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HOMELESSNESS: Many are just a step away

Letter by Christa L. Absten, Tacoma on Dec. 6, 2011 at 12:43 pm with 27 Comments »
December 6, 2011 2:55 pm

In our current economic state, we are all feeling the financial pressure. Prices of everyday goods are on the rise and many of us are facing looming layoffs.

What will your plans be if finances become so tight you can no longer afford your home? Many have had to face the realities of this question. For many reasons, there are currently more than 2,000 people experiencing homelessness in Pierce County, including husbands, wives, children, the elderly, and the working poor.

The vast majority of us (some may say the 99 percent) are just one small step away from being in the same position, struggling to find shelter and sustenance.

So, how are those experiencing homelessness helped to get back on their feet? There are some community services and government programs in place to assist these individuals; however, our state is facing difficult times and drastic cuts are being made in areas that will directly affect our citizens, housed or not.

These cuts will not only impact the lives of those experiencing homelessness, but will also end up being a larger expense to our state. Cuts will result in basic needs going unmet and thus the potential for more expensive services needed down the road.

You may not identify with these kinds of struggles (yet), but we could all be there.

This is not about handouts but hand-ups that assist people with meeting their basic needs, bringing them back to a place where they can be fully contributing citizens.

Leave a comment Comments → 27
  1. jjohnson67 says:

    Watch out, Christa, for you’re about to face an avalanche of comments similar to Newt’s “Take a bath then get a job”. People who will comment like that don’t realize that you letter is right – we all could be in the same boat in a couple months, like my friend and her husband. He’s in construction, no work because nobody’s buying new homes. Is it their fault? Hardly. More like the fact that the economy sucks. And it doesn’t help families such as theirs for one party to blame the other. Blame doesn’t put a roof over their head or food in their children’s bellies.

    But some will deny it anyway. So sad for those who will condemn. And they think they are ‘family friendly’. Heaven help them.

  2. cclngthr says:

    Most people don’t consider a backup plan where they can fall back on when the hard times come.

    My main profession is teaching. If I can’t make it just on that; or if I found myself out of a job in that field, I would go with a backup plan, which is car repair. I also have to figure out a sensible budget that I can live off of if my income was reduced.

    Your friends husband is in construction. Can he do something completely different than construction in order to get by? Can the family reduce their expendentures to get by on one income? Do they really need high speed internet, cable TV and expensive phone service?

  3. Soundlife says:

    But you failed to mention a sinle one of those lessor important programs or areas in which you would make the drastic cuts necessary to fund your pet projects…
    Such mindless drivil…

  4. To ccingthr: So you are a teacher. Who do you think pays your salary and all the bennies that go with it? THE TAXPAYER! Talk about the pot calling the kettle black!
    In another comment you state there a lots of jobs. Please publish a list of those jobs available so the unemployed for over two years can go apply. Better notify the police too as there will be a stampede.

  5. Dave98373 says:

    Olemag-You make quite an assumption that ccingthr is a PUBLIC school teacher. If ccingthr is a PRIVATE school teacher (paid with private funds) would it matter to you?

  6. Dave98373 says:

    “Please publish a list of those jobs available so the unemployed for over two years can go apply. Better notify the police too as there will be a stampede”–Here you go Olemag!!!…currently over 5,000 government jobs available…try not to get trampled by the stampede :)


  7. alindasue says:


    I went to the site you linked to. I did a search to test it. The only limiting factors I filled in were wage, $14,000-$50,000, and location, Tacoma/Pierce county and the three surrounding counties. The search turned up a whole thirteen job openings in those four counties, all but two of the jobs in the medical field.

    I’ll be sure to tell the roughly 17,000 unemployed people (based on 8.6% employment rate) in Tacoma about those jobs so their unemployed problems can be solved. Okay?

  8. Dave98373 says:

    Jobs do exist alindasue…one just may have to move where there is better opportunity…or one can continue to keep complaining collecting unemployment and not improving one’s situation….Okay?

  9. finman22 says:

    It is absolutely amazing how many people can just point to the words “get a job” and think that will solve the problem.

    Fact- a great deal of the jobs out there are highly skilled. Do you not think if these folks were qualified, they would be filling them?

    Fact- the jobs that are left over, those employers can choose to be picky. I have a friend of mine who is a store manager and had over 500 people apply. For one position. Stocking shelves at night. With job competition so fierce, please enlighten us- 1) how do these people live if they do not have training and 2) the competition is so fierce for the remaining jobs that they are shut out?

    Fact- I disagree with Gingrich on his assessment that we do not tax the one percent for fear of this discouraging them from investing in the economy to create new jobs. Um, unless I have one question- if the 1% is investing, WHERE ARE ALL THE JOBS RESULTING FROM THEIR “INVESTMENT”?? This tells me they are NOT investing in the economy and simply sitting on their cash until 2013 when (or if) a Republican wins the White House so that new policies can be put in place that favor the 1%, and lo and behold, the economy suddenly starts to mysteriously improve because of renewed investment. Let’s not beat around the bush, the 1% is holding the 99% hostage by not investing their wealth and creating jobs. That is why the Occupy movement is what it is- they realize it, they know it, and unfortunately we cannot force the 1% to contribute to the economy by investing. We can make them contribute since they are creating this mess for political reasons through taxation. Simply put- either build wealth, or deal with the fallout by being taxed until you get the message. Fair is fair, and no, I don’t want to hear any whining about “oh, we cannot tell the rich what to do, taxation is a redistribution of wealth and that smacks of socialism”. Well, those in the Occupy movement don’t care about “socialism” they care about survival, putting a roof over their head and ending the insanity that the rich have created.

  10. alindasue says:


    You speak of having a “backup plan” when times are hard. Your backup plan is to be a mechanic. Back several years ago, when the economy wasn’t as bad as it is now, my husband was laid off from a wire shop at Boeing. His main job (prior to Boeing) was as a mechanic. His backup skill was as a truck driver. Even with both of those skills, it still took a couple years of intermittent temp jobs before he found steady full time work.

    Fortunately, we bought our house at a good time and our mortgage payment, tax and insurance included, is less than $600 so we could get by on my part time job and a little help from our church for a bit. Most people don’t have that advantage. The $1,200 rent or house payment for an average three bedroom house is just about what we were making then. If our payment wasn’t so low, we could have easily been among the homeless. As it was, we still had to have our loan reorganized to avoid foreclosure.

    One can plan and have savings just in case, but if the job market is really bad, even savings can only take a family so far. It’s easy to say “they should have planned”, but sometimes hard times come on even the hardest working of people.

  11. alindasue says:

    Dave98373 said, “Jobs do exist alindasue…one just may have to move where there is better opportunity…or one can continue to keep complaining collecting unemployment and not improving one’s situation….Okay?”

    Moving costs money. Obtaining money sufficient to move requires a job.

    I am not among the unemployed, but even I can see that its not as easy as just applying for a job and suddenly you have one.

  12. Dave98373 says:

    “I am not among the unemployed, but even I can see that its not as easy as just applying for a job and suddenly you have one.”

    The overwhelming majority of people that I know who are unemployed do so by choice. They refuse to work any job that pays far less than what the use to make or refuse any job that is beneath them. Some times during hard times, you do what you have to do. But anything is better than complaining on how unfair the system is. It seems that most Americans are in denial on the reality of the future…just like our politicians.

  13. alindasue says:


    I agree that people should take what work they can get when they can find it. Waiting too long for the “right job” pretty much guarantees continued unemployment – especially since most employers won’t even look at an applicant whose been unemployed more than a couple months. (My daughter has recently who faced graduating from college to a bad job market took on a part time volunteer job for that very reason.)

    That doesn’t change the fact that there are still more unemployed people in a given area than there are jobs available. It also doesn’t detract from the “there but by the grace of God go I” message of Ms. Absten’s letter.

  14. alindasue says:

    Arggg…mixed up typing! I wish the letter comments had an edit feature.

    (My daughter who has recently faced graduating from college…) is how it should read.

  15. beerBoy says:

    cc – you are making a big assumption that, if needed, you could easily get a job as a mechanic. Are your skills and resume as a mechanic so fine that you could beat out others whose first option is that career?

    I’ve always thought that the trades would be the most recession-proof jobs. My plumber has a very well established and successful business, he had several trucks with several employees……lately he is driving one truck and doing all of the work himself. I guess he must have lost a huge chunk of business in new buildings that aren’t being built.

    When the recession hit and our income was halved I had an option. My wife and I started sending out applications. My wife landed the job (found out I was ranked 3rd in the pool), we closed the business and moved. I have been an adjunct faculty member since but the University cut funding to the adjuncts so we have to pay our salaries through activity fees on top of the regular tuition. And HR limits adjuncts to one credit under half time so they don’t have to pay benefits.

    I have been applying to other positions throughout the US since. On one interview I was told by the Chair that in the two weeks that the national search was announced for a Director position at entry-level pay they received hundreds of applications and more than a dozen were extremely highly qualified and experienced individuals like me who had more than 20 years experience in academia and many years in the private sector.

    One thing that has made it easier (and cheaper) is that many Universities have begun accepting electronic submissions – when I was on an artist-residency in Italy last year I submitted three new applications and had an interview via Skype. I’ve gone back to teaching children as an artist-in-schools like I did in my 20s – spending hours putting forward grant proposals to receive rather paltry stipends.

    Get off your high horse. Sure, there are a few who are lazy or inflexible but realize that you have great fortune that is unearned if you still are not amongst the under- or unemployed. The fact that you have a full time job doesn’t make you morally superior to those of us who don’t.

  16. Dave98373 says:

    “there but by the grace of God go I”

    Make no mistake a-sue- I have been unemployed a few years ago and I am very grateful for what I have (which isn’t much) and I do what I can to help others…however, current policy extends the compensation for unemployment well beyond its intentions. In fact, it discourages people from seeking employment.

  17. cclngthr says:

    I would do much of the work myself, and car repair can be something that always exists; it depends on your skill, tool set and wages that you charge. If you charge too much, you won’t get the business. It sounds like your plumber friend lost business because his charges were higher and once the economy tanked, he didn’t plan on changing his charges to compensate for the economy.

    That plan should be including current expenses and seeing if wages that are available at the backup plan can be supported, and if the expendentures can be reduced prior to poor economy situation, that should be done. I reorganized my car loan and dropped a few extras when the economy tanked because my housing costs actually increased. Since I had to move, I also found that my tactic also enabled me to figure out where my costs were and what I could do to change the economic scene I was in.

    Lowering payments prior to the economy going bad is a good thing. As I mentioned to Bb, his plumber friend may not have anticipated lower business with his current wage.

    I anticipated getting a much lower wage when the economy tanked, but I’m working as much as before, and my wages higher now. Is it appropriate for teachers to cut their pay? I would think so. I could have my wage dropped by 25% with no problem.

    Sometimes this means people have to relocate to a different area to find work. My neighbor is a laborer and has been out of work for a year and a half. He seems not to go out to look for work. He limits himself to a specific area and job.

  18. cc – You are assuming that the Plumber (not my friend, just my plumber) is losing jobs to other plumbers – not taking into account that there is less work available because there is less new building going on.

    And….are you suggesting that doing repair work on the street is going to make up the loss to your health and retirement benefits? Are you really in that much demand that you could make up not just your salary but benefits – without any time to build business and costs for advertising, licensing, etc?

  19. commoncents says:

    I know I could get a job tomorrow if I had to. However, it would be in another city. Feel bad for the neighbors as they’d have to add 1 more to the growing list of foreclosed homes I believe there are 3 or 4 in my neighborhood (hard to tell as people tear off the notices the same day they are put up). No way would it sell in this market for anything remotely close to what I bought it for in 2004.

  20. Compassion is called for for those who have lost jobs and are trying hard to find work. I feel nothing but gratitude that we are, for the moment, financially stable. That said, I’m sure there ARE those people out there who do not want to make some of the big sacrifices they might have to make in order to secure a job, such as moving the family.

    I have been interested in the stories coming out about the many jobs available in manufacturing with very few folks able to handle the work because we’ve become a society filled with liberal arts graduates who have no real marketable skills.

    This is of little to help to those on the brink of homelessness, I realize, but I wonder if it isn’t time to reassess our values and let kids know there is nothing dishonerable choosing a trade over a degree in, just for example, “Feminine Studies.”

  21. cc- why don’t you test your backup plan by trying to get a job as a mechanic?

  22. BlaineCGarver says:

    Excuses, excuses, excuses……what if, what if, what if…..Y’all whiners sound like a 8 year old explaining missed homework. Go get two jobs if you have to, but for God’s sake have enough pride to stop whining or making excuses for the whiners.

  23. cclngthr says:

    Your plumber should have considered the loss of jobs in new construction when the economy went south, and considered the availability of work in rehabs and repair work, which always is available. He might have to diversify his work there.

    Work is work as long as it brings in income. People have to diversify their skills and possibly relocate or accept a wage that they don’t want.

    A friend of mine accepted a job at Fred Meyer, worked there a week, quit to work at Exotic Metals and quit that after 2 months to work at Boeing. I think he did wrong because he was more interested in a big paycheck than getting a wage he could get. Bouncing from job to job is not good either. Only exception is being laid off due to no work.

  24. “Standing in line marking time, waiting for the welfare dime
    ‘Cause they can’t buy a job
    The man in the silk suit hurries by
    As he catches the poor old ladies’ eyes
    just for fun he says, “Get a job”

    That’s just the way it is
    Some things will never change”

  25. Someone needs to explain the rationale of relocating for a low paying job.

    Start with going in the hole with relocation costs before your first day of work.

  26. commoncents says:

    Blaine – Didn’t see anyone whining on here. In fact, saw a bunch of people saying that they are either have or are willing to uproot families in order to remain employed. At some point though you have to recognize that there are social costs to the rest of us who are left behind if they do leave the area. Of course you don’t care what it costs you so long as you can continue to harangue those of us who do not belong to the social groups that you despise but still have empathy for them.

  27. bankerlady says:

    My husband and I both lost our jobs in 2009 about a month apart, due to layoffs. We struggled, cut our expenses, looked for new work wherever we could find it, and judiciously used our ‘emergency’ savings to get us by. It took my husband a year to find a job, and it took me two years. Both of us applied for everything under the sun, at any wage, benefits/no benefits, you name it. We wanted to work!

    I eventually found a job that paid half (literally half!!) of what I had made at my last job. It’s not a job that I particularly enjoy, but it keeps the lights on, so I do it.

    Last week, the company that my husband works for closed there doors, no notice to the employees, and stiffed them out of four weeks of pay. We have started getting bills and collections notices from some doctor’s appointments, it seems the medical insurance has been cancelled for a while and no one bothered to tell us.

    I can’t decide if it makes me angry, or breaks my heart, to have to read people blithely going on and on about how easy it is to budget, cut expenses, and plan for the worst, and have everything be fine. It’s Christmas time, and my little family of three has had about as much as it can take. We are now very nearly homeless (we rent, and I can’t imagine that my landlord will kick us out in December, but come January…). We have no food in the house (and before anyone mentions Food Stamps or food banks – we have tried! Apparently $12.00 is enough to support a family of 3, because we don’t qualify for any kind of assistance). The only reason that I have gas to get to and from MY crappy job, is my dad, who has generously loaned us a gas card to help us get by.

    My friends and family have generously stepped up and are helping us in any way that they can. My employer has offered to let my family have all of the leftovers from our company Christmas party. I am embarrassed and ashamed that I am having to accept charity like this for the first time in my life, but I refuse to let pride stand in the way of feeding my family.

    My entire point is this – please do not dismiss those in worse circumstances than your own as ‘lazy’ or ‘did it to themselves’ or worse yet ‘looking for a handout’. I realize that in some cases it’s the truth, but not in all cases!

    We had six months worth of salary saved in a ‘rainy day fund’. Who could have guessed that it would go on for us for two years! (and counting…)

    Please, temper your opinions with some compassion, and try to remember that some of these people are your neighbors. Not everyone out of work or in financial trouble is lazy, or on drugs, or makes bad decisions. Sometimes things just happen, and no matter how prepared you are, you can’t make it work. And PLEASE try and remember that for some, asking for help is humiliating and makes us feel like failures, but we bolster ourselves and do it anyway, to provide for our families. Don’t make it any harder than it already is to ask for the basics, what we need to survive. Reserve judgement until you know WHY someone is in the situation they are in. I promise that we did not all ‘deserve it.’

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