Bernie is a family man living in South Buffalo with his wife and four children. The kids range in age from 10 to 17. They live in a $650/month double owned by a landlord who lives abroad. For several years, Bernie worked in manufacturing at a facility 20 miles from his house. He secured the job through a temp agency. Even though Bernie dropped out of high school, he’s held a variety of entry-level jobs. Bernie describes his work in retail: “I worked in every department…I have lots of job skills,…but they did not promote me.” His latest job at the manufacturing plant was an easy commute by car, except during winter weather.
Bernie has been out of work for the past eight months, injured at home when a shaky staircase gave way. His wife is also out of work, physically disabled from a serious auto accident years ago. Bernie misses work, especially the ability to earn overtime at his $10+/hour job and provide extras for the kids by working more shifts. He wants to work on his GED, but health issues stand in the way.
Today, they get by on a fixed income that just covers necessities: rent, food, and car insurance. “Downtown” helps with utilities through HEAP, a program administered by the Erie County Departments of Social Services and Senior Services located in downtown Buffalo. They also get food stamps, but less than $25/month. When his credit improves, Bernie hopes to open a business and purchase a home, one where they can grow vegetables. Growing some of their own food would help grocery bills which increase considerably when the kids are out of school on break or summer vacation.
“I worked in every department…I have lots of job skills…but they did not promote me.”