Sizable poor population remains in Bibb

At age 68, Marion McClinton lives on the cusp of poverty.

The retired Mercer University housekeeper makes ends meet on about $1,000 a month.

“Sometimes I don’t get by,” she said. “Sometimes my daughter has to buy my groceries — practically every week. ... I’m tired of eating collard greens and neckbones.”

McClinton’s income, which she says includes a small pension from her 41 years at Mercer, hovers just above the $11,000 poverty level for one person.

According to U.S. Census Bureau figures out this week, about 16 percent of Bibb County residents who are 65 and older live in poverty. By comparison, one in five of all residents — 20.7 percent — is considered impoverished.

McClinton, who pays $198 in rent each month and who volunteers at the Macon-Bibb County Senior Citizen Center, offered this advice to surviving economic tough times: “Don’t get old.”

“And look,” she said, “some people get less than I do. I think I’ve got $50 in my account.”

McClinton and half a dozen or so other seniors were lounging in chairs in the shade outside the Adams Street center across from Mercer at lunchtime Wednesday.

McClinton, in a sunshine-yellow outfit and matching shoes, said, “We’re struggling, baby, every day, trying to find a bargain and don’t find none. I ain’t got a meal in my house.”

“We used to go to the dollar store,” another woman said. “Now they’re high.”

Though Census Bureau numbers indicate an uptick in median income for Bibb County residents during the past half-decade, a sizable poor population remains. In terms of household incomes, the county’s largest sector (18.6 percent) takes in between $50,000 and $75,000 a year. However, the next-largest percentage (14.3) of households earns less than $10,000 annually.

Stacy Hill, a 38-year-old truck driver, lost his $1,000-a-week job about a year ago. He picks up 18-wheeler runs here and there to scrape by, but the father of three has turned to off-and-on construction work and occasional music gigs playing bass guitar.

Hill, who lives in Twiggs County but has a Macon address, was at the Joshua Cup coffee house in downtown Wednesday surfing the Internet for trucking job leads. He said he and his wife, who works part time as a cosmetologist and at a convenience store, bring in about $45,000 a year combined.

Hill, who has traveled to every state in the U.S. over the years as a trucker, said trucking companies have cut back because “they ain’t got no loads to haul.”

“You can’t make the money that you used to make,” he said. “They want you to drive for what I was driving for 10 years ago.”

He said, “It’s never been this hard for me. There were times when if I didn’t have a full-time job that I knew enough people I could call and find work. ... These days, if you know how to do something other than clock-in on the job you do, now is the time to pull out any second skills you’ve got and put them to use.”