Employment consultant Dawn Steele sits in the waiting area of the Central Missouri Community Action Center, clutching an application and her number in line: 62.
All the seats around her are filled. Her face is as expressionless as the others in the room.
Like many of the people around her, Steele is caught in the net of today's unreliable economy. She works hard, but the money she makes is not enough.
“I just graduated from school,” she said. “I went to school for a year and a half working two part-time jobs, some of them making minimum wage.”
She represents a significant number of applicants at the action center, said Adam Tipton, Boone County community service supervisor for the center.
“What I’m seeing is people having to take on second jobs or trying to get more hours just to try to keep up with what’s going on,” he said.
“People tend to think that the families that come through here are all unemployed and lazy, when a majority of them are working.”
Tipton said most applicants are first- and second-time visitors just trying to stay afloat.
“Poverty does not care how old you are, what your background is, what your race is, or where you’re working,” he said. “Poverty can hit anyone, whether it’s generational or situational.”
Although Steele would not call her situation “poverty,” she is not ashamed to ask for help when she needs it — but she makes it a point to ask only when she needs it.
“I am just trying to make ends meet,” she said.