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Recession even has family at economic odds

Editor’s note: Faces of the Recession is an ongoing series about how the economy is affecting local residents
.By Steve Huffman
shuffman@salisburypost.com
Jack and Liz Gainey and their four daughters were evicted from their trailer Monday morning ó set out, they said, with no place to go.
“They know the truth,” Liz said when asked what she and her husband told their daughters, who range in age from 18 months to 8 years.
“They know what’s going on.”
It’s a messy situation, made worse by an economy that’s as bad as it has been in decades.
Jack, 43, said he hasn’t had much income since September when he left Universal Forest Products to open a carpet-cleaning business.
It was a period when fuel was pushing $4 a gallon, and many of his cleaning jobs were in Greensboro.
“There were times I’d spend $30 for gas and only make $25 for the job,” Jack said. “It was really a bad time to try to start a business. Getting their carpet cleaned was the last thing on anybody’s mind.”
He has since applied for numerous jobs, he said, but, thus far, no potential employer has called.
Jack and his wife and their children moved into the trailer ó on Old Wood Lane, a gravel road off U.S. 601 ó about six months ago.
The single-wide is anything but fancy ó with the remnants of a smashed storm window on the front and a dilapidated deck that’s patched with plywood at the rear.
It’s not the kind of place most would want to call home.
Even the Gaineys ó who have been married about nine years ó considered it a temporary abode until they could get their lives more in order and move to nicer quarters.
Jack said the trailer is owned by the girlfriend of his brother, Jerry. Jerry served as their landlord.
Jerry was waiting outside the residence Monday morning as Jack and Liz hauled their personal items to a storage building out back. More belongings ó furniture and a refrigerator, included ó were placed on the deck and covered by a temporary canopy.
All those items must be hauled from the premises by the weekend, the Gaineys said.
A deputy stopped by Monday to make sure that all was proceeding as it should.
Everyone involved agreed a judge ordered Jack and Liz and their children from the premises during a Dec. 15 hearing. The judge gave them until Christmas Day to find somewhere else to stay.
Jerry said out of the goodness of his heart he let his brother and his family stay longer. Both Jerry and Jack say their relationship has always been a relatively good one.
But, Jerry said, there comes a time when it becomes necessary to take action. Even against family.
“You can only work with people so long,” Jerry said. “You can’t live nowhere for free, that’s what the judge told him.”
Jerry said he’s collected only $525 in rent for the trailer in the six months that his brother and his family have lived there. Jerry said he’s got five children of his own, and said he knows times are tight.
“I know exactly how the economy is,” he said. “I get affected by it quite a bit myself.”
But Jerry said his brother and his wife aren’t quite the victims they’d lead others to believe.
“They’d rather make their truck payment than give their kids a place to live,” Jerry said.
Jack said he agreed to pay his brother $400 a month in rent. He said he had worked for his brother a number of times in the past six months, and said part of what would have been his salary was applied to rent.
Jack said he owed a little more than $600 in back rent and had even offered to pay the full amount, plus a month’s rent in advance. His brother, he said, refused.
“He said, no, he just wanted us gone,” Jack said.
Liz held the youngest of her daughters Monday morning and took a draw on a cigarette as she summed up the situation.
“All this recession is killing people,” she said. “Even family won’t help.”
Liz, 38, said she was injured in a car wreck about 12 years ago and is now disabled. She receives money through the government’s Supplemental Security Income program.
“My blood pressure’s through the dadgum roof,” Liz said as she watched her husband carry more items from their trailer to the storage building at the rear of the property.
“Three of my kids are sick. I’m a mess.”
She said power to the trailer was cut for nonpayment a couple of weeks ago. Since then, the family has made do using a kerosene heater and candles.
Liz is even using the kerosene heater to cook, noting, quite proudly, that she prepared eggs for the family Monday morning.
Exactly what was to become of the family Monday night, the Gaineys said they didn’t know. They said they’ve been approved for housing through the Rowan County Housing Authority, but they were told it would be anywhere from six months to a year for a residence to become available.
The Gaineys said their situation hasn’t always been so dire. They said that before moving to the trailer, they were buying a house from its owner.
That purchase, they said, turned sour when Liz was on the roof one day sweeping off pine needles and her foot went through the ceiling of the bedroom of one of her daughters.
“She said to me, ‘Mama, you broke my room,’ ” Liz said, managing a chuckle at the memory.
A dispute arose, the Gaineys said, between them and the owner of the house over who was to pay for roof repairs.
Jack said he’s got experience in a number of professions. He’s done all types of construction work, he said, and knows how to operate a forklift. In the ’90s, he even operated a photo studio in Cabarrus County.
But Jack said the downturn in the economy has left him struggling for employment.
He laughed when someone suggested he was a jack of all trades and master of none.
“That describes me pretty well,” Jack said.
He said his parents live in a two-bedroom trailer and don’t have room to take in all his brood. Besides, he said, they’re not choosing sides when it comes to the dispute between him and his brother.
“Mom and Dad are staying neutral,” Jack said.
As the time neared for her family to vacate the premises, Liz wiped away a tear and surveyed the clutter that surrounded her.
“If I had a money tree, I’d be watering it with Miracle-Gro and plucking it every day,” she said.
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If you have a story you would like to share for this series, call Steve Huffman at 704-797-4222 or Kathy Chaffin at 704-797-4249.
 

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