Readers respond to Laurel resident's plight
Last weekend I wrote about the rough economy's effect on unemployed workers ages 50 and up, who are having an especially rotten time finding a new job. A growing number are at the brink of homelessness.
One, Laurel resident Kathleen Harwell, 59, has searched for nearly two years to replace her eliminated administrative-assistant position. Unemployment benefits exhausted and too young for Social Security, she was about to be evicted from her mobile-home community.
She owns her house outright but had fallen several months behind on the rent for her land. Her management company warned her in December that it would move to auction it to pay the arrears if she couldn't pay up by mid-January. "I'm out of luck unless a miracle happens," she said last week.
Readers took that as a call to action. Several sent checks to Harwell, made out to the company, that collectively paid off the $2,100 in arrears as well as her February rent. That buys her a month to keep searching for a job or another alternative to life in a shelter.
Some of the people donating money are in that 50-plus age group and felt fortunate that they were doing all right. One woman, a retiree, felt a connection based on background: "I was an administrative assistant for many years," she told me.
In thank-you notes to the strangers who stepped in at her time of need, Harwell said she wrote: "Your kindness will always be in my thoughts."
"At least for the time being, right now, things are stabilized," said Harwell, who spends part of every week going through help-wanted listings at the one-stop job center in Columbia. (That's how we connected in the first place.)
Offers of help, including job and job-training suggestions, also came in for Eve Prietz, whose home is in foreclosure. So don't let anyone convince you that people don't care about each other anymore.
The real key for most people at the brink of eviction or foreclosure is employment. I hope the job picture improves substantially soon, because people's lives depend on it.
In the meantime: Do you have a housing plan B, C and D in place in case you lose your job? Could you survive if you're out of work for a year or more?
A new Bankrate.com survey finds that 38 percent of Americans feel less comfortable about their savings level than they did a year earlier, compared with just 19 percent who feel more comfortable. So financial insecurity remains an ever-present issue, even though the recession was officially over a year and a half ago.
I'd like to hear about creative things you've done to keep a roof over your head in tough times, or to cut back on housing expenses to build up more savings.