Struggling to make it in Silicon Valley

November 28, 2008 5:44:59 PM PST
Kayden Brown and his mother Kimber are both barely surviving in Santa Clara County.

"You know I've made it this far, so I know I can make it through more," Kimber Brown said.

Brown ,26, is divorced. She works at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Santa Clara making about $50,000 per year. While that may sound like a lot, it is not enough to live in Santa Clara County; here, it is living on the edge.

"It's an awful feeling to wonder how you're going to feed your kids and how you're going to keep them out of bad neighborhoods and bad schools because you can't afford to pay rent in a place to be safe for them," Brown said.

Brown makes too much to qualify for federal grants or state assistance. In order to access housing and other aid, she cannot make more than $14,000 per year - the federal poverty level for a single parent with a pre-school-age child.

Brown makes what the Insight Center for Economic Development calls the self-sufficiency wage for Santa Clara County, $51,000 per year.

"If I could cut my daycare expenses by half, I could afford to have my own apartment," Brown said.

Brown shares her apartment with two roommates to cut her rent down to $600 per month. Childcare costs her $800 per month. Add on a car payment, student loans, food and clothing, and her paycheck is gone.

In Santa Clara County, 25 percent of families do not meet the self-sufficiency standard, United Way of Silicon Valley CEO Carole Leigh Hutton said.

"That jumps to 40 percent if you just look at single head of households, 40 percent of female heads of households don't make ends meet," Hutton said.

United Way, Catholic Charities and other agencies are looking for ways to raise the poverty level standards so they can apply to places like Santa Clara County and help families on the edge.


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