Stolen car, funeral expenses push senior citizen to financial brink

Feb 12, 2021

Willie Jackson of St. Paul is one of 25 million Americans aged 60 years or older who lives at or below the federal poverty level. Like so many other seniors, he is one unexpected financial emergency away from disaster. 

Unfortunately for Jackson, he recently experienced back-to-back financial emergencies. In the span of just a few months, two unthinkable tragedies occurred: his car was stolen, and his niece died.

“I’ve fallen on hard times lately,” the 75-year-old said. “It sure isn’t easy.”

When Jackson’s car was stolen, the thief caused hundreds of dollars’ worth of damage to the vehicle during the getaway. After police recovered the vehicle, Jackson had to pay several hundred dollars to have it removed from an impound lot. In the end, he had to get rid of the vehicle before it cost him any more money.

“I miss having a car,” Jackson said. “Now I have to rely on public transportation.”

Sadly, his niece died two months after his car was stolen. She had been Jackson’s only surviving family member, leaving him as the person responsible to pay her burial expenses. 

“I loved my niece and I miss her,” Jackson said. “Now I’m without a family.”

The loss of Jackson’s car and niece came with hefty price tags that rendered him unable to pay his January rent. He has been living on a small fixed income for the past four years, ever since health concerns forced him to retire from his job in the railroad industry.

“At my age, there’s not much I can do to get my finances back on track,” Jackson said.

Thankfully, Jackson has been able to rely on The Salvation Army, our supporters, and our partners to get him through. 

When Jackson realized he did not have enough money to pay rent, he came to the West 7th Salvation Army in St. Paul and asked for help. He met with case worker Kristy Anderson, who assured him that everything would be OK.

Quickly, Anderson was able to find and apply for a grant on Jackson’s behalf. The grant dollars were dispersed almost immediately, allowing Jackson to get caught up on his rent. 

“The Salvation Army stood up for me,” Jackson said. “They got me back on my feet again. We all need a little help sometimes. It means so much.”

Last year, The Salvation Army Northern Division provided direct rent assistance to nearly 3,000 households in Minnesota and North Dakota. While funding is limited to provide this type of assistance, our case workers also work as advocates to find funding from partner agencies. By working as a team, The Salvation Army and our partners are able to help a larger number of people and families. 

“Willie was so relieved and thankful for the assistance,” Anderson said. “The impact on him was tremendous.”

Please join The Salvation Army in serving those in crisis by giving a donation or signing up to volunteer. Your help will provide emergency assistance and hope for people and families in desperate need.


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