In 2016, we spoke with Soup Kitchen guest Tamar about her story. Much of what she said still resonates today:
Soup Kitchen guest Tamar has lived in New York City her whole life, but now, she says, “It’s never been this hard. Things are very expensive.”
For Tamar, living frugally and coming to the Soup Kitchen while managing chronic pain has meant she can afford to stay in her own home. It’s a situation she never imagined would happen to her just ten years ago.
She and her sixty-five-year-old husband raised their children on both her salary as a supervising nurse in home healthcare, and his salary as a middle school robotics and wood-shop teacher. But, she says, “Sadly, it’s gotten harder and harder for the middle class to make it.”
Tamar remembers their simple but comfortable life when the couple were both busy parents and professionals, steadily preparing for – and looking forward to – retirement. But when the economy crashed in 2007, all their savings went.
Then, at the same time as they were coping with this huge financial setback and resolving to recover as much as they could through hard work, Tamar began to suffer leg pain and weakness that slowly got worse. It wasn’t until her symptoms led to an emergency hospital visit that she was finally diagnosed with a chronic disease that requires daily treatment. Determined to keep working as long as she could, Tamar managed the pain from the disease until 2016, when the physical demands of her job becomes just too much for her to bear.
“Now, I’m on Medicaid but I’m in that in-between age,” she explains. “I’m not quite eligible for social security.”
By living carefully on his social security benefits since he retired last year, and on what little they were able to save when they were both working, the couple has just pennies to spare at the end of each month. But, Tamar says, despite the unpredictable symptoms of her illness, “You’re only just one medical emergency away from losing everything. I want to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
A healthy and nutritious meal every day at the soup kitchen helps her manage her illness too. “The meals are well thought out and top quality, which means I can get the protein and vegetables I need to stay healthy,” she says, adding, “I love the kale salad!”
For Tamar the meals at the soup kitchen make just enough of a difference in their budget so they can stay in New York, the only community she has ever known, her home. “I knew about the soup kitchen for years,” Tamar remarks, “And I’m just so thankful it was still here in my time of need.”