Recession turns holidays into arduous time

On a back alley on 12th Street, in a sudden hailstorm, Narda Segura Guerra, Iris Higareda and 4-year-old Yair A. Segura walked quietly to the back of The Salvation Army headquarters.

The three family members were there, like a lot of other people this year, looking for food. They walked out with three loads of it, a huge smile on the 4-year-old's face, and left down the alley, walking home with their boxes.

This year, that scene has played out more often than in years past, according to Elaine Cardenas, the United States Department of Agriculture supervisor of the Merced site, where free foodstuffs are given to needy people once a month.

"This year has been really, really bad," Cardenas said. For 12 years, Cardenas has been handing out free food to the needy, and she said this is the worst she's ever seen.

One story that has broken her heart is a homeless young mother with three children under the age of eight. The mother lost her job and got evicted from her home. Now she has no home, no money and nowhere to go. The family lives in their car in front of a friend's house and can't even heat what they eat.

"We are seeing so many more homeless single moms; it's so sad," Cardenas said.

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