Thursday, May 29, 2008

Middle Class Families Living In Cars And Showing Up At Foodbanks

It's a recession when your neighbor loses his job; it's a depression when you lose yours. - Harry S. Truman

There is an economic crisis in this country, and it is quietly growing.
It is being reported that once regarded as "Middle Class" people are becoming homeless and reduced to living in their cars and visiting local food banks.

These are working people who have reached their breaking point as a result of higher fuel and food prices, higher taxes, and a dollar value that is sinking.

One might say that they were probably living beyond their means - or that they were flirting with a personal fiscal crisis for awhile - or maybe existing just living paycheck to paycheck and racking up credit card debt along the way - or perhaps they haven't done a good job managing their finances. Who knows. The stories and circumstances are varied, but what is apparent is that each have reached some sort of tipping point.

Interestingly enough our idea of poverty in this country is a bit elevated from what real poverty is across the globe. Poor people in this country still have cell phones and cable TV. Poor people in other countries have nothing. Usually they do not even have government help or the opportunity to elevate themselves out of that poverty. I'd say we are darn fortunate here.

But the issue in America regarding this slide of folks down from Middle Class to living in their car is that this seems to be beginning to happen to more and more people. That should be a red flag to all of us.

Some would say - but wait a minute, our economy is doing well.. we have low unemployment - we have strong global growth boosting U.S. exports - there is job growth.... however we are facing enormous struggles with the housing market and increasing foreclosures. Some say we are already in a recession. I'll bet the folks living on the brink or even living in their car would agree.

The question is what would it take to cause you to go to a local food pantry or live in your car?
(On a lighter note Homeschoolers need not answer that last part of that question - we already know how many hours you spend in your car ... smile)


Anonymous said...

I never imagined I would find myself destitute and struggling like this. I am a smart, talented and hard-working degreed professional with a stellar work history. But I've been downsized 3 times out of jobs as 3 different companies either folded or consolidated divisions and moved them out of state. I have been looking for work now for nearly 2 years.
Try to find a job especially in this economy as an older woman with decades of experience. You are "overqualified" and the employers all want youngsters they can pay entry level wages and they won't consider older applicants. Many my age are resorting to dummying down resumes trying to get anything, but the moment they see you... If you don't believe ageism is alive and well, this situation quickly proves that wrong. Your opening quote really rang home.

Judy Aron said...

Well, many folks in your position resort to going into business for themselves and becoming some sort of consultant.
It's not easy - and as far as looking for work - I guess one has to be as flexible as possible and that includes relocating or even getting new training and skills.
I hope you find something soon.

Bob Swick said...

Even though my wife and I are still both employed, we took great pleasure in cancelling Cable TV, saving us $65 a month and economizing in other areas to save money. If one lives below their means one will be able to survive any economic problem.

Milehimama said...

Anonymous, there is hope. When I was an office manager, my boss specifically told me to hire an older person who would be responsible. Of course, it was an entry level job (receptionist/billing clerk).

To live in my car, we would have to not have rent $. Right now we just moved and changed jobs and are on the brink - two weeks of missed work and we'd be in the car! Many shelters, if you can even get in, break up families so we probably wouldn't go there.

Interestingly, I've never been to a food pantry but very often have commodities/free food in my cupboards. The people in my neighborhood who DO go or get commodities (a food program from the gov't) share their extras and abundance. In general, I've found that people with less tend to be very generous.

Milehimama said...

Also, Bob, living below your means is good advice, but not always feasible.

For example, I have 7 children. We were FORCED to rent a 4 bedroom house, because of a standard policy across the board in our town that there can be no more than two occupants per room (they are overlooking the baby). Our 4 bed. house rent costs 36% of our GROSS income (not including electricity, gas, and water), and we were LUCKY to get into it.