric company and ask for an extension. I was granted 2 weeks to be able to pay my bill, now I could at least breathe knowing at least I could spend my first paycheck on groceries.

I found some bottles to return so I had some change and I called the lady, her name was Pam. She gave me directions to her home and I went there. She offered me a seat and a tissue. I was crying at her kindness, I wondered how this total stranger could help me out. She said she felt compelled to do so after over hearing about my daughter. We talked for a little while, but I needed to return home, the kids were due home from school soon. She was true to her word, she did indeed have groceries for me. It took me 2 trips to get them all into my car, my back seat was filled.

On the way home I did some thinking. I realized that I had been abusing the welfare system for some time now, and I had finally got my comeuppance. I started thinking on how to avoid this in my future. I had gotten a reprieve, and I wasn’t going to waste it. The food she had given me would last a while with only a few things that would be needed in addition, fresh milk and bread was a necessity.

I paid my electric bill as soon as I could, Christmas that year would just have to wait. I felt like Scarlet O’Hara in ’Gone with the Wind’ saying “I’ll never go hungry again” only my words were a little different “I’ll never be on Welfare again!” was what I said to my husband when he returned home.

It took me a little while to realize that I had not been the one to provide for my children, I had relied on society to do so. I am not saying that times haven’t been hard over the years, they have. I have taken jobs that in some peoples eyes would be considered demeaning. Working in a Strip Club, as a waitress/bartender, for a mother of 5 is in no way glamorous. If taking a more debasing job, that paid the bills and fed my kids was what I needed to do, I did it.

Times have gotten fairly lean in the last few years with the economy slowly declining. We have been laid off from jobs, but my husband has not quit a job since then. There have been times when my refrigerator has been nearly empty. There have been times my electricity has been on shut off, I call them and work out a payment plan that suits us both. There have been times when I have been tempted to apply for assistance, but the memory of standing in that waiting room with all of those faces looking at me stops me from doing it. The humiliation I suffered that day sticks with me, and I never want that feeling again. So with determination we push on, doing without some things so we can have the basic necessities of life. At least we know that we can say we are doing it ourselves, without assistance.

I am not saying that Welfare should not be there for those who need it, I am saying that I personally abused the system by relying on it, rather than myself. I do know of a lot of people who do abuse the system even more than I have, by never even attempting to get off of it. Women who have been on it for more than 15 consecutive years, continuing to have children along the way. One woman in particular has given birth to 9 children but has had 18 pregnancies (9 abortions) and is pregnant yet again. Of her children only 2 have the same father. She is only 33 years old.

We hope that we are teaching our children something in the process, that with time all things are possible, sometimes you have to do without, but in the end we can count on only ourselves to make things happen.

Have you ever received Welfare?

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    • Sweetsusieg profile image

      Sweetsusieg 2 years ago from Michigan

      Thank you. When writing this hub I felt ashamed of how I abused the system all over again - but I felt it was necessary to share, just in case someone else maybe needed that nudge. To see that it is possible to get out of that rut.

      So glad you stopped by!

    • profile image

      Takeya Garner 2 years ago

      Very inspiring story, I appreciate your courage to tell the story, sometimes it takes for us to fall on hard times to open up our eyes, and I'm glad you come to the conclusion you have came to. Great things will continue to await you and your family.

    • Sweetsusieg profile image

      Sweetsusieg 6 years ago from Michigan

      Thank you Jon~

    • JON EWALL profile image

      JON EWALL 6 years ago from usa



    • Sweetsusieg profile image

      Sweetsusieg 6 years ago from Michigan

      I would be more than happy to write a slightly different one for you, can you tell me a little more about where it would go? What publication it would be in? Is it online or in print? If you would rather do this via email feel free to go toward the top right of this page where it says 'contact sweetsusieg'. I will get your message in my mail box.

    • profile image

      Donald Steinfelt 6 years ago

      Would you be interested in publishing your story with others who have stories of how to get off welfare?

      Please let me know!


      Don S.

    • Sweetsusieg profile image

      Sweetsusieg 6 years ago from Michigan

      For being able to get off of it and stay off was the best thing that has ever happened. Don't get me wrong I was glad it was there when I needed it - BUT I am so glad that I was able to wake up and get off of it. Being able to provide for myself makes it mean so much more.

    • Tams R profile image

      Tams R 6 years ago from Missouri

      This story is sure to help someone see the error of the ways. I'm glad you were able to move on from your experience and had the courage to share your story. Being on welfare was demeaning as it was when I was younger. I was anxious to stop needing it. Thankfully I've not needed it in many years and pray I never will again.

    • vicki5897 profile image

      vicki5897 6 years ago from South suburbs of Chicago

      That is very true and thank you so much!

    • Sweetsusieg profile image

      Sweetsusieg 6 years ago from Michigan

      Thank you - It's a very difficult way to go that is for sure. It's hard not to take it when it's there but when you make it on your own, there is nothing like that feeling of accomplishment!

      Best Wishes to you in all of your endeavors!!

    • vicki5897 profile image

      vicki5897 6 years ago from South suburbs of Chicago

      Very touching story! I am on Welfare now and barely making it as it is. I'm a single mom and I do not get any child support either. I am hoping to become more familiar with these sites to gain all the knowledge I need to move forward in life. Great Hub!

    • Sweetsusieg profile image

      Sweetsusieg 7 years ago from Michigan

      My husband is a Truck driver, my son is attempting to get into the industry as well. We really need to get 'the people' to understand what happens with this industry. Find a way to keep the Gov't out of it. (look what they did to the railroad!) I intend on writing a Hub regarding the 'not pretty' aspect of driving a big truck. Not to scare people, but to make them aware of how difficult it is to get the needed items from point A to B, and the lack of courtesy the driver encounters along the way.

      Thanks for stopping by!

    • profile image

      Leon Bentley 7 years ago

      Hi and thanks for this write-up on Trucking. Trucking jobs are necessary, although commonly unnoticed in our nation. Our nation will need to back the trucking industry to keep our nation expanding.

    • Sweetsusieg profile image

      Sweetsusieg 7 years ago from Michigan

      Thanks! I have learned over the years how to make money where it seemed impossible to do so. I have a friend who has helped me in my endeavors as well. She hasn't had a 'regular' job in 17 years. She does odd jobs to earn her income. Delivers phone books (that is out because they are trying to stop them), she goes to auctions and bids on un-paid storage units. Then has a yard sale with the items.

      It's a shame scrap has dropped in price again. My brother made lots of money curb surfing (I have a Hub on this).

      There is a lot of determination behind my friend, my brother and I. We HAVE to find ways to succeed.

      Best Wishes to you and your family!! Keep up the good work!

    • The Blagsmith profile image

      The Blagsmith 7 years ago from Britain

      Good luck Sweet.

      We are currently facing some crises at the moment in our small family. However, your motivation inspires us and with faith and perseverance I believe we can reverse our fortunes too.

    • Sweetsusieg profile image

      Sweetsusieg 7 years ago from Michigan

      Yes, this is true regarding the Dad. I had that as well, he owes me over $100,000.... still. Things would have been different had he just paid what he owed. It has been a hard road for a lot of us women. Glad you have a plan!! Don't give up on yourself, the plan may change, don't be afraid of changes.... Just adjust to the best of your abilities. You can do it!!

      That woman - Pam, I think she was an Angel.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

    • Cailin Gallagher profile image

      Cailin Gallagher 7 years ago from New England

      Wonderful hub! I can totally relate. I also have a plan to get back on my feet too. Sometimes a bad situation with irresponsible Dads tips the equation for women with children. We can't predict the future, and public assistance helps in times of need. It is so important for women like yourself (and me!) to regain the confidence that is often lost when we have to rely on help from others. When we receive help from a stranger, like you did, rather than a system, we are encouraged to be successful. The woman that you met was a messenger.

    • Sweetsusieg profile image

      Sweetsusieg 7 years ago from Michigan

      You are welcome. Thanks for stopping by!

    • profile image

      rldurand 7 years ago

      great! thank you for sharing!

    • Sweetsusieg profile image

      Sweetsusieg 7 years ago from Michigan

      Thank you habee - I am very glad that I was able to share this with everyone, difficult tho because it didn't paint me in a very good light...

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      I applaud you! wonderful hub.

    • Sweetsusieg profile image

      Sweetsusieg 7 years ago from Michigan

      My Mother used to tell me, 'That which does not kill you, only makes you stronger'. I believed her then and most certainly now, that I have been through even more. Thank you for your kind words.

    • Hummingbird5356 profile image

      Hummingbird5356 7 years ago

      Life has really been a struggle for you but you are strong. I hope life has happiness in store for you.

      Take care and my best regards for you.

    • Sweetsusieg profile image

      Sweetsusieg 7 years ago from Michigan

      Dave - Yes, this is true but it is so easy to fall into using that crutch consistently.

      BDazzler - Yes, I too am glad I was able to finally realize what I was doing not only to myself but my children as well.

      drbj - Thank you for your wish! I can only hope my dark days are behind me.

      Thank you all for your comments! They inspire me to continue writing!

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 7 years ago from south Florida

      Hello, sweetsusie. This is a very moving story and you are a very special person to have accomplished what you have and to possess the courage and skill to write about it. More power to you. May you never know those dark days again.

    • BDazzler profile image

      BDazzler 7 years ago from Gulf Coast, USA

      I'm glad that you not only came to the conclusion you came to, but that you had the courage to tell your story.

    • Dave Mathews profile image

      Dave Mathews 7 years ago from NORTH YORK,ONTARIO,CANADA

      I was deeply moved by this story. In times of desperation, Welfare is a good thing to be able to fallback onto. It is not meant to be a crutch for the lazy, but a help for those who truly need help to survive.

      Brother Dave.

    • Sweetsusieg profile image

      Sweetsusieg 7 years ago from Michigan

      Thanks Mom Kat- I appreciate your kind words.

    • Mom Kat profile image

      Mom Kat 7 years ago from USA

      Very touching story. I'm glad to see you've gained strength and grown from your experience.