Fallout: The Financial Crisis

Chicago families still trying to get by

Marketplace Staff Aug 19, 2010
Fallout: The Financial Crisis

Chicago families still trying to get by

Marketplace Staff Aug 19, 2010


Tess Vigeland: Two months ago, in a broadcast from Chicago, we profiled two families dealing with long-term job loss. We said at the time that we would check back in with them. Steve Ostrowski is 38, married, lives near the city’s Magnificent Mile and has been looking for work for more than a year. I asked what, if anything, had changed since our visit in June.

Steve Ostrowski: Much of the same. I guess I’d be classified as one of the “99 weekers.”

Vigeland: Really?

Ostrowski: Yeah. A person that’s been looking for a job for more than 99 weeks. And the drought continues. The best bright spot that we’ve had recently is I’ve been targeting a lot of companies that have Sept. 1 fiscals. And the good news is that I’m getting some good responses from these companies, because they are starting to hire in line with their fiscal year. I’ve actually been getting a lot of good leads. I’ve been invited in for some interviews coming up in the next few weeks, which I haven’t had an interview in the last six months.

So yeah, encouraging signs ahead.

Vigeland: Well that’s fantastic. What are they saying when they get back to you? How do you define good news?

Ostrowski: Good news is any news. Really. Any time I get a response back, it’s good news, because I’d say 95 percent of the time, I receive absolutely no feedback from applications. And I think that’s probably true for most people that are going through this process — just you call or e-mail or fax, whatever it maybe, into a black hole. And when you get any type of response, it’s reason for celebration.

Vigeland: Well, let me ask you then about your state of mind as you prepare for those interviews. It’s been a long time since you did any. And you know, we do hear a lot about how chronic unemployment can really affect a person’s state of mind and their ability to get back into the swing of things. Any apprehension as you get ready to go into these interviews, that you may be a little rusty?

Ostrowski: Maybe a little rusty. Yeah, but really excited. I haven’t bought into the thought of diminishing skills. I’m even more energized and excited and ready to work, because I’ve been away from it.

Vigeland: Anything different in your day-to-day life now, than when we talked to you back in June?

Ostrowski: No. We’ve been really lean. We have a really lean household as it is. We don’t have any lavish expenses, we don’t have a cable bill, we don’t have a car, an auto bill. So there hasn’t been any additional cutbacks. We just continue to lead a very lean lifestyle.

Vigeland: You still makin’ dinner for your wife?

Ostrowski: Yeah, sure am. Pretty much five days a week.

Chicago resident Steve Ostrowski.

We also met Miles and Iris Bess — 38 and 39. They live on the city’s South Side with their two young boys. Miles has been looking for three months now after his second job loss in as many years. Iris has cobbled together some jobs as a beautician, but it’s not enough. When we met they were packing up to leave their home and become renters. Iris said this week that things aren’t getting better.

Iris Bess: To be honest, really slow. We’re still just pounding the pavement as hard as we can to make sure we get the house sold. It’s in the process. So I’m still in the job hunt. Right now, preparing the kids to get ready for school. That’s always exciting. I don’t know how much of a chore that’ll be. You know, sometimes kids want to go back, sometimes they don’t. But mine seem to be excited.

Vigeland: Good. Are you renting now?

Bess: Well, we’re not out of the house yet. But we have a buyer. So, haven’t found a place to go just yet. The biggest challenge is, you know, they want to do credit check, and just because we’re in the state that we’re in as to why we have to sell our home, the credit isn’t where they would expect it to be. So, we just continue to look in different areas and things like that. Being in an area that would be affordable, but is safe for our children.

Vigeland: Well, how’s the job going for Miles?

Bess: He’s actually looked at some other opportunities to be able to get some continuing education, to get into fields that are more lucrative right now, such as emergency medical technician and some teaching and consulting.

Vigeland: Now, I know when our producer called you up to see if we could do an update on you that Miles didn’t really want to talk to us about this. Has it become even more difficult for him?

Bess: I would think so. He’s just really focused on what he needs to do too make sure that we’re OK. And I admire him for that. He definitely makes sure that the kids are good, you know, that we’re not at a point where they’re not hungry, they’re not missing any activities. We try to keep them busy, but it’s still a challenge.

Vigeland: And are you still working as an instructor at the beauty college?

Bess: Yes I am. But I was informed that that too was short-lived, because the actual program that I signed up with, “Put Illinois to Work,” the funds are due to expire at the end of September. They haven’t definitely said whether there would be an extension or not. So we’re just kind of waiting to hear. I’ve already taken the initiative to do other things.

Vigeland: Iris, when we spoke with you back in June, Miles indicated that within a couple of months, he was worried that it would be as bad as you potentially living out of your car. But it sounds like you have not gotten to that point and you’re doing alright?

Bess: It’s not to that point. I just can’t conceive that at all. For one, we do have family that would at least step in and say, “Hey, you know what, let’s help you along the way.” But hey, if not a two-bedroom, if it’s a studio. I mean, you know, we just have to do what we need to do until things turn around.

Iris Bess speaking with us from Chicago. We’ll check back in with both of them in another couple of months.

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