Listen to Selear's story. Audio Producer: Laura Bult

Selear Smith and her 9-year old son Shamuar live in New Orleans East, which never fully recovered after Katrina. “It’s a ghost town now,” she says. Selear is a single mom. She works part-time at Lowes. Has no health insurance. Her family was rescued on the rooftop of a hotel during Katrina. They lost their home. To make matters worse, her father died in a boating accident on father’s day last year. Her mother is depressed. Her brother is mentally retarded. Her son is bi-polar and on heavy medication. (He shut himself in the closet while we were visiting and was crying. He said he wanted to see his father, who Selear describes as a “deadbeat.”
Talking about her situation, Selear says “It feels like we are in a hole that is closing in on us.”

 

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"Secretiveness is especially common among welfare recipients, almost all of whom have non-welfare income that they conceal from the welfare departments."

- Making Ends Meet: How Single Mothers Survive Welfare and Low-Wage Work, by Kathryn Edin and Laura Lein

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