A Married Couple's Perseverance

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COLUMBIA - A married couple in Columbia understands just how much of a roller coaster marriage can be.

Barbara and Greg Griffin have been married for more than three decades. In July of 1979, Barbara moved from Charlotte, North Carolina to Atlanta. She ate out for about a week after her moving van didn't arrive for a week or so, and that's when she met her future husband.

"Each day for five days, I was eating these two meals over there, so we got to know each other quickly," Barbara said.

They soon discovered they were meant to be more than friends.

"I moved there in July and by October, we were dating," Barbara said. "By Christmas, we were engaged, and by February, we went to Brinsworth, Georgia where his family is and got married."

After moving from Atlanta to Virginia, these two eventually decided to move to Missouri around 1990. Now, they live at Hanover Estates, a senior living community in Columbia. They have moved around in order to look for the right benefits. Barbara is blind and Greg has mental and physical disabilities. They moved to Missouri initially due to its many benefits, and the fact that Missouri is the only state with a blind pension. Not all of Missouri's rules, though, could be forseen.

"Missouri is one of the first states I've ever seen that was so hard to work with," Greg said.

A little after their move to Missouri, Greg's health started to get worse and he needed help soon.

"For over a a year, we were trying to get him help and he kept getting worse in that year to the point where his bipolar and his frustration were making it dangerous," Barbara said. "It was getting dangerous to the point where he was going to try and commit suicide and he was going to hurt me if we didn't get him help."

While going to talk with Social Security case workers, Barbara overheard someone say something interesting.

"She said, 'If he was homeless, if you put him on the street, he would be in treatment within four days,'" Barbara said.

So while staying at a friend's house, Greg for a short time became legally homeless without an income.

"I went to the sheriff's office, signed the papers, they came to the house the next day, broke my heart, that was the hardest thing I've ever had to do," Barbara said. "They came and told him he had to take his stuff and leave."

Since that day, Barbara and Greg have lived apart and chose to separate in order to receive the medical services needed to live. In addition to the services, if Barbara was with Greg, her social security check would go away. Instead, she'd get a government check for $200.

"I don't know, it just really seems odd that you have to live like this to be able to get your services," Greg said.

Boone County Family Resources provides services for Boone County residents with developmental disabilities. Executive Director Robyn Kaufman says as far as state and federal benefits go, there's not a lot of leeway.

"There are some rules in place for the benefits, state and federal benefits, that may sometimes pose a disincentive for couples to stay together," Kaufman said.

Even though Barbara and Greg both say they've seen this type of struggle tear many couples apart, these two have found a way to remain strong.

"We are Christian and have made a commitment to our faith," Barbara said. "Just like that, our belief is we made that commitment no matter what. We made that commitment to each other and even if it meant having to live apart, we're still going to maintain that commitment."

Barbara said she doesn't expect to live with her husband again during her lifetime. She realizes, though, she's fighting for the ones that don't have a voice.