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A Complicated Life: Tools to survive

Yolanda’s resolve is being tested.

She did not receive her monthly Illinois Link Card benefits last October. The Link program provides needy families with cash and food stamp benefits electronically, which are accessed via the card,according to the Illinois Department of Human Services Web site.

Yolanda said that a spokesman for the Link program told her that her benefits had been discontinued because she had failed to respond to a notice in writing that required her to schedule an appointment with an administrator to review her program eligibility.

 

Yolanda believes the letter was misplaced by one of her kids, she said.

As a result, she lost her monthly government benefits, which caused her to exhaust her limited cash reserve on food. With the loss of her Link benefits and her job at Taco Bell, Yolanda soon lost her phone service and fell behind on her light and water bills.

Those events took a toll on Yolanda, who had decided not to seek child support from the fathers of her young children.

“I can’t lose no sleep over it. I’m not about to keep calling Child Support [Services], saying, ‘Well, I didn’t receive my child support this month.’ That’s just a waste of time.”

Yolanda is relying on part-time jobs and public aid to support her family.

“I still have to do what I have to do because it’s not cool to have water and lights turned off when you have kids. These are necessities. I’m a single mom, so I have to maintain those things we need to survive ...”

Surviving for Yolanda has meant fighting back tears, on occasion, when the sight of an empty refrigerator reminds her that a misplaced letter resulted in the loss of her Link benefits.

 “You speak to the automated service and it tells you to put in your pen number and then it will tell you that your food stamp balance is zero dollars and your cash benefits are zero dollars.”

Yolanda believes the way to improve life for her and for her kids is to advance her education.

“ My goal and focus is to finish school. I can’t let nothing jeopardize that.”

But she knows that balancing her responsibilities and pursuing her goals has not and will not be easy.

 “I have to face keeping my bills paid, going to school, making sure my kids [are] well taken care of … that the lights don’t go off, that [my kids] have food everyday … give [my kids] the time that they need. Regardless if I’m tired or not, I still have to give them their time.”

Woodard acknowledged the difficulties faced by low-income individuals returning to school.

“When somebody has been out of school for so long, when they lack confidence because they have been raised by someone who has not instilled confidence in them, plus when they have ten thousand other responsibilities on their hands, it’s hard for them to get there,” Woodard said.

To fulfill her dream of graduating from high school, Yolanda enrolled in the Urbana Adult Education’ Adult Level Program (APL) last fall. The program provides participants with an opportunity to earn a high school diploma from Urbana High School.

Unlike the General Equivalency Diploma (GED) program, APL classes are structured to allow adult participants time to complete assignments at their own pace.

By Will Atwater/For CU-Citizen Access

¨ Copyright 2011 CU-CitizenAccess.