Mr. President, This Is My America: Life in an RV Park With a Master's Degree

Dear Mr. President,

I write to you today because I have nowhere else to turn. I lost my full time job in September 2012. I have only been able to find part-time employment -- 16 hours each week at $12 per hour -- but I don't work that every week. For the month of December, my net pay was $365. My husband and I now live in an RV at a campground because of my job loss. Our monthly rent is $455 and that doesn't include utilities. We were given this 27-ft. 1983 RV when I lost my job.

This is America today. We have no running water; we use a hose to fill jugs. We have no shower but the campground does. We have a toilet but it only works when the sewer line doesn't freeze -- if it freezes, we use the campground's restrooms. At night, in my bed, when it's cold out, my blanket can freeze to the wall of the RV. We don't have a stove or an oven, just a microwave, so regular-food cooking is out. Recently we found a small toaster oven on sale so we can bake a little now because eating only microwaved food just wasn't working for us. We don't have a refrigerator, just an icebox (a block of ice cost about $1.89). It keeps things relatively cold. If it's freezing outside, we just put things on the picnic table.

Unfortunately, we can't buy things in bulk because they will go bad before we can use them. We can't buy dry goods in bulk either, because there is no room to store them anywhere in the RV.

We are very lucky that the campground has showers, but it costs 25 cents for two minutes. There have been times when we couldn't afford a shower and had to resort to bathing in the campground restroom sink. There was a shower in the RV but the plumbing has deteriorated so now we use it a a closet.

The walls of the RV are not well insulated, so many times the inside gets wet from condensation. That means all of the blankets that we have stored above the bed may end up moldy if we don't remove them an dry them periodically. There is mold under the carpet on the floor and there is mold along the walls behind our seats. But we keep it clean the best we can. The heating system in the RV no longer functions, so we have a small radiator-type floor heater and we move it around to dry the floor to keep it from molding.

My husband is bipolar and was considered disabled and was receiving SSI. Prior to my job loss, he was seen for 12 minutes by a disability physician, never asked about his bi-polar condition and was kicked off disability. He had received $1,000 per month, but it is gone.

After I lost my job at a college, we moved from Kern County in California, where the unemployment rate is over 10 percent, to the Pacific Northwest where the unemployment rate is lower to be near my son and grandson but without gas money, we still can't visit them.

So now we sit. I apply for so many jobs daily. I have a Master's degree and have been in the workforce for over 30 years. Why can't I find a job? I have marketable skills. My credit is gone (credit score of 570) and so I am no longer being considered for jobs in the "real" world. I am only ever considered for government jobs and even then, they usually know who they plan to hire but they have to go through the process. So here we sit.

I had been receiving unemployment benefits from California but now that the unemployment rate for the state is lower, there are no more funds coming in.

My husband can't find a job. No one wants to hire me. Luckily, the State of Washington has decided to provide us with $300 in food stamps each month but it still isn't enough to survive on. All of our savings is gone. I no longer have any retirement savings. Nothing. By the end of this month, we will be without anywhere to turn.

Your devoted constituent,

Paula Bray

Me, when I had a house... happier times.



Paula's story is part of a Huffington Post series profiling Americans who work hard and yet still struggle to make ends meet. Learn more about other individuals' experiences here.

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