Writers Note: I met Jasmyn King years ago through her work at Later Gator restaurant in Wheeling – I immediately admired her spirit and energy. Jasmyn’s story is nothing short of inspiring. She has worked hard to overcome many challenges all without losing her optimism and sense of humor. She is known at Later Gator for her friendly and inviting presence and I am so grateful to get a chance to help her share her story. This is Jasmyn.
How have Safety Net programs impacted your life?
We grew up on public assistance. My family used food stamps (SNAP) on and off for years – It was an important resource for us. My mother would not have been able to feed us without it.
I am the youngest of 7 kids; 3 brothers, 3 sisters – and me. My mom and dad divorced when I was young so it became very tough to make ends meet. My mom raised us kids as a single mother. I couldn’t imagine how difficult that was for her.
Some people call me a miracle baby because after my sister was born, my mom had her tubes tied – it didn’t work and here I am.
Was it difficult growing up with so many siblings?
Sure, at times resources were scarce but we always had love.
We used clothing vouchers before the school year started which was a big help. I guess it helped give us some dignity so that we felt less aware of how different our lives were from others.
Since becoming an adult have Safety Net programs been as helpful?
A few years ago, when I was 22, I started to foster my niece and nephew after my sister lost custody. It was a really tough time, mentally and emotionally – I learned a lot and grew up fast. I love those kids.
I was scared thinking about how I could be a guardian to them, give to them everything they needed and still care for myself. Programs like TANF, Housing assistance, and SNAP helped us throughout that period and really improved our lives.
I’m not sure what I would’ve done without them.
Have you experienced shame or stigma because of being in poverty?
Shame and stigma are a big struggle for many people in poverty. I remember feeling embarrassed that we used assistance when I was in school. People would call us “poor white trash” and although I would laugh it off, it hurt a lot. That’s not who we were or who I am – we work hard and just because we fall on hard times it doesn’t mean we deserve to be shamed. It’s the last thing people need.
But, now that I am an adult, I don’t feel as embarrassed anymore. Helping raise my niece and nephew put it all into perspective. We do the best we can with what we have and if we can receive support for our family, friends, and community we should embrace it not be embarrassed by it.
I think that many people in poverty experience self fulfilled prophecies. We see generational poverty and we kind of internalize those feelings. Thinking that we are destined to turn out like our families. But, that’s not true. Each of us has the opportunity to be who were are and breakaway from those ideas.
I believe that God sends us little angels when we need them. When we need to learn something or see things differently we are given the chance.
Can you tell me about your personal support systems?
I have great support systems – my boyfriend and his family are incredibly kind and supportive.
Many folks in Wheeling have changed my life for the better too. Working at Later Gator has been amazing. I love the people there because I know they truly care.
It has all helped build my self esteem and hope for the future.
What makes you optimistic about the future?
A few years ago I was not so optimistic – It was hard to see anything good. But, I have become much more hopeful. Seeing people doing good things in my community has energized me and made me realize the good things that are happening around me.
I want to go back to school, I don’t know when though. I studied Psychology at West Virginia Northern Community and received my associates degree – I loved it. Getting into debt is frightening but I know how important it is to have an education.
I am working on negative self talk too, treating myself better by being kinder to myself has changed my life and is helping me become more positive.
I see the opportunity for change and growth and I am excited to see what’s next. I think I can finally see the light and find peace within myself.