Essentials

Meta

Pages

Categories

  • I’m falling asleep

  • RSS Feedburner

    • 10 defining moments of the Sochi Olympics
      It promises to be another memorable occasion — but will it beat Winters Games gone past? The 17-day sporting extravaganza is being dubbed as the most expensive Olympics ever, with the Russians having spent $50 billion on turning the faded Black Sea resort into a rejuvenated host venue. Thousands of athletes from over 80 different […]
    • New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie
      With former Port Authority official David Wildstein’s new claim that  “evidence exists” showing Christie knew about the politically motivated lane closings on the George Washington Bridge back in September, several Jersey State politicians are already floating the dreaded “I” word: impeachment. It wasn’t so long ago that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was a popular Republican […]
  • Technorati
  • Worlds most simple website

  • Recent Comments

  • RSS BBC-Business

    • HP sues Autonomy founders for $5.1bn March 31, 2015
      HP sues Autonomy co-founder Mike Lynch and ex-finance officer Sushovan Hussain, as Autonomy's former management says it will launch a counter-claim.
    • Mining and tobacco firms hit FTSE March 31, 2015
      The FTSE 100 is dragged lower by mining and tobacco firms, but shares in Kingfisher rise after it announces plans to revamp the business.
    • Election fight over living standards March 31, 2015
      The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats welcome pre-election figures showing growth in household incomes, but Labour says it has been the "slowest recovery for 100 years".
    • Brave new world for EU dairy farmers March 31, 2015
      Farms vie for market share as EU milk quotas go
    • VIDEO: UK economy grows by 2.8% March 31, 2015
      Official figures show that the UK economy grew by 2.8% in 2014, the highest rate of growth since 2006.
    • Taiwan and Norway sign up to AIIB March 31, 2015
      Taiwan and Norway join 40 nations to sign up to the new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, but Japan has yet to decide whether to join.
    • Lufthansa puts $300m aside for crash March 31, 2015
      An additional $300m is being put aside to deal with possible costs arising from the Germanwings plane crash, Lufthansa officials say.
    • VIDEO: How much tax does the UK pay? March 31, 2015
      The UK state is "relatively large compared to the overall size of the economy" says the Economic Intelligence Unit.
    • VIDEO: Ultra-thin models could face jail March 31, 2015
      Models with a BMI of less than 18 could be fined or sent to prison, under legislation being considered by France.
    • UK economic well-being 'improving' March 31, 2015
      The financial well-being of UK households improved last year, but overall it is not much better than it was five years ago, according to official figures.

Devils Cave

PLAINFIELD, New Jersey (CNN) — Enter the “Devil’s Cave” by pulling aside the wooden grate beneath the porch of the abandoned suburban New Jersey home. Crawl inside to see the filthy, mismatched blankets and the garbage and empty soda and alcohol bottles strewn about. Catch your breath against the smell.
Immigrants show the small space beneath a New Jersey porch they called home for several months.

In a better time, the 8-by-12-foot cubby hole with the four-foot ceiling might have been the pride of an 8-year-old, a place to share with closest friends, a secret hideout from the neighborhood bullies.

For a group of Latin American men, the “Devil’s Cave” was home for several months as they tried to find work in tough economic times. In it, they shared their misfortune and propped up one another’s dignity.

“I am a victim of the economic crisis,” said Demisio Flores, 44, of El Salvador. “I am not homeless, because if I could get a job I would pay my rent and continue sending money to my family.”

Flores, a former member of the Salvadoran military, was supporting a wife, a daughter and three grandchildren in El Salvador with money he earned at two jobs, one at a beverage packing company. But the men he shared the Devil’s Cave with — as many as 10 at some times — became a new family.

“We were like brothers,” he said of those with whom he camped beneath the porch. “Whoever got something was for everybody and everybody was getting something for whoever.”

The nation’s economic downturn has hit northern New Jersey hard. Unemployment jumped in the state to 7.1 percent in December, according to federal statistics.

Plainfield, a city of just over 47,000 where minorities are the majority — 62 percent black, 25 percent Hispanic — was faring even worse. The city’s jobless rate was 7.9 percent in November, an increase of 2.8 percentage points from a year earlier.

Downtown Plainfield, walking distance from the space below the porch, shows the strains of recession. Stores try to lure customers with sales, others have shut down already or are preparing to do so.

With New Jersey struggling, the low-wage jobs that sustained the men disappeared.

Flores said of 300 people who worked with him, only 10 kept jobs when one company cut back four months ago. With the jobs gone, so was prosperity.

“My life was happy. I used to get a home with food and heat… pay my rent and send some money to my family in El Salvador,” he said.

As work dried up, the men joined other immigrants on Plainfield’s street corners, hoping to be chosen for day work. But they said they were lucky to get one day of work a month, not even near enough to cover rent on the small rooms they used to occupy.

Shelter became a dire need. Israel Rodriguez Melendez, a Salvadoran who has spent six years in the U.S., spotted the cubby hole beneath the porch. He and a friend opened the abandoned house above and got blankets, towels and clothes for him and others in the cave.

Other basics were more difficult to come by.

“Some times we went to garbage Dumpsters looking for food,” Rodriguez, 42, said.

Deliverance from the Devil’s Cave came at the holidays.

“In December, we were planning a Christmas party,” said Carmen Salavarrieta, an activist in the Hispanic community. “In the list people that wanted to attend they were putting their names, some of them wrote ‘I live in the Devil’s Cave,’ and I asked myself, ‘What is this?’ and then they explained to me.”

Salavarrieta is a member of El Centro Hispanoamericano, a nonprofit group that provides emergency, immigration and educational services to Latinos in northern New Jersey. Cobbling together support from churches, businesses and other members of the community, she found temporary quarters for the men.

“I came to take them out of the cave and put them in a shelter. They were allowed to stay there only for three days. So we gave them clean clothes, food and they looked like honorable people. But the three days were over and I did not know what to do, I can not let them out in the street again,” she said.

She was able to put some of the men in a small apartment she owned. Others found places with friends. Plainfield’s mayor even chipped in, Salavarrieta said, footing the bill for some hotel rooms.

The men couldn’t be more grateful.

“Now we live like kings, we have hot water, we get to eat and we have a place to sleep and we can get to change our clothes,” Rodriguez said.

Flores showed off a new haircut. A friend had shorn the tangled, dirty mat that was part of his days below the porch.

“With this haircut I look nice,” he said. “And I am very grateful to the community that is helping us so much.”