I had a good little life with my three children when I made $72,000 a year at a job doing secured financing for small businesses. But it all came to a screeching halt in the spring of 2008. When the economy imploded, the lenders and the leasing companies I assisted just stopped paying the bills. So the business got blown away.
I got jobs at two other companies that then also blinked out of existence because of the economy, owing me weeks of salary that I never got.
Then I went on unemployment, got food stamps, and have been applying for hundreds of jobs. At the time, I had a nice house with a pool and a two-car garage. But after being unemployed for months, I ended up having to give up the lease. My son is autistic, and I can barely even afford his $250 medication every month.
In August of last year, we became functionally homeless. My two girls went to live with their mom, and my son and I lived in my 1996 Toyota 4Runner, where we slept on an air mattress in the back. We would stay at campsites so that we had water and a bathroom.
During the days we went to coffee shops. My son and I would share the laptop so that he could do a homeschooling program online and I could apply for jobs. We would always position it as an adventure, and go look for a campground and have cookouts and make fires. I'm not going to tell my son we're one step away from the homeless shelter -- I'm not going to feel sorry for myself or act like a victim.
Now, I've been staying in foreclosed homes that belonged to friends or people my friends know, and I've been able to stay there until action is taken on the home. That's always nice because I feel like I'm living in a real home again, but we can't unpack anything. I've moved seven times in the last 13 months.
There have been two parts to this whole experience: one is the shame -- that you can't afford $44 to send your kids on a field trip. Then there's humiliation, when you're standing in the grocery store line with your food stamps.
While I only have $25,000 in debt, between furniture loans and credit card bills in collection, it might as well be a million. Because there's no way I can pay it. I'm not going to pay anybody until I can take care of myself and my kids.
Last fall, CNNMoney profiled people who found creative ways to tackle their debt -- from selling belongings to going on spending fasts. Here's how they're doing now.
|World will have 13 'super-aged' nations by 2020|
|Talent wars: Silicon Valley vs. Wall Street|
|5 disturbing stats on black-white financial inequality|
|How young tech millionaires invest|
|Warren Buffett buys more GM stock|