Saturday, August 28, 2010

POVERTY IN THE O.C. (One Family's Story)

SAN CLEMENTE – Allen Pederson pulls into a parking slot at San Clemente State Beach, hoping he gets a meter with a little time left.

Renting by the hour with a few coins is all he can do now. This 1998 white Ford van is Pederson's real estate reality; 25 square feet he calls "our little apartment."
Beside Allen is his wife of 21 years, Regina. This was her vehicle, the one she used to drive the couple's three kids to church, the one with the "Best Mom" license plate frame intact.

It's sunset on a recent Thursday, and the couple sits down on a park bench on the bluff overlooking the ocean, and Allen jokes that this is his living room. Dinner is from Taco Bell, a tostada, burrito and Diet Coke eating up most of the last $5 Allen had in his wallet.

This is all the Pedersons have left of what Allen called "the Orange County Dream." They have lost everything since Allen lost his job in 2005, an event that triggered a domino effect of decline for the family, down to being homeless and what Allen admits is now day-to-day survival.

"It's just kinda like, where did it go? It was just there. It happened so fast! You think, 'It will never happen to me.' I think back, how did it happen?" Allen says. "How did this happen?"


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