American Morning

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March 16th, 2009
12:00 PM ET

Internet Survival

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Craigslist has become a meeting place for those hurt by the economic downturn."]

From Traci Tamura, CNN Senior Producer

For the past couple of years, I have been producing economy stories for CNN. We profiled a family facing foreclosure back in December of 2006. I remember sitting in the living room where we interviewed a couple who cried as they talked about the prospect of losing their home. I really had no idea that over 2 years later I'd still be covering these same types of stories.

The most recent economy story I produced was for American Morning – "Craiglist S0S". I found the idea for this story as I was surfing the internet on craigslist doing research on another story. I happened to be looking for people who are in such a tight financial bind they have resorted to renting out their living rooms to make ends meet. I found Alicia. She is a 29-year-old who has been unemployed for several months and continues to job search daily. She is currently behind a few months rent on her 1 bedroom apartment and is now desperately trying to rent out her living room space. For the first time in her life, Alicia has had to turn to public assistance and is living off unemployment and food stamps but that doesn't even cover her living expenses.

As I was searching and clicking away on Craigslist, I happened upon the WANTED section. In between the people who posted ads for collectibles, electronics and Lakers tickets, I came across ads posted by people in desperate need - "We need food", "Family of 7 desperately needs money fast", "Unemployed I need a job!". When you click on these ads you get a thumb nail of how hard the recession has hit people.

When you talk to these people you hear first hand accounts of just how tough things really are. I ended up talking to a handful of these families but the pain and embarassment of their economic situation was too raw for them and understandably they were reluctant to want to go on TV and talk about it. Again, I found people barely surviving on unemployment and food stamps for the first time. Most all have children they are trying to support.

I also ended up meeting 45-year-old Jill. She was laid off from her last job working at an oil refinery last June. She is recently separated and is currently living with a friend. She is desperately looking to transition back into the hospitality industry but didn't have any business clothes for interviews and she couldn't afford to buy any. So Jill decided to post an ad on Craigslist that read, "Need Clothes Please".

Jill got several responses and a couple were successful. Bonny Sue, a paralegal, read the ad and was touched by Jill's honesty and the fact that she wasn't just asking for a handout but wanted the clothes to help her land a job. They met and Bonny Sue handed over a trunk full of really nice clothes she no longer used.

A small silver lining in these tough economic times where complete strangers are brought together through a click on a computer. The simple click and a call from Bonny Sue has already made a difference for Jill. She now has a closet full of clothes and a bit more confidence to wear with them.

Filed under: Economy • Technology
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