Thursday, March 27, 2008

A True Story of One Family

When she was laid off in February, Patricia Guerrero was making $70,000 a year. Weeks later, with bills piling up and in need of food for her family, this middle-class mother did something she never thought she would do: She went to a food bank.

It was Good Friday, and a woman helping her offered to pay her utility bill.

"It brought tears to my eyes, and I sat there and I cried. I was like, 'This is really where I'm at?' " she told CNN. "I go 'no way;' [but] this is true. This is reality. This is the stuff you see on TV. It was hard. It was very hard."

Guerrero is estranged from her husband and raising her two young children. She's already burned through her savings to help make ends meet, and is drawing unemployment checks. She has had to take extreme measures to pay for her interest-only mortgage of $2,500 a month. In fact, her mother moved in with her to help pay the bills.

Guerrero even applied for food stamps, but was denied.

"I never used the system. I've been working since I was 15-and-a-half. I needed it now and it turned me down," she said.

Stories like Guerrero's are becoming more common as middle-class Americans feel the pinch of an economic downturn, rising gas prices and a housing crunch, especially in a state like California that has been rocked by foreclosures.

On Wednesday, a key government report on the battered housing market found new home sales fell to their lowest level in 13 years in February, suggesting the nation's housing market is still struggling.

Americans also have been attending in large numbers foreclosure fairs where mortgage lenders, financial planners and counselors offer tips to hard-hit homeowners.

"Our economy is struggling, and families in the 'Inland Empire' and across the nation are hurting," California Rep. Joe Baca said, referring to an area of Southern California in his district.

"Our housing market is in a state of crisis due to rampant abuses of sub-prime lending, and unemployment is rising. At the same time, the cost of necessities such as gas, healthcare, and education continue to rise." Map: Foreclosures state-by-state »

Daryl Brock, the executive director of Second Harvest Food Bank in California's San Bernardino and Riverside counties, said his organization supplies food to more than 400 charities in metro Los Angeles, from homeless shelters to soup kitchens to an array of food banks. While the majority of people they help are working poor families, he said they have seen some major changes.

In the last 12 to 18 months, Brock said, the agencies he supplies have begun seeing more middle-class families coming to their doors.

"Our agencies have said there is an increasing number of people coming to them for help," Brock told CNN by phone. "Their impression was that these were not people they normally would have seen before. They seemed to be better dressed. They seemed to have better cars and yet they seemed to be in crisis mode."

He added, "The only thing they can do is give us anecdotal evidence that they think it's because of the sub-prime mortgage meltdown and the housing crisis."

A former loan processor, Guerrero knows all about that, although so far she has been able keep her house.

She used her tax refund to help pay many of her bills for the first two months, but now that money's gone.

She says she's now in a middle-class "no-man's-land."

"It just happened so fast. It happened in a matter of -- what -- two months," she said.

She's eager to get back to work and to hold onto her home until the market turns. But for this single mom, every day it becomes harder to hang on.

"It's just depressing," she said. "For me, I just don't want to get out of bed, but I have to. That's my hardest thing. I have to."
What else can you add to this story? Possibly the former head of Citigroup, Merrill Lynch, Bear Stearns or Countrywide Mortgage can help this family out. I hear they got rich on her misery.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Over 1 Million Ohioans Now On Food Stamps

This story must make the Republicans very nervous.
Steven Klinger rolled his rusted tan pickup truck to a stop on a cold morning, shutting off the engine at 4 a.m. After wrapping himself in a bright green blanket, he gazed at his girlfriend's photo dangling from the rear view mirror, snuggled deep into the driver's seat and waited 4 1/2 hours for the food pantry to open.

Fifteen cars were ahead of Klinger on this Monday, and by the time the sun peeked over the trees about 200 vehicles had lined up behind him, straddling the gravel berm and the potholed highway for nearly 2 miles. Scores of other vehicles would arrive in the next few hours, stretching the caravan's length.

Twice a month, every month, cars line up to get a box of food from the wooden pallets at the Smith Chapel Food Pantry in this gray southeast Ohio town. The only thing that changes is that the lines and the wait get longer and, alarmingly, the food gets scarcer.

All but forgotten in the compulsory presidential campaign pledges to fight for the middle class is the plight of growing numbers of people like Klinger and the crumbling system in Ohio that is designed to help 1.5 million residents whose status falls several rungs short of middle class.

Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, executive director of the Ohio Association of Second Harvest Foodbanks, said recently that the state's emergency food network "is on the verge of collapsing under unprecedented demand." Food donations, from private and government sources, are down, and in November, 1.1 million Ohioans received food stamps, the highest number in the state's history.
Why this story must be making the Republicans so nervous is not because of the horrible condition of our nations poor and supposed middle class it is that these people are finally realizing the connection between the lack of participation in the political process and their own political fortunes.
"I think people have drawn the connection between their problems—health care, the price of gas, losing their job, the cost of the war, the tattered social safety net—and the government," Frech said. "If we as a country saw people someplace else waiting in line for five hours for food like they do here, we'd call that a human-rights violation."
The lack of fair economic policies have finally woken the sleeping giant, those economically depressed that usually do not vote.

They have finally realized that the economic terrorism they have been subjected to is much more dangerous than the rise of radical Islam. They say as Ohio goes so goes the nation. The sleeping giant has been raised and the winds of change may rip the roofs off of both houses of Congress.