While certain aspects of the overall economy have been improving, there are still far too many Americans who have not seen (or found) the light at the end of the Great Recession’s long, dark tunnel. For them, the economy and their lives remain in a state of turmoil.
We have all heard and read the cold statistics about unemployment rates, welfare, homelessness, and use of food stamps/bridge cards. But, those do not provide an identifiable frame of reference for the average person. Here are few subtle (and some not so subtle) signs of the economic distress affecting many of our fellow citizens that I have noticed.
- Individuals standing at street corners (or at the end of exit ramps) and begging for food, money, or a job.
- Individuals not riding their bicycles for recreation or commuting purposes, but to transport hundreds of empty pop cans and bottles in large plastic bags for recycling. Since retailers here are required to pay 10 cents each, there is a cottage industry of collectors especially after large sporting events and outdoor gatherings.
- A plethora of get rich quick and/or work at home signs at street intersections or in the paper.
- Multiple homes for sale along the same street for an extended period of time.
- Excessive time taken by communities to fill potholes or complete other minor infrastructure repairs.
- Unkempt lawns or unpainted homes.
- The addition of more and/or larger dollar stores, pawn shops, gold buying businesses, payday check cashing operations, consignment shops, and similar establishments.
- The number of empty store fronts.
- Announcements from food banks that stocks are running low.
- More independent taxicabs serving the community.
- Lines of applicants seen at job fairs.
- The number of pets being dropped off at animal shelters.
- Fewer real estate offices as smaller operators close or merge to survive.
- More vehicles seen on the road with one headlight out. I’ve seen more perdiddles (cars with one headlight out) in the past few years than ever before.
While some of the examples listed might seem trite to cynics, they are readily visible indicators of how the local economy is fairing. While not a perfect indicator, the more items listed above that are present, the more likely a number of local residents are suffering economic distress. This holiday season, try to take note of the subtle economic distress indicators in your community and if at all possible, try to dig just a little deeper to help those who are suffering.