"I declined a position on Wall Street because I wanted to give back to Philadelphia," Martin said in an interview. "I'm here to make a difference. And unfortunately, now I can't."
Talks aimed at solving the twin crises of the shutdown and the Oct. 17 deadline for raising the debt ceiling produced no agreements last week.
Meanwhile, the shutdown has been felt across the region, closing major national attractions like Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, ending inspections by the Environmental Protection Agency, and threatening local nonprofit agencies, colleges, and students who depend on federal funds.
The closure reaches into the homes of furloughed workers, blowing holes in family budgets. Even if employees are later awarded back pay, for now many are running short.
"People have contacted me about food stamps, public assistance, unemployment. . .," said Richard Gennetti, national representative for District 3 of the American Federation of Government Employees, which covers Pennsylvania and Delaware. Every day the shutdown extends, "the anxiety level is going up," he said.
Martin, 53, a single parent, has told her teenage son to expect a smaller Christmas.
She got her annual flu shot at an Acme pharmacy because the store offered a $25 gift certificate. She's trying not to drive, to save on gasoline. Her hopes of buying a new car have vanished, and instead she'll push her 2001 Honda beyond the 115,000 miles on its odometer.
Initially, the shutdown idled about 800,000 federal workers, with 350,000 later recalled by the Defense Department. Thousands among the 46,880 in the Philadelphia and Camden metro regions remain off the job.
"It's tough," said Judith Axler, a furloughed HUD employee who helps people on the verge of homelessness. "It's frustrating, knowing our clients are out there and need our help."
She's assigned to the Center City office, located in the Wanamaker Building. Martin works in the same place, serving as second vice president of Local 2032 of the AFGE, the bargaining unit for HUD workers in Philadelphia.
She grew up in West Philadelphia, across from what was Black Oak Park, now Malcolm X Park. Her grandmother was her role model, the unofficial block cleanup person from the 1960s through the 1980s, a person who cared about the welfare of others.
Martin graduated from Overbrook High School in 1978, went to Drexel University, then left to work when she could no longer afford to take classes. She later resumed her studies at Temple University, and after graduating in 1987 with a degree in business administration, went to work for Johnson & Johnson, the multibillion-dollar pharmaceutical firm, in Piscataway, N.J.
In 1990 she returned to Philadelphia, seeking an advanced degree in business. "I thought at the time that working on Wall Street was the best for me," she said.
But by the time she graduated from Wharton in 1994, she had decided against a career in private industry.
Instead, she worked for the city Redevelopment Authority, then for City Council, moved to the Philadelphia Housing Authority and then the Wilmington Housing Authority. In 2006 she joined HUD.
During that span she married, divorced, and had two sons, now 27 and 15.
Her job title at HUD is "public housing revitalization specialist." That means she handles compliance, making sure local housing authorities follow regulations in spending government money.
She takes calls from residents who feel they're being treated unfairly, and works with the Veterans Administration to secure housing for homeless veterans.
"It's been my passion," Martin said. "I haven't looked back. I'm glad I'm where I am, being a public servant."
She wants to return to serving the public - and getting paid for her work.
"We need to put money aside for a rainy day, and we're having a lot of rainy days," she said. "We've got to keep hope alive, and hope these people [in Washington] will come to their senses and do what we elected them to do."