Special Report: Living below the poverty line

BOWLING GREEN, Ky.- Krystal Tucker is a caring mother, a loving wife and a tenacious young woman, trying desperately to get her family out of homelessness.

“This is the worst feeling in the world,” said Tucker

Tucker, her husband and two young children currently reside at temporary housing at the Salvation Army shelter in Bowling Green.

“Going through this, seeing what my kids are going through and what I’m going through mentally and physically, I don’t want to go through this again. My goal is to make things better and make better choices,” said Tucker

Tucker isn’t alone.

“It’s a struggle to survive day to day just trying to eat and have a warm place to sleep,” said Jason Ball, a Bowling Green resident living in poverty.

For now, Ball does have a home, but without any sort of income or transportation, he may soon lose the roof over his head.

“I need a paycheck so I can pay my rent in November. If I don’t, then I’m going to be out on the streets and be more restricted to what I can or can’t do. I’m going to be in that survival mode where you just try to sleep and eat,” said Ball.

Ball’s and Tucker’s stories are not unique. According to the most recent numbers by the U.S. Census Bureau, in Bowling Green, nearly 27% of the population live in poverty. It’s 10% higher than the state average.

As the director of neighborhood and community services for the city, Brent Childers studies the poverty issue, which he calls “complex.”

“The mix of what makes up that 27%-30%, we really don’t know what that mix is. I believe some of it is students, some of it is the elderly that retired and are now living on social security. I believe a portion is the international population that has moved in, working and growing their skills,” said Childers.

In Bowling Green, more than 600 families live in Section 8 housing, according to Childers.

“Bowling Green is home for me, so I take it very personal when i see someone struggling in our community,” said Childers

Fortunately, there are services for those who have fallen on hard times.

Back at the Salvation Army, compassionate volunteers serve three daily meals to anyone who is hungry.

“It’s a very humbling experience. I feel like I’m giving back and paying it forward,” said Jamie Johnson, a shelter volunteer.

According to Captain Michael Cox, who oversees the shelter, the mission for those at the Salvation Army is to help people get back on their feet, by providing not only those meals and shelter but counseling and job training.

“To be able to see a family achieve something so much, it’s hard to explain. I can’t explain the feeling I get. That’s why we do what we do. It’s not like we are in a high paying position. We do it because we love people,” said Cox.

People like Krystal Tucker, who’s now working full time at Walmart and determined to escape from this difficult and emotional time in her life.

For those experiencing similar hardships, like Jason Ball, Tucker shares this message.

“Don’t sit and do nothing. Don’t wait until the last minute. Don’t procrastinate. You are in a situation where things are tough, depression hits and you’re like, what do i do now? Don’t let that stop you,” said Tucker.