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For Struggling Family of 4, It Goes From Bad to Worse

Recession On The Westside: A Special Report


Just when things looked about as bad as possible for Matty Diaz and her family, they got a whole lot worse.

The Peruvian immigrant took her first punch from the recession a year ago, when she was laid off from her assembly-line job at a Venice electronics company.

Then she, her husband and 4-year-old daughter had to move from their Venice apartment into something much cheaper in South-Central Los Angeles because they couldn't make the rent anymore.

Six weeks ago, shortly before Diaz gave birth to their second child, her husband was laid off from his job as a Culver City auto parts deliveryman.

"We feel helpless," Diaz said through an interpreter recently. "Before, we could save for the future. Now that we're not working, it is very difficult for us."

She said the family has had to give up its custom of going to a local restaurant once a week. She also has cut out red meat from the family diet because of the expense. Often, the family is still hungry even after all the food is gone, she said. Sometimes they've reluctantly accepted free meals from friends and relatives.

And they are so afraid of losing their car that the family travels everywhere together so that either Diaz or her husband can stay with the vehicle and watch for thieves.

Recently, while Diaz took 4-year-old Jane to the Venice Family Clinic for treatment of a sore throat, her husband waited in the car with their infant, Janet. Because they live farther away now, and because so many other people are in need of medical care, such visits take all day, Diaz said. She received her prenatal care there.

Diaz said that she is worried about herself and her children, and what the future holds. But she is even more worried about her husband--so much so that she asked that his name not be disclosed.

"He doesn't feel good about himself. He keeps saying, 'I don't know what is wrong with me.' "

Sometimes he finds odd jobs, Diaz said.

"But it is not enough," she said.

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