Were you cold last week, the week before? So was Georgia. Her power had been off since Dec. 29. “I couldn’t pay my bill. Of course they shut it off. I didn’t pay.”

Georgia is 83 years old. She lives alone. Her rent is $525/month and her income is $750/month. She gets $19 worth of Food Stamps each month. “You know, you gotta pay that rent first. Gotta keep a roof over your head. “

She had paid all she could on that power bill each month since last March, but sometimes ‘all she could’ was only $10 or $15.

Georgia’s priorities are straight. It’s not a matter of budgeting. She just doesn’t have enough income to meet her most basic needs.

Chattanooga’s Metro Ideas Project reports that 
“The median rent in the city is $745 a month. This means that a household making less than $2,523 a month would be considered “rent-burdened” when renting an apartment at or above the median rent. In Hamilton County, approximately 47 percent of households are renters, and currently, about 46 percent are considered rent-burdened.”

That’s not news to Georgia. 

Of course we stepped in to restore her electricity, provided food, sent her to Greenspace’s Empower energy classes. We provided what she needed and gave her new access to ways, even at age 83, that she could help herself. More than she expected, she said.

But Georgia’s never expected much. I guess that’s what’s most troubling.