Detroiter Emaginae Hicks had a job as a waitress after high school to support her two children. She was making it work. Living with her grandmother, she helped as she could with rent payments, spending most of her money on her children.
“Being a waitress, you don’t make a lot of money, so you have to be a saver, and I’m a saver. I buy what’s needed and not what I want, and of course I take care of the kids first and foremost,” Hicks said. “I had to manage that pretty well, and it did good for a minute but around the winter, that’s when business gets cut down.”
Slower times at the restaurant meant fewer shifts, which meant lower income last year. Then her grandmother went into a medical facility, and living in her home was no longer an option. Hicks and her boyfriend found friends to live with, but then that house went into foreclosure. Pregnant, with limited job options, Hicks saw no other options but a shelter.
Here’s what she told WDET’s Sandra Svoboda about her life and its financial challenges.
Tell me about your background. How did you end up in the shelter?
I went to Mumford High School. I graduated in 2010. I graduated out of high school. I got pregnant with my son at the end of 10th grade year and I went back to school, graduated and I got pregnant again, senior year, well, before senior year. Graduated with two children and now they’re five and four, a boy and a girl. We just at first, everything was going good. We were living with my grandmother. We were helping her out and then she became recently ill and she was removed from the home. Right now she’s in rehabilitation. Right now I’m residing at COTS looking for housing.
Sometimes it’s, well, the situation that I was in, I was living from house to house. So it’s a good thing that we’re off the street because it was bitter cold at the time we were looking for housing. I’ve been here for two months. It’s going good. It’s going good. It’s nice, safe, comfortable. Sometimes it get overwhelming but at the same time everyone is in the same situation so we have to be there for each other. As far as my life is concerned, I want to move on from COTS and have my own house and actually when I get on my feet, come back and help because help is needed in order for other people to endure the type of things they need as far as housing and jobs and just the support. And being here, my case planner and other different employees that work here have been helpful and supportive.
Have you worked?
I worked at Woodward Coney Island. I worked there for three years.
Tell me about your finances.
Being a waitress you don’t make a lot of money so you have to be a saver and I am a saver. I buy what’s needed and not what I want, and of course I take care of the kids first and foremost. Sometimes I never really had any money left for myself but to pay a phone bill. That’s what was important. I love spending my money and time with my kids. So I had to manage that pretty well and it did good for a minute but around the winter, that’s when business gets cut down and it was kind of hard for me to take care of them.
Can I ask like what your income has ranged between?
Last year I made about $11,000.
What did that cover and not cover?
It covered a roof over my head for the time being but it didn’t cover transportation and it really didn’t cover transportation because I was hoping to get a car out of it but it didn’t help so I was taking public transportation back and forth to work.
What kind of assistance do you get?
FIA, full stats, cash assistance is a little too much. They make it hard for us now to do it because even though I was working I was still making under the amount and I still could have collected whatever I didn’t get from working but it was just a lot to go through. I was missing out on work just to make ends meet in order to get cash assistance so I turned that one down.
How much money would you need to make to be comfortable?
At least $10 an hour.
What would that cover that you can’t pay now?
That would cover living and then it would give me extra to spend time with my kids just for that. I’m not a needy person I’m not all into the designers and the materialistic things. It’s just family food love and care. That’s all we need.
So people would say you’re at the poverty level. Do you feel like you’re poor?
Not really because some people feel they’re poor because they can’t afford the Gucci and the Coach and all of that. I don’t need all that. Like I said, everyone’s budget is set up differently.
As you back up in your life, what would make you not at the income level you are? I’m not going to say poor because you don’t consider yourself poor. What could you have done differently that would mean you have more money now?
If I can change things it would probably be the better timing with having kids because I had a scholarship to go to school in Chicago for writing, and I chose my kids over that. So like I say, if I can take it back, it would be the timing of the kids because I would, it’s always better to get a career and then family but mine came sooner so it’s working out, but then again it’s not.
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