'I've Become One Of The Shadow People'

Lisa Millard, 50, of Las Vegas has been out of work since April.

I've worked as a poker supervisor in Las Vegas for the past 10 years. I had a good job, and I was good at what I did. Once the recession hit, though, it really was like a scene out of a movie. The town was full one minute and then the next, it was like the streets had tumbleweeds blowing down them just like in a Western.

I went from dealing anywhere from three to four games a night and making a decent income to going into work and dealing no games. This went on for a while as my hours were cut back until I was let go in April.

Since then, my life has just been spinning out of control. I get $320 of unemployment pay a week -- just enough to cover my bills. But you know what? I'm grateful for it because I don't know where I would have been without it. Unemployment is like a lifeline for those of us who need it while we are looking for work.

Like many others, though, I am looking at my benefits ending in three weeks. I'm grateful for having a roof over my head on this day. But going forward, it's scary. If you put yourself in the position of a lot of other people going through the same thing, I'm sure you could understand the fear.

I want to work. Believe me, I apply for anywhere from five to 10 jobs a day. I've sent out I don't know how many resumes. The job market here is fierce, and when politicians refer to us as lazy and not willing to work, it's just like a slap in the face. It's demoralizing because the majority of people I believe want to work. They don't want to sit around and draw what little, minimal amount of money you get every week.

I've cut back on the way that I live. I don't buy certain things. I live dollar for dollar, and I make every dollar that I have stretch to the limit. I coupon shop. I cut down on my cable bill by half. The house phone comes with the Internet but as a whole, I've drastically cut back on everything. I only have the necessities that I need now in order to hopefully find gainful employment.

I still live in the same house that I've been in for almost the last five years. My mother resides with me and even though I've never wanted to depend on her, we share the cost of living in this house. If it wasn't for her, I'd probably be living with one of my children. I mean, who ever wants to come to that decision in their life? But I'm fortunate that I have children here and that they are grown and that they are pretty stable. They've all told me, 'Mom, if worse comes to worst, you can come live with us.' But my God, I'm going to be 51 years old and I'm going to be living with my kids!

My mother and I have discussed what we will do if I can't find work -- we may have to downsize, put the majority of our things in storage and move into a little dinky apartment in, well, in not such a good part of town just so she and I can exist. That's the worst-case scenario, and in this city, that's not fun.

Rent here goes from $1500 to $2500 for the elite, down to $500 where people are struggling in roach-infested dwellings. It's no different than any other major city in the world I guess, but in Las Vegas, it just goes from the rich to the poor -- it's disgusting. But you do what you have to do just so you can survive.

It just seems to me that nothing is going to get changed. Politicians aren't going to hear all of the people's voices crying out for help with this unemployment extension. They are just going to battle it back and forth, and it will end up just like everything else when it comes to the middle-class working people: They didn't need it, jobs are being filled, and why should we have extended it?

I've become one of the shadow people. And most days, it seems like nothing is going to change.

As told to Kasey Varner. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Lisa Millard'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.

Have a similar story you'd like to share? Email workingpoor@huffingtonpost.com, or give us a call at (408) 508-4833, and you can record your story in your own words. Please be sure to include your name and phone number.




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