In California’s Contra Costa County, 40,000 families are applying for just 350 affordable-housing vouchers. Church-operated pantries are running out of food. Crisis calls have more than doubled in the city of Antioch, where the Family Stress Center occupies the site of a former bank.
The worst financial crisis in seven decades is forcing thousands of previously middle-income workers to seek social services, overwhelming local agencies, clinics and nonprofits. Each month 16,000 people, including many who were making $60,000 to $100,000 annually just a few years ago, fill four county offices requesting financial, medical or food assistance.
“Unless we do things differently, not only will we continue to be on life support, but the power to the machine is going to die,” said county Supervisor Federal Glover, who represents Antioch and the cities of Pittsburg and Oakley about 50 miles (80.5 kilometers) east of San Francisco.
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Contra Costa, an East Bay suburban region of more than 1 million, turned thousands of farmland acres into housing in the past two decades, becoming an affordable alternative to San Francisco. Now, the area is being hit by a double whammy, as rising unemployment increases demand for social services, while plunging home values shrink tax revenue and squeeze agency budgets.
County officials made $90 million in cuts during the current fiscal year, and plan to reduce another $56 million, out of a $1.2 billion general-fund budget, in the coming year. County administrator David Twa said he doesn’t expect to see a “gradual recovery” in property taxes until 2012 or 2013.