09/20/2012 11:36 am ET Updated Sep 21, 2012

Formerly Homeless 47-Percenter: 'We Had Tons Of Personal Responsibility'

Heather Kristin no longer depends on the government to help her with food and housing, but she did as a child.

Now her "blood is boiling" after watching Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney suggest that her family's past means they lacked a sense of personal responsibility.

"Without the government helping, I would not be who I am today," said the 38-year-old, who lives in Brooklyn with her husband and daughter. "I would not be a stable, loving mother of a two-and-a-half year old."

When she was 10, Kristin, her twin sister and their mom were evicted from their New York City apartment after their mother "fell on hard times." She had worked as a maid and a nurse, but "started to unravel" because of what Kristin believes was an undiagnosed mental health problem. For a year, they were homeless, bouncing from shelters, to strangers' apartments, to churches and then back to shelters again. It wasn't until they went on welfare, got food stamps and qualified for an apartment in Hell's Kitchen that things started to turn around.

"After a year of [being homeless] we were falling apart as a family," Kristin said. "Once we had a roof over our head, once we had this government-sponsored housing situation, I felt like we were a family again."

"We never felt entitled, like 'Oh yes, we deserve to be on welfare,' or 'They must pay for us,'" she continued. "The goal was always to better ourselves and to be incredibly grateful for the gifts we were given by strangers, and all of the other community resources, too."

Eventually, the family relocated to Ohio, where Kristin's mother worked scooping ice cream at an amusement park and Kristin worked as a waitress to earn money for college, which she supplemented with federal and private scholarships. She bounced around to a few schools and took her 20s off to pursue acting, but went back to college at 30. Today, she is a freelance writer (who has blogged for HuffPost) and does not rely on government assistance to support her family.

"Romney talked about how people should have personal responsibility. Well, we had tons of personal responsibility," Kristin said. "We knew that if we didn't strive and continue to read books and prepare for college, we would probably repeat our mother's mistakes. We did whatever it took to survive."

Before seeing the video, Kristin didn't have particularly strong feelings about Romney. Now she does.

"This was a huge turning point for me, where I was like, 'Forget it,'" Kristin said. "Because, you know, we were not victims. And if we had been given more resources, like, if my mother had more mental help ... we certainly would've done a lot better. But at least we had housing and food stamps."



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