Listen to Andrew's story

Typically soft spoken but intensely perceptive and reflective, Andrew has thought a lot about the problems of poverty and welfare in the United States. He believes the American Dream is possible for all, but it has so far eluded him, despite his continued efforts to earn a degree online in computer programming. He has struggled with maintaining a stable environment ever since he was sent to live in a group home as a youth. When he was just about to finish high school, he turned 18 and was forced to leave the group home. Temporarily homeless, he found finishing high school virtually impossible. Nonetheless, over the next few years, he managed not only to get his high school diploma, but to earn a 2-year associate’s degree from a local technical college.

While doing so, Andrew worked a variety of jobs. While working at a moving company, an on-the-job injury laid him up for a couple of weeks, but his boss wouldn’t hold his job for him. He found work at an automotive parts factory but then the recession hit and he was laid off. “Had I been a better at balancing and budgeting my money, had I not been quite so stupid with the alcohol and stuff like that, I’d probably still have ended up in this situation because I still got laid-off.”

Day in and day out, Andrew works away on the computer, either on online courses to get a degree in computer programming, or looking for work. While staying at the Allied Churches homeless shelter, he applied for every job he was even marginally qualified for. He received four job offers, but all of them were outside Alamance County. Without reliable transportation, he was forced to turn the job offers down. “That’s why I’m going to school. Because I’m sick and tired of living on that poverty line. I want a job where I can make $40,000, $50,000, $60,000 a year and maybe, not be rich or anything, but at least be able to build a cushion, so if something were to happen, I were to get laid-off, and my unemployment run out, I got a chunk of money.” His dream job is to do computer programming or computer design work. “I’m getting a little too old to be working factories,” he says with a sigh. “So it’s pretty much more about trying to get into some kind of office setting.”

Interviewed by Tom Mould, 2015. Photographed by Erin Turner, 2015