At times it can be really easy to get caught up in the data and the statistics of the economic collapse and forget that there are millions of very real stories behind these numbers. The truth is that millions of Americans have had their lives absolutely devastated by this economic crisis, and things are only going to get much worse in the years ahead. Many Americans who find themselves out of work don’t even understand what is going on – all they know is that they desperately want someone to give them a job and that they will work night and day if they could just get a chance. In fact, employment is the number one issue on the minds of American voters right now. A new poll by the Pew Research Center reveals that the two issues that Americans are most concerned about at this moment are the economy and jobs.
You see, if you can’t pay your mortgage and if you can’t feed your family, suddenly other issues become a whole lot less important. If you still have a job and you can still pay your rent or mortgage every month, you should consider yourself to be very fortunate. Right now there are literally tens of millions of Americans who are living on the edge of financial disaster. The following are 10 heartbreaking stories of unemployment and economic despair which should make the rest of us very thankful for what we still have….
1) Can you imagine having to move your wife and kids into your mother-in-law’s basement? You have got to read this amazing article by Paul Schwartzman in which he profiles the heartbreaking story of one average American couple who have lost their jobs and have completely given in to despair….
He sinks into the couch, his gaze traveling from his wife to the television to the darkness outside, broken now and then by the distant glow of passing headlights.
His mind settles into another round of “What if?”
As in: What if we don’t have cash to buy milk, eggs, bread or diapers? What if our unemployment benefits run out? What if we never find jobs?
Scott Nichols thinks of the option the 39-year-old husband and father of two has hoped to avoid since being laid off nine months ago.
They already took free food from a church pantry, cardboard boxes filled with Corn Flakes and bologna and saltines. His wife, Kelly, walking in, head down, while he stayed in the car, ashen. They pawned his wedding ring, sold part of her coin collection and had help from the Salvation Army paying their electric bill.
Now another cliff approaches: the loss of the home they rent.
“Looks like we’ll have to go to your mom’s,” Scott Nichols says to Kelly, 33, who is in a beige recliner, staring ahead.
Moving to her mother’s would mean returning to the rundown industrial town where they grew up, a place that makes him feel dirty, inside and out. They would sleep in her basement jammed with forgotten furniture, a few steps from a pair of cat litter boxes and below three narrow windows blocked by insulation.
2) The Nation recently ran an article that included a stunning description of what many California neighborhoods are like in the aftermath of the housing crisis….
There’s a Mad Max feel to daily life in many neighborhoods. The Central Valley has a swath of cities whose home foreclosure rates rank in the top ten in the country. Friends looking to buy a home in a poor part of Sacramento tell me of foreclosed houses stripped of their copper wires, their toilets, their pipes, even their drywall. An ex-student reports visiting homes in which furious foreclosed owners and evicted tenants have urinated and defecated on the carpeting, abandoned pets to starve, left kitchens filled with rotting food. Sure, you can buy these properties for next to nothing, but you’ll have to bring in the biohazard squads before you can safely occupy them.
3) Robin Sherwood
My husband, Ron, was a construction superintendent, and in that field you know the job is always going to end. At the end of September, they handed Ron two checks. We knew it was coming, but we just didn’t expect it so soon.
With more than 1,400 people on the list at the union, it just doesn’t look like any work for a while. With most of the construction sites shut down, the work is just not there. Now what? We don’t know.
It’s rough in Boulder City. There are no construction jobs, and even for me to go find a retail job the chances are slim. In this town, they don’t look at bringing jobs in for local residents.
We get $1,500 a month from the unemployment checks, and the money is not enough to cover expenses. Our mortgage is $1,110 a month.
We’ve cut back to just the basics, even with groceries. We’ve applied for free lunches for my daughter so at least she can have a hot meal at school. We don’t go into town unless we absolutely have to.
4) Kathy Edwards
I lost my job March 6, 2009. I have been working in the insurance industry for 40 years.
At the age of 60 I doubt that I wlll find another job. I lost everything and had to file bankruptcy.
A sad way to end a good life…
Its the pits… not knowing what the future holds and when unemployment ends who knows.. You start considering what you options are: anywhere from homelessness to suicide.
I used to love life and my job now I feel worthless and can offer my son nothing to help him out as well.
5) An anonymous poster on the GLP forum
My daughters 23 year old friend graduated with a Bachelors in Foreign Business over a year ago. We are a coastal state (WA) and he has been unable to find a good job in that time. Currently working at a clothing wholesaler making a pittance and struggling to pay his school loans and living expenses.
A couple we are close friends with are about to lose their home. Husband managed a trucking crew. We all know what’s going on with the trucking industry. They’ve for almost a year attempted to save the home they built with their own hands by offering the bank interest only payments or refi to lower payments, they’ve filled out too many forms to count to qualify for the Obama plan to save their home (they totally qualified at every point but new forms were sent again and again and finally after almost a year they were told they do not qualify but not given a reason why) and the bank just last week told them they have until next week to come up with $36,000.00 or move out.
My father, who is on a fixed income, keeps his house at freezing temps, doesn’t go anywhere, and eats crap food and he is living on two retirements! You know why? His lenders suddenly raised interest rates on two loans he had. Then his auto and home insurance company found out he had higher interest rates and used that as an excuse to raise his insurance rates!
I was working as a Production Supervisor for a very large manufacturing company. They hired me on and about a month later I was told that the plant would be closing down and moving production to Mexico. I like many others am a victim of outsourcing and now the economy.
I have worked in the manufacturing industry for several years in Management Roles. I have actual experience in the industry that I obtained through trial and error, training, and just working. My expertise is Cost Reduction. I am old school and did not graduate from a college with a degree. I am from the school of hard knocks.
Being unemployed is truly the most difficult thing I have ever had to live through. I have worked since I was 15 and right now have been unemployed for over 16 months. I have applied to every job I am qualified for, joined all the social networks, worked my own personal network and try to utilize any creative way to find work.
I feel useless sitting at home not be able to work and support my family. My wife is working two jobs and still we cannot make ends meet. I have been trying to work with my mortgage company for a year now to modify the loan on our home but basically have been told that because I have still be able to make my payments (by the grace of God we have been able to do so, with the help of family and a little savings, this is all gone now) that being unemployed is not a dire enough hardship, and there is no help for me.
It is frustrating to say the least and seems never ending. I hope they extend the unemployment extensions that are due to expire at the end of February 10 because if they don’t I know what I am going to do. All I want to do is work, I would work 16 hours a day, night, afternoon or morning shift, weekends, overtime, holidays, part-time full time, seasonal, you name it.
I lost my full time job in an automotive related field in April 2008 and have been unemployed since. I finally found a part-time job in July 2009, which was far below the money I was making however I felt, a job is a job. Now after continuing to look for full-time employment without any success, I am at risk of losing my home as my mortgage company is not willing to work with me.
It is horrible and makes you feel inadequate in every way when u cannot find a full-time job and when you cannot support your family. I am close to losing my home and am frustrated that there is no where to turn. I have spent endless hours on the phone trying to follow up for jobs in which I have applied, only to be told that often there is 1 job available and there have been over 400 or 500 applicants. I don’t even get a letter or any correspondence telling my I did not get a position, I am just left hanging. I have tried to look into many different fields only to be told I have no experience, well how can I get any experience if no one will give me a chance? The problem is that there are so many people here in Michigan without a job, employers don’t HAVE TO take a chance and they have their pick of whoever they want (usually a friend or family member gets hired).
I worked a major online retail store for womens clothing and apparel, i worked at the distribution center here in West Virgina. I operated various loading equipment from order pickers, to forklifts,reese trucks, standups, and walkies.
I was laid off in January of 2009, because it was cheaper for the company to bring in new workers that would not have to be provided with bennefits such as, insurance, paid sick days, holidays, vacation, things of that nature, they laid myself and about 100 other employees off, and turned around and hired about the same number of employees the same month.
I have now been unemployed for over a year, i have applied for over 250 jobs,and have had no luck with any of them, the only thing that has kept me from losing everything is my unemployment compensation, which ran out at the beginning of the year. I have done everything in my power to find a job, I am also taking courses for IT related field, but I fear that I will have to stop the classes because with no type of income coming in i can no longer afford them. I enough money saved to maybe survive for the next 2 months, after that i don’t know what my family is going to do. there is just simply no work here or anywhere for that matter.
9) Lady Wolf on the GLP forum
We are fortunate in that we have set aside a nest egg for ourselves in the form of a 401K that we can dip into if we absolutely have to and it’s looking like that might be the case. But that’s supposed to be for our retirement. We’re both in our 40’s so that seems a long way off still…but we may not have a choice. My husband had already enrolled into college because he sees the handwriting on the wall in this economy and he just doesn’t see it getting any better with millions out of work in this country, but the field he’s chosen to branch off into could take up to a year to get his degree…
He’s feeling so discouraged right now…that’s got to be a real beating to a man’s ego. I’m trying to be there for him, but I don’t think this is something I can fix this time. All I can do is let him know how much I love him and that as long as we have each other, everything else will work out…I hate seeing him like this! He’s such a hard worker with a solid work ethic. He doesn’t deserve what’s happening to him…then again, no one really does.
People just want to provide for their families…is that such a bad thing?
10) Carlene Balderrama
On the morning she realized her husband and son would learn the family was losing their house, Carlene Balderrama, 53, faxed a note to the mortgage company, then went to the basement and shot herself.
“I hope you’re more compassionate with my husband than you were with me,” she wrote in a suicide note left for the company.
Unfortunately, these stories do not represent isolated incidents. There are millions of other stories just like these. In fact, you probably have friends, relatives or neighbors who find themselves in similar situations.
Perhaps your own life has been turned upside down by this economic mess. Millions of people who worked hard in school, always did everything “right” and who were always good to their employers now find themselves up a creek without a paddle. The reality is that it is almost impossible to find a good job in many areas of the United States today.
If you have a story to share we would love to hear it. Just post a comment below, and as long as it is is clean and does not advocate violence we will be glad to post it. The truth is that we will all have to offer one another a helping hand to get through this economic crisis.
And let us not look down on anyone who finds themselves out of work. Almost all of us have been there, and almost all of us will be there again. Many Americans who are now out of work are good, hard-working people. They were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The reality is that the gigantic economic tsunami that is coming is going to impact all of us whether we like it or not. Millions of jobs and millions of homes are going to be lost. Many families will be destroyed. A lot of innocent people are going to pay the price for decades of incompetence and foolishness in Washington D.C.
Things did not have to turn out this way, but this is the hand that we have been dealt. Let us be kind and compassionate to one another and let us be certain to retain our humanity as we all head into a future that appears to be very bleak.