As the economy continues on a downward spiral, more and more people are finding themselves without an income to stay afloat. Some have been trying for months to land a job. Others are facing eviction. Here are a few excerpts from readers about their struggles. Lyra Solochek, BayLink editor
I lost my job in October 2007 and was able to collect unemployment that has now expired. Unemployment barely covered a roof over my head which, of course, doesn't include electric, water, phone and food. My electric has been shut off and my water was just recently shut off this week. The next thing that's going to happen is I will get an eviction notice on my door. The only thing right now that's keeping me going are my four dogs. I have worked since I was 16 years old but now can't even get a maintenance job! Every time I call a social service for help they never have any funding available. I'm so scared for me and my dogs because I don't see a light at the end of this tunnel I'm in!
Kathy, 45, Largo
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I am a well-educated male with two bachelor's degrees and an MBA along with enough college credits for an associate's in IT. I was making $45,000 per year and lost my job due to budget cuts, I was off work nine weeks on unemployment, got another equal-paying job for eight weeks and then was laid off along with the entire department. I was again on unemployment for 10 weeks. I am currently working for $30,000 per year as a temp . . . and have not had an interview or anything from sending out applications or resumes in four months except for one which was another $30,000-a-year job. I am a single dad paying child support and supplementing my income with savings in order to live day to day. Live in an apartment because I cannot get a mortgage loan because people want significant down payments in order to lock you in and put up some of your own collateral for risk.
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I'm a 41-year-old Type 2 insulin-dependent female with a B.S. & M.S. in criminal justice. My last employer, which was four years ago in Largo, was as a juvenile therapist for a non-profit agency, which is no longer here.
I moved back here over a year ago from N.C. Since I've been back in Florida, I haven't been able to find employment. My husband used to work for someone as a construction manager, but has gone back in business for himself as a custom cabinet/kitchen/furniture maker & all around handyman, so we can at least have a little bit of money coming in. We don't have any savings or investment accounts. When my husband lost his job, one month later our health insurance was cancelled, and now we don't have any, and we don't qualify for any assistance, so things are going to prove to be very interesting very soon.
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I am a 41-year-old African-American female. I lost my job because the manager wouldn't let me take my son to school anymore. I had a special schedule and so did other people but for some reasons I was advised that I had to stop taking him to school. I have been searching for a job and doing interviews since Sept. 24 and have nothing. I have had to do yard sales and sell my jewelry to make ends meet. Recently I had to have his father move back in just to pay the rent and thank God my son is on his father's insurance. I was denied assistance from the state for school so I have to pay for my son's school and his lunch and he is only 2 years old. It is very hard out here. I have a great work background but it seems like no one cares. My only option now is to go and see if I can get a job at a fast food restaurant which I am overqualified for but I have to do something.
Pamerese Rogers, Clearwater
I am a recent graduate from a Florida college. I began job-seeking over a year ago, to plan ahead and not have to return home back to the parents. It took me five years to graduate with my unique fine arts degree (art history with a minor in photography). My college always emphasized assistance with finding jobs, but when the time came there was no help. I didn't get a desirable job and had to move back home. I spent over a month looking locally for any job in any field with no avail. Luckily an acquaintance had a baby and was looking for a nanny while she worked full-time as an assistant deli manager. Since then I've been a full-time nanny, earning less than $150 a week. It's been extremely difficult making ends meet, and sometimes I can't even do that. It will become even harder starting next month when I have to start paying off my college loans. Despite this rough patch, I still apply to jobs nationwide and internationally. I also have the support from family and friends to listen to me complain about these though times. Just voicing my woes helps me feel so much better than having to struggle on my own. I try to plan for my future, in the hopes that it'll be what changes things around for the better.
Kristin Amero, 23, Holiday
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You all have "trying to survive" stories, but where is mine? How many of us are living on nothing? Have you tried to live for one full year on no income and still keep a roof over your head? I have. How many unemployed have put hundreds of applications and resumes in for consideration? I have. I am 59. I am way overqualified for most of the jobs I have applied for. Rarely does anyone bother to contact you, and if you do go on an interview you are told we'll contact you and you never hear from them again. I have sold my belongings to pay my bills. I have nothing of value left. Do you have any idea what the stress does to you? If it weren't for my friends I would be homeless. How do you go on interviews when you don't have money to buy gas?
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We came from Michigan less that a year ago. Both out of work. My husband is a licensed contractor. He found work in retail making three times less than his last job. I have been out of work for almost three years now. I have had two back surgeries in the last eight years. We are both in our 50s. We lost our home and health insurance and are now living in a rental, living from paycheck to paycheck. We have no retirement. (Gone due to medical bills). No savings. (Gone due to trying to save home, which we still lost). We had to file bankruptcy to get out of debt from trying to survive on credit cards. We don't go out to eat anymore. We eat mac and cheese, hot dogs, etc. We do not splurge on GOOD MEAT. It is too expensive. We get by with just the things that are the cheapest. There is discrimination against elderly and people that have past injuries from previous jobs. We don't qualify for aid because my husband makes too much. (He makes barely enough to pay bills.) I hate seeing him worry every night wondering if there will be enough money for bills. He also has been injured from a previous job, so now he is limited to what kind of money he can make, plus age isn't helping. Social Security it so far away. What is this world coming to if they won't take care of the elderly that helped so hard to keep this world a better place.
Sad and Worried, LK, Clearwater
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I have been unemployed for about six months now and trying to live on unemployment, which is barely enough for me to survive on. There are some really tough days when I have a hard time motivating. It seems like a full-time job, just looking for a job. It is very depressing when you work so hard to send your resume out or sit for 30 minutes to fill out an application for nothing. Then I hear about it on the news and read about it in the paper every week, every day . . . Employers are telling me that they are getting at least 100 resumes, in some instances a lot more.
I'm writing because I read the article in the paper. There was a single father that wrote that he was thinking about dropping his kid off with relatives for them to take care of and then ending his miserable life. After reading that, I totally lost my motivation for the day. I like that you are telling the stories, but that hits me where it "really" hurts.
I'm a single father also and I love my daughter more than anything in the world. I'm a non-custodial parent and I have court-ordered visitation with my 8-year-old daughter every other weekend and I'm responsible for paying child support. Her mother has over the past several months taken me to court with the general master who has ordered me to find a job. I've been threatened to be thrown in jail if I don't find a job and pay child support. The stress alone from that weighs tremendously on me. I have been making child support payments as ordered, which is coming out of the unemployment.
Stressed, Depressed, Kicked When Down and Want to Work, Joe
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I worked for over two years as a dental assistant with a dentist I worked well with. His other staff were basically just plain old mean, and I didn't fit in, so I left. Confident in my skills, confident I would find a job. That was back in March. I did find another job with a dentist in Tampa. He eliminated the position.
I have about $1,800 to my name. That will be gobbled up in bills before too long. I am eating granola bars, bananas and spoonfuls of peanut butter to conserve on groceries.
I have faxed everyone I feel qualified to work for and a few I don't. I have used up gas going to every single dental office in the area. I have called, searched on the Internet and e-mailed. I have probably sent out close to 100 resumes.
I am very grateful to the people of Career Central. I am able to copy and fax for free and use the Internet to job search.
The Ace Hardware across the street from Career Central was looking for a cashier. I applied. Hey, if it's a job that pays and I don't have to do anything illegal or immoral, I'll take it. The line was wrapped around the building. Old, young, men, women, a pregnant lady. All with pen in hand, competing for a job that probably doesn't pay too great and probably doesn't have too many benefits. But maybe it will pay some of the mortgage and buy some more granola bars.
Jeannine Folden, 31, New Port Richey
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I'm 47, divorced with no kids, I rent and have a 7-year-old car that's paid for. I just finished grad school in April for Mental Health Counseling. I moved to Oldsmar in May from Delray Beach, started a job at an addictions treatment facility as a therapist earning 40k. I have no credit card debt, just student loans for $350 a month. I have $500 in savings, am watching my 401(k) gurgle down the drain (60k in January, 40k now) & I own 5 acres of land in SW Colorado with low annual property taxes. I started a part-time teaching job one day per month, which pays well. All that being said, it wouldn't take much to throw my situation into a tailspin, but I'm not complaining. With my degree I should be alright as I can work in various fields, and once I'm licensed in 2010 it should get better!
Lookin' at the Bright Side
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A great success story: My husband, Bill, was let go about six months ago. He decided to embark on a new career using his passion for music (plays keyboards). As you would expect the Tampa Bay area is chock-full of entertainers, all vying for the same nightclubs and beach bars. So he decided to explore another niche. Assisted living facilities, nursing homes and rehab centers in Pinellas County.
He has developed a list of facilities who provide monthly entertainment for their residents; spends many hours "knocking on doors," has done some direct mail and has created a niche market for himself as a "performer specializing in Senior Entertainment."
At last count he is doing about 8-11 performances a week. (The holidays are already all booked up with parties.) It's incredibly rewarding, the residents are so appreciative and the goodwill goes a long way. Last week he came across some competition, a juggler and ventriloquist soliciting the same facilities.
Editor's note: The letters were edited for length and clarity.