September 09 2019 0comment

I Am ALICE: Heather

Heather Ervin saves lives.

She’s not the person using CPR on someone sure; nor is she the person doing emergency wound care.  No Heather tells the paramedics where they are going and what’s going on.  She works as a dispatcher and she is a vital part of their working machine in taking care of people.

Another fact about Heather?  She can’t afford childcare for her 12-year-old and 9-year-old.

“I’m fortunate in that I live with my boyfriend and he makes decent money when he works, but he works for a labor union.  When there’s not work, there’s not work…  on paper, yeah it looks like we make a make decent money, but in the end, we really don’t.  My ex-husband is very involved with the kids, but financially it’s me.  We have grandparents that are willing to help and my parents.  It really just takes so many people to raise children.”

Raising children is hard on any given day, true, but raising children in a combined family sometimes makes it harder.  Heather’s ex-husband and father of her two children live an hour away, while her boyfriend of three year’s ex-wife and mother of his two children lives four hours away.  Gas and car maintenance are important financial factors in their lives and sometimes difficult to have the financial means to maintain.

She’s just another mom trying to raise a family and make sure that her kids have all the opportunities they can.  Sitting across from me, our conversation goes back and forth, both of us being mothers of combined families we occasionally stray to funny similarities with our children.  It’s easy to laugh and talk with Heather.  If I were to glance at her from across the room “struggling” is not a word I would even associate with her.

The bright blue uniform shirt, to me, says, “I work to help people.  It’s not an easy job, but it’s a good one.”  The only problem is her job, in the end, is not good enough.

“I just want to get to the point in my life where I just autopay, but that’s never going to happen.”

I point out that it seems like every time it looks like she’s ahead something happens. Every time the going gets good there’s another large expense, whether that’s something that was known or an emergency.

“Every time!  She’s (her daughter) getting her braces consultation on Monday.  I know both of my kids are going to need braces, but they are four years apart.  Maybe by the time we get done paying one we will just slide into the other.”

Heather tells me she and her boyfriend are looking for a bigger house because theirs is too small, but doubts it’ll happen anytime soon.  There are a lot of things she hopes for that have been put on the backburner because her family lives paycheck to paycheck.  Despite always working and providing for her family, getting ahead just doesn’t seem to be in the cards.

United Way of the Wabash Valley aims to help family’s like Heather’s by breaking generational poverty and moving 10,000 families out of poverty. By working through impact counsels to form programs that cover a wide variety of areas: financial stability, affordable and quality childcare, safety net or basic needs, substance use disorders, job skills, graduation rates, and many other areas.

Heather is ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed).  If her story sounds familiar, you or someone you love may be in the same situation.  You may be ALICE too.

Tell us your story.