by guest blogger “Ms. K” 

I’m a mother of six, and I first got on TANF in 2005 after my husband lost his job and my income alone wasn’t enough to make our mortgage payments. We lost our home and moved in with relatives. At the time I had a newborn and the stress on my family was enormous. For various reasons, I had to leave my job and TANF assistance helped us survive. We shuffled in and out of homelessness for several years and now live in a transitional housing program through So Others Might Eat (SOME) where we pay 30% of our income towards the rent. It’s definitely a step up from where we were a couple of years ago, but things aren’t easy.

Right now, I’m a conference room coordinator at a law firm inVirginia. My boss expects me to be punctual every day, and I am because I don’t want to be unemployed again in this job market. But making that commute every day after making sure my kids are fed, dressed, and ready for school in the morning is a difficult schedule to juggle. I’m always looking for a job closer to home and my goal is to make enough money to afford my own housing and get off of TANF assistance completely.* I just wish that was easier done than said.

TANF assistance has allowed me to provide necessities for my kids. It’s helped pay for childcare so I can go to work, it’s helped clothe my kids and get them school supplies, it’s helped me pay for transportation for my family and allowed me to get to and from my job. My paycheck from work goes entirely to pay bills. Without the modest TANF assistance I currently get, things will definitely be much harder for us. My husband was injured in his last job and so he’s unable to do certain work which hasn’t made it easy for him to find a job. Right now, my family is relying on me as the sole breadwinner and having my TANF benefits cut by another 20% this October feels like punishment for having bad luck.

I spent the majority of my life in D.C., and I never had any knowledge of TANF or shelter. I never even knew there was a housing agency. It was all new to me when suddenly the rug was pulled out from under us, and I’m very thankful that we’ve had this assistance. If I could speak directly to my city leaders, I guess my main message would be this:

There are children who rely on TANF.  These kids need the support so they can grow up and be motivated, so they can move in a more positive direction, so they know that they can succeed in life. You can’t understand how hard it is to survive when things fall apart until you’ve experienced it yourself.  I want to make sure my kids won’t have to rely on TANF when they grow up, but that means I need the assistance now to prevent them from needing it later. As a parent struggling in this economy, it’s hard when you’re forced to struggle even more because someone thinks you’ve taken too long to get back on your feet.

* Editor’s note: “Ms. K” does not earn enough to be off of TANF completely. She continues to qualify for a fraction of the full TANF grant because her wages remain low.