People Stare at You

“Well, you’re here, too, so I guess you’re in the same boat I am.”

This story is from the Invisible Project, a collaboration between the Welcome Project and Porter County Coalition for Affordable Housing, Housing Opportunities, Gabriel’s Horn, Dayspring Women’s Center, and Porter County Museum.

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Transcript for People Stare at You

This story is from the Invisible Project, a collaboration between the Welcome Project and Porter County Coalition for Affordable Housing, Housing Opportunities, Gabriel’s Horn, Dayspring Women’s Center, and Porter County Museum.

I grew up in Wheatfield, Indiana, with my grandparents. And then I moved to Valpo when I turned eighteen. Because my grandparents they didn’t want us to live with them forever. So when we was eighteen we had to move out on our own.

My grandparents raised twelve grandkids. And we lived in one room. Well, it was three rooms, it was a kitchen, a bathroom, and a bedroom for the girls, so it was all twelve girls. And my grandparents raised all of us. Because my parents wasn’t best parents–they was alcoholics and druggies. So they was, we was—I mean, almost ready to go to the state. And my grandparents stepped in and took us and so did my other cousins, you kind of like wanted to live with Grandma.

Well, with one bedroom, you know, room, or shack or trailer, it was like take a number, like a deli, you know, you have to go to the restaurant, you have to take a number. And then we had to wash our clothes, in our washing machine, and then we had to go hang them up on the line to dry. And if we didn’t do that then we were wearing dirty clothes the next day because my grandma said you know, that’s responsibilities.

My tongue was going backwards and they couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t say certain words. So like my parents they didn’t care. So my grandma took me to the doctor, and it was too late because my tongue was going backwards and they had to go in and clip my tongue and sew it up, because it was like choking me when I was trying say words and that’s why I have a speech impediment.

Sometimes I like to – would try to go to work, and you know, I like to help people clean their houses and stuff. But nobody would hire me; they put me on social security because I couldn’t get a job. And then I got pregnant with my daughter, Monica. And she has a lot of health issues, she has cerebral palsy and fed through a g-tube, and so she’s, so you know, a lot of work. I took care of her own. She’ll be twenty in September, I did it for twenty years by myself because her dad’s not in the picture. And she had back surgery and you know health issues. So I had to get up in the morning, like seven and eight o’clock in the morning, get her to bed and changed, and her diaper changed, and bathed and dressed. Then I had to take care of my nieces. At the time my sister was living with me. But we lived there for like seven years, and then we went our own separate ways. Because she wasn’t very good. My sister went down the wrong path, and so I just stayed… and took care of my daughter and my nieces.

I would collect my social security check. My rent was three ninety and my check was five seventy-five. In time I paid my rent and my NIPSCO, that’s pretty much where my money went. And we didn’t have a vehicle so we walked a lot everywhere. And we made too much money for food stamps so I couldn’t get food stamps. So Jennifer, my sister, she went and applied for food stamps for her and her kids and, you know, every once in a while she’d be nice and take them shopping and buy them groceries and bring them back to the apartment. We just lived at the food pantry, we’d go to the food pantries. And sometimes we went to the trustees and get a trustee voucher for the grocery store.

Sometimes it made me feel bad because people would stare at you. And you just feel down. You know, people talk. We saw here at thefood pantry with her three kids; don’t you think she needs to do something, you know, quit having kids? And I told these people, These are my nieces and daughter, not like–they’re all not mine. You just feel low, you know, you just don’t have no self-esteem when you go to the food pantries. But now I think, Well, you’re here too, so I guess you’re in the same boat that I am.