Homeless for several months, struggling with addiction and a serious health issue, Dale Harvey has now turned his life around. He has gotten clean, had surgery and moved into his own apartment. On Monday when he moved in, he rented a moving truck and offered his services for free to anyone who needed help moving their belongings. Dale tells his story in the multimedia piece above.
A trip through the epicenters of the recession
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama – Billboards in Alabama are a curious mix of the crassly commercial and deeply religious, often side by side.
For instance, we saw “Go to church or the devil will take you” next to a billboard advertising a BBQ restaurant chain. Or “It’s your choice, Heaven or Hell” — where Heaven was depicted with blue skies and white fluffy clouds, while Hell was all fiery flames – shared space with a billboard for gas station with cold beer.
Alabama is firmly within America’s Bible Belt, an area dominated by evangelical Christians where church attendance is very high. Thus it seemed odd that religious messages would stand so close to an advertisement selling earthly wares, as the two seem to be somewhat at odds with each other.
But that was nothing compared to the two-sided billboard we saw a mile or so from downtown Birmingham.
On one side a poster cheerfully proclaimed that “Jesus is the reason for the season,” a reference to the fact that Christmas is less than six weeks away. A picture of a piece of holly was included to underline the poster’s festive, family appeal.
But on the other side was an advertisement for Hooters. For those people not familiar with this chain of bar restaurants, it is best known not for its food but for the physical attributes of its largely young, female staff, who wear tight white t-shirts and snug-fitting, uber-short shorts. A group of these young ladies adorned the advertisement.
The contrast stopped us dead in our tracks. Two messages were worlds apart but stood back to back.
We’d be curious to know what other people think of this combination. Is it just us who find this double billboard extolling the virtues of both Jesus and Hooters striking?
Photo by Carlos Barria
It would be an understatement to say America has had a tough time lately. After many heady boom years, the bursting of America’s housing bubble led to the near meltdown of the global financial system and the longest, deepest recession since the 1930s.
The downturn some have called the Great Recession began in December 2007 and may already be ending. But U.S. unemployment stands at nearly 10 percent, and much of the economy’s growth has been fueled by government spending in programs like Cash for Clunkers and the first-time home buyer’s credit.
The trillion-dollar question for America is whether the growth of the past quarter is sustainable. Reuters will be attempting to find out this month, in a cross-country trip through the epicenters of the recession and the recovery. Reporter Nick Carey, photographers Brian Snyder, Lucy Nicholson and Carlos Barria, and Reuters TV producer Sharon Reich will be on the road for three weeks starting on Nov 3.
From El Centro, California, with the highest unemployment rate in the country, to Austin, Texas, which has been hit comparatively lightly by the recession, the team will seek out answers at the ground level.
- How have ordinary Americans fared through this long downturn and what are their hopes and fears as the grim year of 2009 drags slowly toward its close?
- How are everyday people faring in Bentonville, Arkansas, home of the behemoth retailer Wal-Mart, which has thrived as Americans look to cut household spending?
- What happened to the dreams of retirees who bought homes during the boom in Bullhead City, Arizona?
- Do shrimp fishermen in Alabama have anything in common with out-of-work bankers in Charlotte, North Carolina?
You can follow the team’s travels on our Route to Recovery page, with an interactive map featuring news, pictures and video from the towns they visit.
Nick, Brian, Lucy, Carlos and Sharon will also be filing updates from Twitter. You can send us your own questions and comments using the Twitter hashtag #routetorecovery, or by clicking “Add a Comment” in the live blog window.
Do you live in one of the towns we’re visiting? We want to hear from you.