The lines at the county's social services agency in Anaheim snaked outside the building Friday as dozens of Orange County residents queued up to apply for food stamps and general relief.
About two miles away, at the state unemployment office in Fullerton, the lines were longer--even though it was a Friday afternoon.
Among the crowd was a former office manager who received a pink slip after working for eight years with a Buena Park data processing firm that is relocating to Pennsylvania.
Next to her was Richard Garcia, a 32-year-old construction worker who has been hopping from job site to job site during the last few weeks only to be turned down at each stop.
Garcia said Friday's statistics--that 91,800 people are unemployed in Orange County, the highest unemployment rate in nine years--was not news to him.
"This is the worst that I've seen in years," said Garcia, a Placentia resident. "I've checked 12 (employers) in the last two days and everyone is saying they'll call you, but the phone is not ringing."
The former office manager, who declined to give her name, brought along her three young children who clutched her skirt as she filed for unemployment benefits. The woman said that she was "left in the cold" after working for the company for eight years.
As they waited for their numbers to be called, the people at the unemployment office exchanged stories about how they were laid off and how their families were coping without a steady income.
The unemployment office on Commonwealth Avenue in Fullerton was just one stop for some of them. Some planned to visit companies that had placed want ads in the classified section of the newspaper, while others headed straight to the county's Social Services Agency a few blocks away.
Kevin Moan, 38, an Anaheim machinist who has been without work for the last eight months, sat outside the Social Services Agency office on Romneya Drive in Anaheim, filling out a stack of papers so he could continue receiving $342 in general relief and $111 in foods stamps a month.
Moan said he is a victim of the federal government's cutbacks in the defense industry. The Anaheim firm where he worked for the last two years had to let him go because it was receiving fewer orders from major defense contractors.
"I've been in this field for 16 years and this is the toughest it's been to find a job," Moan said. "I've gotten to the point where I'm willing to be retrained just to get a job."
"It's a lot of work filling out all these papers (for general relief)," Moan said. "I prefer to be doing real work instead of messing with this writing stuff."
Angelo Doti, director of financial assistance for the Social Services Agency, said he recently sent additional staff to the Anaheim office to handle a flood of applications for general relief. About 1,200 more people--a 25% increase over the same period last year--have applied for general relief in 1992.
Doti said the 4,800 people who have applied to the Anaheim office for assistance this year are the ones most prone to a recession. They are mainly single adults and unskilled workers. Many are homeless people who have begun to sleep outside the agency's office.
James Pearman, a 44-year-old unemployed maintenance worker, said he and several friends sleep on the pavement outside the agency because "we feel safe. The police drive by here very often."
Pearman talked about the difficulty he was having finding a job. Even getting a minimum-wage job is virtually impossible, he said, since many employers require someone with a car and a telephone. He has neither.
"I don't think our elected officials . . . our people in Sacramento, understand the situation we're in," Pearman said. "They should try working just one year for minimum wage and see if they can earn enough money to survive."