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Whitted and her boys spent a little more than a month this winter living in a cramped basement apartment at the Durham Interfaith Hospitality Network on North Roxboro Street. Now she rents a small two-bedroom townhouse with temporary help on her rent from the local nonprofit Housing for New Hope. But she's still behind on some bills.
She is also saddled with guilt, she confessed, because this month she spent $300 on groceries instead of the usual $200 so she could buy organic food and higher-quality cuts of meat for her boys in addition to the $1 rolls of ground beef that usually get her through to the end of the month.
For most of the past three years she has been "skimming off everything to keep the lights on, the food on the table," she said.
Whitted, now 38, said she has turned into a person she never thought she would be: someone who graduated cum laude from college but now can be on the phone with a bill collector, telling him an imaginary date for when the money will come in.
"I feel like I lost a lot of self-respect," she said. "I never would have thought when I went to school and spent all that money and jumped through hoops ... I never thought I would be in this situation." Whitted, originally from Chicago, graduated from N.C. Central University in 2005.
The scariest part, she said: "I'm not the only one." There are dozens of other teachers in Durham who are single parents, or for whom losing their paychecks, or a portion of them, could be devastating.
"I came into teaching because I thought it was a prestigious profession," Whitted recently told the school board at a public hearing. "I stayed in Durham because I love this community and its youth. Now I'm wondering whether or not we're going to be able to come together to have a solution to this pending crisis."