Eyewitness News followed Patsy Woodcock as she shopped in Crisis Assistance Ministry's Free Store. It's her first time ever needing to rely on an agency for help.
Woodcock was laid off last May, but still managed to support her family of eight through her Social Security benefits.
"Didn't feel a pinch ‘til my husband got sick in September,” she said.
Suddenly, nearly all of her income was going toward medical costs and she had no cushion to pay for anything else. Her lights would have been turned off Thursday if she didn't go to Crisis Assistance Ministry for help. Woodcock's story is an example of asset poverty.
Crisis CEO Carol Hardison said it's an issue highlighted in a study by the Corporation for Enterprise Development completed last summer. It found 36 percent of families in Charlotte do not have enough assets to live for three months at the federal poverty level if they lose their main source of income. That's higher than the state and national average.
"They could find themselves in a food kitchen or the doors of Crisis Assistance,” Hardison said.
Hardison said no matter how much they make, many people do not have at least six months of savings or equity to fall back on.
Now, Crisis Assistance and about 20 other local agencies are using the study to find ways to help people avoid asset poverty.
The Bank of the Urban League of Central Carolinas offers low-cost banking and financial literacy to help people avoid high-interest loans.
Thursday, Crisis Assistance Ministry partnered with Communities in Schools to prevent students in low-income families from dropping out.
Woodcock is thankful for the help she's getting and encouraged others to prepare for the unexpected.
"Don't stop when you think you've got that cushion. Keep saving till you have a little bit more, a little bit more," Woodcock said. "Don't ever think you've got enough, because you never will."
The study also found 59 percent of Mecklenburg County residents have subprime credit scores, and 8 percent of Charlotte households do not use banks.