The Great Recession's victims (hint: they're not bankers)

I’m moved by this depressingly somber story chronicling the impact of The Great Recession on residents (and former residents) of Cape Coral, Florida:

  • Each [of Cape Coral’s 64,571 single-family homes] touched by foreclosure over the last three years is marked red, as if the city were stricken with a rash: 18,575 red dots pockmark the map.

  • As she gathers the artifacts of lives gone wrong and deposits them into Dumpsters, she wonders what happened. “People can just up and leave, and it seems like they leave their whole lives behind,” she says. “Army medals. Photo albums. Framed photos of children. Cribs. Toys. I don’t know if they don’t have anywhere to go or anywhere to put this stuff. But you’d think that pictures of your kids you’d take.”

  • “One elementary school principal noticed parents going into schools with kids in the morning and sitting down in the cafeteria with them,” Mr. Browder said. “Then they noticed parents eating breakfast off kids’ plates. And then they noticed parents taking scraps home.”

  • When [Allen Olofson-Ring] gets new listings, he visits the properties to see whether they are occupied. To get inside, he uses the tools that fill the trunk of his Nissan Altima: a power drill, specialty keys, flathead screwdrivers. “It can get wild,” he says. “We’re about to break in the house — no, rephrase that — gain entry, and some guy comes out half-naked and says, ‘What you doing in my house, boy?’”… “I get numb to it, I guess, because I’ve done so many,” he says. “It’s a little surreal. You feel bad. It gnaws at you. At the same time, what are you going to do? Life goes on.”

  • The house is mostly empty, owing to impromptu yard sales [Kevin Jarrett] conducts to keep food on the table. The piano, the sofa, the coffee table, the dining room table and chairs: all gone. His living and dining rooms are devoid, save for one piece of art he cannot bear to surrender: a statuette of Don Quixote. “You know, dream the impossible dream,” he says. “It’s just one of those little remnants to keep dreaming, because if you don’t dream, you don’t get anything.” His wife left in July 2008, he says, taking their daughter back to Illinois. (“Not having the finances to sustain the lifestyle you had is very trying on a relationship,” he says.)

If you can bear it, The New York Times offers a second heartbreaking story, “Living on Nothing but Food Stamps”:

About six million Americans receiving food stamps report they have no other income… unemployed and receiving no cash aid — no welfare, no unemployment insurance, and no pensions, child support or disability pay… About one in 50 Americans now lives in a household with a reported income that consists of nothing but a food-stamp card… The numbers have nearly tripled in Nevada over the past two years, doubled in Florida and New York, and grown nearly 90 percent in Minnesota and Utah.

Posted by James on Monday, January 04, 2010