Saturday, May 24, 2008

Chronicles Of Depression 2.0: #109

I'm putting three items in this post.

Buffett sees "long, deep" U.S. recession
The United States is already in a recession and it will be longer as well as deeper than many people expect, U.S. investor Warren Buffett said in an interview published in German magazine Der Spiegel on Saturday.

He said the United States was "already in recession" and added: "Perhaps not in the sense that economists would define it" with two consecutive quarters of negative growth.

"But the people are already feeling the effects," said Buffett, the world's richest man. "It will be deeper and last longer than many think."

Emphasis added by me.

Right, Buffett. Get in line behind me with that, OK?

Mom forced to live in car with dogs
SANTA BARBARA, California (CNN) -- Barbara Harvey climbs into the back of her small Honda sport utility vehicle and snuggles with her two golden retrievers, her head nestled on a pillow propped against the driver's seat.

A former loan processor, the 67-year-old mother of three grown children said she never thought she'd spend her golden years sleeping in her car in a parking lot.

"This is my bed, my dogs," she said. "This is my life in this car right now."

Harvey was forced into homelessness this year after being laid off. She said that three-quarters of her income went to paying rent in Santa Barbara, where the median house in the scenic oceanfront city costs more than $1 million. She lost her condo two months ago and had little savings as backup.

"It went to hell in a handbasket," she said. "I didn't think this would happen to me. It's just something that I don't think that people think is going to happen to them, is what it amounts to. It happens very quickly, too."

Harvey now works part time for $8 an hour, and she draws Social Security to help make ends meet. But she still cannot afford an apartment, and so every night she pulls into a gated parking lot to sleep in her car, along with other women who find themselves in a similar predicament.

Get this:
There are 12 parking lots across Santa Barbara that have been set up to accommodate the growing middle-class homelessness. These lots are believed to be part of the first program of its kind in the United States, according to organizers.

The lots open at 7 p.m. and close at 7 a.m. and are run by New Beginnings Counseling Center, a homeless outreach organization.

It is illegal for people in California to sleep in their cars on streets. New Beginnings worked with the city to allow the parking lots as a safe place for the homeless to sleep in their vehicles without being harassed by people on the streets or ticketed by police.

Emphasis added by me.

WTF? This is absolute madness. "... first program of its kind ..." -- you mean more are expected?

Linn Labou, 54, lives in her car with four cats. She used to be in the National Guard and is on a waiting list for government housing, but the wait is a year long.

"I went looking for family, but I couldn't get them to help me," she said.

Emphasis added by me.

Don't get me started on the rotten way our vets are treated (and with the National Guard being sent to Afghanistan and Iraq, they're now vets too). This is one of many atrocities.

I will remain silent about her family.

And if you think this is people on the employment margins, here's one you probably missed when it first ran:

How a regular guy gets homeless
I pull into a campground, pay my fee and pitch my green, two-person tent beneath the trees in the hills above California's southern coast. Someone has left some firewood, and I split it with my ax and chop some kindling. Within minutes a nice fire is going. I heat up some chunky canned soup on my propane stove and eat it out of a coffee mug along with crackers while sitting in my canvas chair.

For dessert I have a small can of fruit. I look out over a lake and watch the sun set and the fire crackle. It is a relaxing way to end the day. Nearby are families and couples doing much the same thing. Later, I crawl into my sleeping bag and doze off until the sun wakes me in the morning.

I could be one of many vacationers or weekend campers traveling in my clean, red, 5-year-old truck with pickup shell. But this has been my daily routine for 15 months now. On June 2, 2002, I gave up my $750-a-month apartment in Palm Springs, Calif., and put most of my belongings in storage to save money by living out of my truck. I thought it would be for the summer until the economy rebounded and I got public relations consulting and freelance writing work or a full-time job in the field. I never realized then that summer camping would go into fall and then the chill of winter, even in Southern California, then spring, then summer again.

The punchline comes at the end:
Les Gapay is a public relations consultant and writer. He is a former Wall Street Journal reporter.

Think about that!

And I don't know what's become of Les Gapay. I've done the Google tango and haven't been able to find anything recent. Does anyone know?

-- second article via MySpace Bulletin from Matthew St. Amand

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