Living wage is badly needed here

I am writing in response to the article “Up from Poverty” [Commentary, July 18]. I am a 24-year-old college student who has lived in Asheville all my life. It took me a while to decide what I wanted to do with my life. I’m now attending A-B Tech, pursuing a degree in medical billing and coding.

I have always worked retail. That article on the living wage in Asheville is a breath of fresh air. I have found that most people who move here, or these tourists, seem to think that most people living here are wealthy or have great, high-paying jobs. This is just not true.

Most of the college students in the area work low-paying restaurant jobs or retail jobs. They have a terrible time paying bills, and most of them work two jobs and go to school full time. I had one friend who worked three jobs and went to school and still couldn’t make ends meet. She chose to have a baby so that she could get help from the government.

I never make enough money, even when I work overtime and extra shifts. And I haven’t had medical benefits since I was 18. If I have to go to the doctor, I just have to pay as I go. I think that a living wage would help a great deal. I know so many people who would benefit from it.

Asheville is a nice place to live; it’s beautiful and has many interesting things going on. But if it is to keep being this way, we cannot keep ignoring the problem of the expensive cost of living in the area. The next time you are in a store or restaurant, I want you to think about the people that work there—what kind of living situation are they in because of the lack of sufficient wages?

— Ellen Hensley

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