Now, non-profit organizations are stepping in to help men and women choose their roads back to their own economic recovery.
"I just signed my papers today for my bankruptcy," said Carrie Thorton.
Thornton is an unemployed mother of four with $175,000 in debt.
"I couldn't afford day care, so I lost my house and my car and my job and I've been on the system and it's a struggling circle and I can't get out of it," she adds.
Carrie turned to Circles, a non-profit community group with a simple goal, to end poverty.
The group pairs those struggling with a volunteer mentor, or an ally as they call it, to help make an action plan.
Cashmia Cook has had to grow up fast. The 19-year-old single mom is working to build her family's future.
"I have a lot of expectations for myself and I'm not there yet," she said.
Cashmia says she was kicked out of her home when pregnant and looking for somewhere to turn.
And there's Kathy Dieterle, a loan processor until the sub-prime crisis hit.
"We had leased vehicles, we had credit cards, we had the whole 9 yards. And I lost my job, that really hurt us," said Kathy.
She came to Circles for support. She never considered herself in poverty, because she wouldn't allow it.
She's gone from $15,000 to $600 in debt, was able to re-modify her mortgage, find a job and is now an ally.
As for Cashmia, she has a job and will be moving into an apartment. Her number one goal?
"To be a great role model for my child and be successful," she says.