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Household employees worry as work dries up

March 21, 2009|Susan Carpenter

The Home section talked with four household employees -- a nanny, a housekeeper, a gardener and a day laborer -- to see how the recession was affecting their work and their lives. Here are their stories. Because of embarrassment or immigration status, all declined to provide their full names.

Doris, 40

Nanny

San Gabriel Valley

Doris had been working as a nanny for 10 years, most recently in Pasadena caring for twin boys for $400 a week. Since July, when her employer let her go, she's passed out fliers in the San Gabriel Valley hoping to find work with a new family, but that hasn't panned out. She also has approached store managers at Vons, Wal-Mart and Target, but none would hire her.

"Right now, I'm dying. I'm very behind with my payments," said Doris, who is three months late paying her utilities and rent. "I'm very worried."

Doris is married and has two kids. Originally from Mexico City, she has been living in California for 20 years and has been a U.S. citizen for two years.

Victoria, 41

Housekeeper

West L.A.

Victoria has been cleaning homes for 12 years. A year ago, she had three clients and spent a day cleaning each one, every week. Now Victoria has just one house to clean each week, for which she is paid $80.

Getting by is difficult, Victoria said through a translator at a charity event, where she was one of the lucky few to win a food basket. She said she survives by substituting for friends on days when they can't work and by taking church handouts. Victoria is not married and has two teenage daughters. She's originally from Mexico and would "rather not say" her immigration status.

Alberto, 37

Day laborer

Los Angeles

Alberto has been soliciting for work outside the Cypress Park Home Depot since 1992. Until a year ago, he worked six days a week painting homes and doing general construction work for $12 an hour. Work has slowed to two days each week, forcing Alberto to give up the room he rented. He is now homeless, often sleeping in the Home Depot parking lot and eating and showering at local shelters.

"I have to look clean so the people will take me and give me work," Alberto said through a translator. He said he sends money to his mother in Mexico.

Jesus, age not given

Gardener

San Gabriel Valley

Jesus has been a gardener for 13 years, trimming trees and blowing leaves in San Marino, San Gabriel, Alhambra and West Covina. He charges $100 per house per month, but business has declined since last May. "A lot of customers complain they don't have money," Jesus said through a translator, adding that charging less doesn't help. He said he often doesn't have money to eat and relies on friends for loans.

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