People In My Neighborhood

A blog about some residents of Nashua, New Hampshire

Livia Gershon

Livia Gershon
Nashua, New Hampshire, USA
June 21
To get updates from this blog on Facebook, please like this page: Or on Twitter follow @LiviaGershon. This is a blog about some of my neighbors. Like a lot of people who spend considerable time reading newspapers and websites, I sometimes feel I’m more familiar with the lifestyles of the kinds of people who show up in the lifestyle sections of the paper than with the lives of people who are way closer to my income level. This is an attempt to find out more about the working- and middle-class people around me. I live in Nashua, New Hampshire, which isn’t a poor city. The average job in the metropolitan area pays about $28 an hour, according to the state agency that collects that kind of information. Unemployment in the area is under 5 percent. But I’m continually astonished by how hard things are for many people I see every day. I chose people to interview for this blog pretty much at random. I didn’t pick them out because I thought their stories would illustrate a particular political or economic idea. They’re just people I saw around who were generous enough to talk with me.


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MARCH 28, 2012 9:01AM

The Meaningful Job

Rate: 3 Flag

Terri Rodriguez

(Terri Rodriguez)

Terri Rodriguez was stationed at the bottom of a slide at the Bronstein Apartments public housing project on Tuesday afternoon, taking photos of her kids and their cousins as they raced each other down.

Her 11-year-old daughter and five-year-old son played happily with the other kids, watched over by Terri and their aunt and uncle.

Terri ‘s happy she’s been able to arrange her work schedule to accommodate times like these. She’s a licensed nursing assistant, taking care of a client at his home. Her 8-to-2 workday starts right after she drops her kids off at school in the morning and ends half an hour before they get out. That means she doesn’t have to pay for a babysitter after school, but it also means she never gets a weekend with the kids. She works seven days a week.

The home care work is a second career for Terri. She spent a decade working at a factory before it started downsizing. In the third round of layoffs, she was let go.

For a little while she was jobless and adrift. She and her daughter stayed with relatives here and there before they got approved for an apartment at Bronstein.

With the help of the state employment office, Terri trained for the LNA job. She figured it was a good field—if the home care agency hadn’t been hiring, one of the hospitals in the area probably would have been. And there’s room to move up to a better job in health care.

Terri loves the work. She helps people returning home after serious medical treatments, watches them take their first steps out of bed thanks to the care she’s given them.

“Basically you’re helping them start their lives over again,” she said. “They look forward to seeing you. It’s nice. It’s really rewarding.”

Financially, the work is less rewarding.

“The pay’s OK,” she said. “It’s not the best, but it’s better than not having a job at all.”

Terri said she gets by partly by taking the occasional extra shift when someone calls in sick. And she gets child care help from her family. Her daughter’s father has the girl on the weekends, but she depends on her mother and aunt to take care of her son.

“My family’s very supportive,” she said.

Still, Terri’s income is not enough for her to pay for a place where she’d really like to live—a private apartment, or, even better, her own house.

She’s been at the Bronstein Apartments for four years. She said she doesn’t mind it, except when there’s violence. Last summer, the project made the news all over the state for a brawl where one man was stabbed and another had his arm broken.

“It’s not really a place where I want to keep my kids,” she said.

Other than the occasional violence, Terri said, the complex isn’t that bad. Then I asked if her apartment was decent, and she laughed.

“Oh, I hate my apartment,” she said.

The place is big enough—a three-bedroom, two-bathroom unit with plenty of space for her and the two kids. But it’s right next to the boiler room so the temperature’s 85 or higher all summer. She said she can’t usually afford to keep it cooler.

“You have to pay $30 a month per air conditioner,” she said.

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Seven days a week and she can't even pay to keep her apartment cool? This is a shame, we all need respite. It is sad this is too common. I hope she will someday be able to take a vacation with her children and she will be able to "move up" in her job.
Wonderful human interest story, is this a part of a research project you have undertaken? You are the exact kind of person I like to know and hang around with. I am favouriting you and wd come read your stories whenever you post bec I love people too and like to read about their lives - it makes me feel connected to the world. It is better than sticking to a little groove of your "own" all the time which makes one become limited and selfish at some point. Rated with love for what you have undertaken.
O and pl say a Hi to Terri - she is doing great actually. It isnt how much you make in life or what you have and cannot have. What makes us great people or good people and creative people is how we manage with what we have and how we talk about what we have. When she says she cannot keep her children there and when she says she dreams of owning her house one day and live in a less intimidating environ, she is exhibiting awareness of what is right, good, and wholesome. That awareness of the good differentiates us from animal like people. That she isnt allowing herself to get used to the bad around her makes her a valuable person a good mind. And a lucky mind :) Pl tell her that. Life is never ever perfect, every stage wd have its own difficulties, what matters is whether we can retain the sense of whats right and whats wrong at every stage and that is what being consistent and integrated is all abt and she is that, her employers and children and family and friends ought to be proud of her and thank you for inspiring us with her story :)
Patience, I know, isn't it ridiculous?
Rolling, I think she's doing really well too. She's got a job she likes and cares about, for one thing. And thanks for reading my blog--I agree it's important to hear other people's stories, and if I didn't write this stuff I'd probably hardly ever talk to my neighbors.