Living the Recession: Broken Dreams for Middle-Class Families
"We Had to Move into a Motel"
At first Fred Scott's kids saw life in a motel room as an adventure. The TV was right by the bed, nearly everyone got to sleep in the same room -- and those little bars of soap? Downright exotic. Plus, with nowhere for their mom or dad to cook, Taco Bell and McDonald's became dinner staples. "The little ones were pretty excited," says Fred, 34. "But the older kids were hit with the reality pretty fast: that we'd lost our apartment and were basically homeless."
Fred, his wife, Lisa, and their six young kids were evicted from their Huntington Beach, California, apartment last year. It was the day after Mother's Day and Fred had recently been laid off as a maintenance and repair engineer for a commercial dishwasher company. His pay, $55,000 a year, had put them squarely in the middle class. They lived in a nice neighborhood near the beach where their kids, ranging in age from 2 to 11, attended local schools or stayed home with their full-time caregiver mom. "After the eviction we didn't have the money or credit for an apartment that would fit all of us, and our parents weren't in situations where they could take us in, so we figured we'd tough it out at a cut-rate motel until things got better," says Fred. But once they checked in, two of the kids started having asthma attacks and severe outbreaks of eczema. "Those places allow animals and the kids have allergies," says Fred. "Our poor boys were up all night scratching and wheezing. We saw doctors a couple of times a week."
The Scotts decided to spend their dwindling savings on nicer accommodations, so they moved into a pricier motel and struck a weekly deal with a sympathetic manager. They financed their stay with Fred's new job as a cable TV installer. The money kept a three-star roof over their head until orders for cable dipped with the economy. The family briefly considered checking into a shelter. "I didn't want to turn away help, but we have little kids, and we were worried about what kind of people might also be there," says Fred. "Friends were saying, 'Well, you gotta do what you gotta do,' but for us, the kids' safety came first, no matter what. We just couldn't do it."
After their truck was impounded -- with the children's medication, clothing, and diapers in the back -- the intensely private family began reaching out for help. They alerted their kids' principal, who helped keep the children on track in school and gave the Scotts a list of resources that led them to the Orange County Rescue Mission. One year after they'd lost their apartment, the family moved into a four-bedroom flat. The security deposit was donated by the mission, which is now also helping Fred get an armed-security-guard license. "If I hadn't found them, I hate to think what would have happened to my family," says Fred, who is still without a car. "It gives me hope that after everything, there's still a possibility we could turn things around."