“The Bills Just Keep Piling Up”: Patron’s Health Problems Force Her Into Bankruptcy

For Bernice Thomas, things haven’t been easy. At 59, she should be just beginning to enjoy the golden years. But the golden years haven’t been so golden–Bernice has been disabled since 2002 and is suffering from pulmonary artery hypertension, which is deadly. There is no cure.

Bernice lives alone and works to keep her living expenses low, but due to her health problems, she hardly sees the money before it’s gone. “The bills just keep piling up–have been for years. I filed for bankruptcy back in June. I’ve sold things. I lost my car. I’m at home 24/7,” Bernice said.

Bernice’s disability check isn’t enough to cover her living expenses and health bills, but she’s thankful for it nonetheless. But because she gets a disability check, she only gets $16 a month in food stamps, which doesn’t go very far. “By the time I pay for utilities and bills, I’ve got about $200 a month to live on. And since I don’t have a car, I have to pay at least $15 just to get a ride anywhere. I call my daughter to come take me to church, but I still have to get to the grocery store and the doctor and the post office and those rides add up quick,” said Bernice.

Before her ailments and financial constraints prevented it, Bernice used to love to go out, especially to church. “I really enjoyed going to Bible class at my church, but I haven’t been able to get there in over two months now,” Bernice said. “You think people in the church will help you out, but they have needs just like you do and you can’t expect them to take care of you or bring you to church because that costs them money. You have to remember other people have needs too.”

Although Bernice has needs, she tries not to ask anybody for anything because she’s mindful that lots of people are having a hard time right now. But she comes to GBM when she needs help getting by. “GBM is a blessing. I’m so thankful for the canned vegetables. Sometimes I’m able to get me some meat and then I’ve got a full meal,” Bernice said, her eyes wistful at the thought of a meal with meat and vegetables–something so standard that many of us take it for granted on a daily basis.

If you’d like to make a donation to GBM’s food pantry and utilities assistance program to help people like Bernice, click here to make a monetary donation online, or you can drop food off at the GBM’s location, 2304 12th Avenue North Birmingham, AL 35234, Monday through Friday between 8:30am and 4:30pm. All donations are tax deductible.