Front and Center is a groundbreaking series of op-eds—published by Ms. and created in partnership with the Magnolia Mother’s Trust—which aims to put front and center the voices of Black women who are affected most by the often-abstract policies currently debated at the national level. The series highlights the success of Springboard to Opportunities’ Magnolia Mother’s Trust, which this year will give $1,000 per month for 12 months to 100 families headed by Black women living in federally subsidized housing.
What possibilities could open up for low-income families if financial survival weren’t always top of mind? What dreams would these mothers and families be able to pursue? What activism and community leadership might arise? The series will answer these and other questions, by placing one mother’s story front and center every other week. The first-person accounts in this series are available for reprint. Find additional guidelines at the end of this story.
Yamiracle first shared her story with Ms. in 2022. While she was receiving funds through the Magnolia Mother’s Trust program, she was able to pay off debt and put a down payment on a car, but is struggling to navigate receiving any benefits from the traditional social safety net.
My name is Yamiracle, I’m 30 years old and I live in Commonwealth Village—a subsidized housing complex—in Jackson, Mississippi. I stopped receiving funds from the Magnolia Mother’s trust in spring of this year and since then my income has changed a lot. I’m hurting!
When I was in the program, if I was behind on something, I knew I had that extra money to look forward to to help me out, but now if I get behind I have to borrow from my dad and my mama. Basically, I’m robbing Peter to pay Paul.
When I entered the program, my rent doubled because my income increased which was frustrating.
(Editor’s note: HUD has recently released guidelines stating that guaranteed income programs with payments that end within a year should not count toward housing subsidies—in part thanks to stories like Yamiracle’s. Most mothers in the program do see a loss in benefits with the added income, but on average net $600-$700 of their $1,000 monthly payment.)
When the program ended my rent went back down but because I bought a car, I have a monthly payment of $400. It’s a dent in my income, but I need a reliable vehicle to get to work.
I’m still working the same job and the same hours I was when I began the program. And though I’m still trying to piece it together money wise, I was able to pay off my debt in the process of being in the program, which boosted my credit score.
Putting a down payment on a car and getting debts off my credit report were two of my program goals. The third was getting better housing and eventually, in the future, buying my baby and me a house. But I knew once I got the car note that I wasn’t going to be able to move and pay $1,100 rent for a two-bedroom for me and my daughter. I had to pick between the two, and I couldn’t have a car that kept breaking down every two or three weeks that I had to keep putting money into. The car was more important than moving.
The program had a good impact on both me and my child. Everyone in the program was so nice and in general I wasn’t as stressed. I knew on the 15th of every month I had money coming in. I don’t receive SNAP or TANF, so if my whole paycheck was gone by the 15th, I was okay because when the money arrived I could get groceries and buy household products. I could even get my daughter a little something. During our year in the program, when she would ask, “Mama, can I get this?” there was a lot more saying yes than saying no. We could go to Target or Walmart and spend a few dollars on a toy.
I’m in this in-between space where I don’t make enough money to pay my bills, but make too much to qualify for SNAP.
There are a lot of areas where I could still use help financially. It feels like everything went up when COVID came. Even though they were giving us stimulus checks—and those were very helpful—gas shot up to almost $3.50 per gallon here in Mississippi. A dozen eggs were $5 or $6.
Two weeks ago, I applied for SNAP but was denied because I work full time. If I worked part time, then I would qualify for $200 worth of food stamps.
We need more resources as single moms to take care of kids. Before Springboard (the organization that runs Magnolia Mother’s Trust) came, we didn’t have any assistance. There used to be a program where you could get assistance with your light bill. I’ve been trying to get in contact with the company, but the program doesn’t seem to be available anymore.
I’m in this in-between space where I don’t make enough money to pay my bills, but make too much to qualify for SNAP. I just don’t understand the method of it. It’s like the government thinks because I have a full-time job, I’m middle class, but I’m not, I’m working class. I’m just trying to make it. I am trying to do something with myself. I’m working full time. I’ve never stopped working. And it feels like if you work then you have to fend for yourself. We need help. I’m trying y’all!
During our year in the program, when she would ask, ‘Mama, can I get this?’ there was a lot more saying yes than saying no. We could go to Target or Walmart and spend a few dollars on a toy.
Through it all I find joy in my child, my daughter. Always and forever, my child keeps me going, she brings me motivation.
Programs like the Magnolia Mother’s Trust don’t make people lazy—they make us feel like we have people who understand where we’re coming from and what it’s like to be a single mom trying to raise and take good care of our children.
Front and Center pieces are free to republish, under the following guidelines:
- To ensure context isn’t lost, at the top of your reprint, include a line that reads: “Front and Center is a series of op-eds—published by Ms. magazine and created in partnership with the Magnolia Mother’s Trust—highlighting the success of Springboard to Opportunities’ Magnolia Mother’s Trust program, which this year will give $1,000 per month for 12 months to 100 families headed by Black women living in federally subsidized housing. The series aims to put front and center the voices of Black women who are affected most by the often-abstract policies currently debated at the national level.” (You can use editorial discretion to alter or shorten the text slightly.)
- You may also republish the photographs included in this story.
- If you share republished stories on social media, we’d appreciate being tagged in your posts. You can find Ms. on Twitter @MsMagazine, on Instagram @ms_magazine and on Facebook. Springboard to Opportunities is on Twitter @SpringboardToOp, on Instagram @springboard_to and on Facebook.