Recession changing size and shape of Valley families

FRESNO, Calif.

An exclusive Action News Poll conducted by SurveyUSA shows nearly 80% of Valley residents worry "a little" or "a lot" when it comes to paying off their bills.

Another poll shows that roughly one in three Valley residents have had to move in with family members or friends due to financial reasons. Action News tracked down two locals that have had to drastically change the way they live to make ends meet.

Elizabeth Smith's life has been turned upside down because of the recession. The Hanford massage therapist is struggling, and has even had to ask for help from her parents to help pay the bills.

"As much as they helped in the past. They can't help me anymore. And for the grace of friends I'm staying with them." said Smith.

Smith now lives with a friend to help offset living costs. Money problems two years ago forced Smith to hand over custody of her son Brandon over to her ex-husband. She simply couldn't support him. The 36 year old says giving him up was the toughest thing she's ever had to do. Yet she still has to deal with a constant battle of trying to be financially secure.

"You wonder if today's going to be the day you lose your job. You wonder if today's the day you march down the unemployment office or the welfare office and say I need help." added Smith.

Smith isn't alone when it comes to living with family or friends.

An exclusive Action News poll conducted by SurveyUSA shows nearly two thirds of Valley residents know personally of someone who's either taken in relatives or needed to be taken in by relatives because of financial problems.

Bill Beukers is coaching middle school football but he's not getting paid to do it. Beukers, his wife and their three kids lost their family restaurant in Fresno a few years back. And they've lived in various friends homes as recently as December of last year. He admits moving from place to place can be frustrating.

"As a parent you want provide for your family. You want to give them abundantly. But they understand that we are working through this." said Bill Buekers.

The Beukers had been living the first six months of this year in this one acre home in Easton rent free thanks to the generosity of a friend. The home has a pool and even a guest house. Despite her situation, Teresa Buekers offered the guest house to another family facing financial problems.

"Some days were hard. Some days I'm like when are they going to move out because there's a lot of tension. But then other days it was very fun because you know they're barbecuing together and we're swimming together. And just talking together you dreaming "wouldn't it be nice when we get a job" you know? So I guess it depends on the day. It's a day at a time thing you know?"

Every day Bill Buekers hunts for a job. In the meantime, thanks to his extended family he's been able to pay rent the home his family is living in. As for Elizabeth Smith's son Brandon, he will soon be going to college and she hopes to start making enough money so she can contribute to his higher education.

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Click here if you'd like to commend Tommy Tran for holding it together on air – while a fly was pestering him at the end of his story.

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