No Spare Change for the Woman on the Corner

Article excerpt

Waiting for the light to change as I walked through downtown Minneapolis to my gym, I saw her out of the corner of my eye: a frail woman, about 80 years old, bundled in a hat and raincoat. She was leaning against a building, a dollar bill clutched in her hand.

Suddenly she was at my side. "Do you have some change?" she asked softly. I bent closer to hear her. "We seniors don't get our checks 'til Thursday," she continued.

I had no change. I did have two dollar bills in my gym bag to buy some yogurt for lunch. As the light turned green and I entered the crosswalk, I pondered the strangeness of a senior panhandler. What was she talking about? Should I have given her one of the dollar bills?

I realized I could stop at my husband's office and get yogurt money from him. But when I turned back, she had disappeared into the shadows. I looked again on my way back to work. She was gone.

She was telling the truth. According to the Social Security Administration, monthly Social Security checks are received the third day of each month. On this month, the third day was a Thursday - and the woman on the corner didn't have enough to get by.

This year, the average Social Security check received by retired workers is $698. The average check received by older widows or widowers living alone is $656.

According to the Minneapolis State of the City Directory for 1994, the average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the city is $404.

As of July 31, the Minneapolis Star Tribune Rent Sampler reports that the average rent for a one bedroom apartment is $474. …

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