Living off Social Security

stresses poor catherine hawkins

Catherine Hawkins
Age: 66
Hometown: Washington, D.C.

Catherine Hawkins retired early from her job at Macy's four years ago to take care of her sick mother. During that time, she lived at her mom's house and they pooled their Social Security benefits together to cover day-to-day expenses.

So when her mother passed away a couple years later, Hawkins suddenly found herself in a precarious financial situation.

Now that she's on her own, her only source of income is an $830 a month Social Security check, nowhere near enough for her to afford an apartment on her own. She says she would be living on the street if it wasn't for a friend who has let her stay with him for $400 a month for the past three years.

Related: Retired women: 'How I get by'

That leaves her with just $430 a month to pay for bills and other necessities. She also receives $110 in food stamps, but it's barely enough to cover groceries all month.

Despite her age, she is now trying to get back into the workforce, applying for jobs every day without any luck.

"It's emotionally draining and it makes you mad," says Hawkins. "You live to be a senior, and this is what you've got to look forward to?"

What's your biggest stress? "To not be able to have a place of my own, and not being able to [afford to go] see my grandchildren and great grandson."

What keeps you going? "I go out and volunteer with [nonprofit advocacy group] OurDC -- we fight for things like minimum wage [increases] and try to get some of these Congress people to do something, because you can't live off $8 or $9 an hour."

First published June 24, 2014: 10:55 AM ET

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