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Money Diaries: Unemployed and on food stamps

Under CC license from Flickr user 401(K)

For the next few weeks, KALW News will be presenting stories from young people in Oakland, talking about their relationships with money. It’s part of a collaboration with the Oakland-based nonprofit Game Theory Academy, which works with low-income youth to improve their economic decision-making skills. Independent producer Lisa Morehouse worked with students at Game Theory Academy to record their experiences, in pieces we’re calling Money Diaries. 

In this segment, we meet Josh Williams. For reasons he’ll reveal, Josh spends a lot of time walking – and discovering parts of Oakland he’s never seen – even if pretty familiar to middle class adults.

JOSH WILLIAMS: I’m unemployed. I’m on food stamps. I’ve been homeless off and on since September. My relationship with my mother could be a bit better, which would make my living situation a bit more stable. Sometimes I may have to go to a friends’ house for a few days. Sometimes I’m just walking around.

So I’m supposed to talk about how I feel about my financial situation. I feel horrible!  Who would be happy about having no money, no stable living situation, having to go to the grocery store and pay for your groceries with EBT (Electronic Benefits Transfer card)? And still not have enough. It’s actually really horrible. There are a lot of things from the grocery store I can’t get, like toilet paper, paper towels, plates… I can’t get any of that stuff.  I have to get food only – and cold food at that, food you need an oven to prepare, or microwave, and I may not always have that, so I’m stuck eating junk food when I’m not at a house. That’s not a good feeling. I weigh 300 pounds I don’t need more junk food. I need less junk food. I can’t eat healthy if I don’t have a place to prepare the healthy food.

Click the audio player above to hear this story.