The Publication of Habitat for Humanity International | June / July 2002
The Cost of Living...In Poverty

A Lack of Affordable Housing Reduces Options

Good Health Often Relies on Good Housing

Substandard Housing Can Threaten Academic Achievement

Safe, Secure Living Arrangements Provide Needed Stability

Meeting Daily Necessities a Struggle on Low Wages

Nuts & Bolts

Behind the Scenes

Global Outlook

Notes from the


Coming Home

On the Level



Area Offices

Archive Issues

Urgent Issue #5 - Daily Survival
Everyday Needs Consume Energy, Wages
By Barbara Ehrenreich
Book excerpt reveals grind of surviving on a meager income.
Low incomes leave many families in a constant struggle to meet life's daily needs. Estella Montoya of Immokalee, Fla. (Shown here in 1996), has faced those difficult choices. Today, she is a Habitat homeowner.
—Photo by Raul Rubiera

Habitat World was granted one-time publishing rights to this story as it appeared in the June/July issue of the print magazine; therefore, we cannot post it to our Web site. If you wish to receive the printed version of Habitat World with this story included, please call us at (800) 422-4828 or email us at with your request. Thanks for reading!

Making a Difference: Habitat and Daily Survival

After years of living in a broken-down mobile home with no running water and a leaky roof, Stephanie Grubb of Penrose, N.C., was determined to improve her situation. For about a year, she managed to rent a house that provided a bedroom for each of her three children, a yard and such “luxuries” as a flush toilet and dishwasher. “It was the first step in showing [the kids] that life didn’t have to be that way,” she says. But in order to pay the rent, she had to work 80 hours a week, and during the summer her children were home alone. The personal cost became too high, and they had to move again.

Grubb built her Habitat house in 1994, and her housekeeping business picked up. Also, living in a decent, stable environment with an affordable mortgage payment enabled her to spend more time with her children. “It’s not just the substandard housing; it’s the way it makes you feel inside,” she says. “That overflows into all other areas of your life. [The Habitat house] was one of the big things in our life that allowed us to progress.”

Just the Facts

  • 12 million: Number of American children living in poverty including 5 million who live in extreme poverty. (According to the U.S. government, the annual income for a family of three living in poverty is $13,861. The annual income for a family living in extreme poverty is $6,930.) (National Center for Children in Poverty)

  • Of the world’s 6 billion people, 2.8 billion—almost half—live on less than $2 a day, and 1.2 billion of them live on less than $1 a day. (World Bank)


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