Following our Route to Recovery special report, we asked contributors from Associated Content to tell us their stories about the recession.
By Cheryl Williams
It was October 2008. I was sitting in the lobby at a doctor’s office in Charlotte, N.C., waiting for a physical for my new job. The waiting room was filled and all eyes were on the TV. The stock market was plummeting and it was clear that the American financial system was in crisis mode. Strangers who normally would never be speaking to each other were engaged in deep conversation about the economy. I remember thinking how blessed I was to have finally found a job.
I now work as a house mother at Angel House Maternity Home, a group home for pregnant women in Charlotte. Before coming to Angel House, most of our clients were homeless or living in shelters. Because our agency is non-profit, we felt far-removed at the time from anything going on with Wall Street. It didn’t take long for me to see how wrong I was.
In July, my boss informed us during an emergency meeting that the situation was bleak; there was a chance all of the maternity homes in the area would lose funding. She said she was preparing us for the possibility we might not have a job in the near future. Until she received the final word on budget cuts, she had to close the maternity home in August. This was bleak news for employees and for the women who lived at Angel House. They now had to find a place to stay for a month until we learned our fate.
To compensate, we cut back and have been more mindful of any kind of waste. We utilized the food bank more. We spent more conservatively. Not only were we worried we might lose our jobs, we were concerned for the pregnant women who could be forced back to the streets.
A month without a paycheck damaged my finances. Some bills did not get paid and late fees accrued. My husband had to pay for everything with a paycheck that doesn’t cover it all. I only work part-time, but the loss of $750 that month hurt. We cut 20 percent from our grocery and gasoline bills.
At work, the worry continued. In September, The Charlotte Observer reported fears of “another year of shriveled budgets” for many non-profit agencies in the area.
But after four weeks of closed doors, we learned our maternity home only lost part of its funding. We had to take a pay cut, but we’re relieved nonetheless. We can keep our jobs and the women can keep their homes.
Life is looking up a bit. But we proceed with caution on shaky financial ground.