Houston, who is in his 80s, hadn’t been to a food pantry in a long time. But now he needed help for himself and the disabled adult son who lives with him. His Social Security and the $45 per month in food stamps he receives couldn’t both pay bills and buy food. “We just run out of money,” he said.
So Houston came to a food pantry in Bonita Springs that partners with the Harry Chapin Food Bank of Southwest Florida. He filled a shopping basket with several food items, loaded them into his 18-year-old car, and left – with gratitude.
Life wasn’t always this way for Houston. He was a commercial plumber for many years and earned a good living. Then, “My wife got sick,” he said. “They couldn’t find out what was wrong with her.” She was eventually diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, and went into a nursing home. At the time, he was supporting his mother-in-law, who was also in a nursing home.
His wife subsequently had two hip replacements. The bills drained all the savings Houston had put away for retirement – $300,000 to $400,000. “It went bye-bye,” he said. Houston also had to sell his home.
Now, the food bank helps Houston and his son survive. “If I hadn’t got people helping me, I couldn’t make it,” he said.