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My Hunger Story

The month of September is Hunger Action Month and all throughout the month we will post stories of those who have been or who are currently being affected by hunger. 

My name is JoAnne Thompson. Two years ago I was enjoying being at an awards banquet with the governor of the state of Oklahoma as a representative for the non-profit I was working for.  At present, I have found myself homeless and unemployed. My story is similar to so many other people due to the current economic situation in the United States.  I hope in some way, by sharing this story that other people will not feel so alone, and I also hope that I can change some people’s minds about stereotypes that surround people who find themselves homeless and standing in food lines for help.  We are not lazy people who do not want to work.  We do not want to be in this situation. Sometimes things just happen that are beyond our control and we end up in a place we never thought we would. 

In April 2009, I was working for a very small non-profit in Oklahoma City as an Administrative Assistant.  I learned at the beginning of the month that the Department of Commerce was not going to include us in their budget for the following fiscal year. Within a week, I was laid off, along with other employees.

I had saved enough money to pay May’s rent, but by June, I was living in my car, waiting for my unemployment to kick in. Once I received my benefits I then moved into a motel that I could afford that was reasonably safe and clean by most standards.

I continued looking for work and had many promising interviews that didn’t lead to employment. After 18 months, my unemployment came to an end. I was finally hired by a nationwide thrift store as a retail clerk for far less than what my unemployment paid. It was barely enough to pay for the motel room I was still living in. With the new store not doing as well as hoped, employees were being laid off and I again lost my job. That’s when I decided to move back to Kansas City. I had been wanting to come back home for a long time, but now, I had decided it was a good time considering I had nowhere else to go. My car was no longer running and I didn’t have the $700 to pay for the repairs.

I took my last paycheck, whatever would fit in one suitcase, and bought a bus ticket to Kansas City in October 2010. I stayed at the City Rescue Mission for 30 days. The mission in Kansas City had a time limit and it quickly ran out. A kind woman, the wife of a church member invited me to stay with her until I was able to find employment. This was the day before Thanksgiving. It was with her assistance I began working at the Salvation Army Store in Kansas City, KS just before Christmas.

In February 2011 I started working a temporary job in Independence, MO as an administrative assistant. When this job ended, I was again unable to find employment. I left the apartment I could no longer afford, looked at the bus schedule and chose the cheapest ticket I could afford. That ticket to me to St. Joseph. 

I’ve been staying at the Salvation Army Booth Center since June 6, 2011. During this time I have looked for employment. I have missed out on several opportunities for employment because I do not have transportation. Finding a job is very difficult because you have so many people competing for the same positions. I knew I had to do something to set myself apart and I began to consider going back to school to get a degree in business. Without my knowing it, someone else staying at the shelter had nominated me for a scholarship at the American College of Technology that she had learned about through Second Harvest Community Food Bank. She also suggested that I go and speak with them about starting school. 

I’ve been waiting to go back to school for a long time but work and lack of funds prevented this from happening.  Education is very important to me as is achieving my goal of an Associate’s Degree. 

This scholarship will change my life in ways I’m not even aware of yet and it has already made a huge impact on me and my entire mindset. I’m more determined than ever to reach my goals, gain employment and have a home of my very own. My biggest hope is to give back to the kind people of Saint Joseph who have so willingly helped me since arriving here.  I do plan to “pay it forward”

Posted by asmullin - Wednesday, 09/14/11, 12:54 PM - Comments - Category: Hunger Story

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