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Unemployed in Noe Valley:
Down But Not Yet Out
By Rosie Ruley Atkins
The first Monday after Tim Woloshyn was laid off from his job at a real estate development company, he took a walk down 24th Street at 10:30 in the morning.
"I was surprised by how many people seemed to be just hanging out," Woloshyn said. "I'm curious about who I'm sharing this time of day with. Are they all bartenders who work at night?"
Unfortunately, many of those people are in Woloshyn's shoes. While the news is filled with stories of the economy bouncing back, job growth is stagnant, layoffs are common, and many people question the official 5.6 percent unemployment rate that San Francisco claims.
Cate (not her real name), a laid-off non-profit executive, is among the "officially" employed only because she took a job in retailing after her unemployment benefits ran out.
"The hours are flexible enough to give me the mornings so I can do job-search things," Cate says. "And at least I'm getting responses. I've got a friend who has been out of a job as long as I have, and she hasn't even gotten any interviews."
Like Cate, Eric (not his real name), a marketing executive who has endured four layoffs in the past three years, is not officially unemployed. He took just enough freelance work to cancel out his unemployment benefits.
"Two of the companies that laid me off have brought me back as a part-time consultant," he says. "But there are no benefits and no stability."
Eric, who has worked for years at risky high-tech startups, moved in with roommates and reduced his entertainment spending after his second layoff.
"I never thought I'd find myself room-mating at this point," he says. "But it's so much cheaper. The great thing I've started doing is going to the library for books instead of buying them. The Noe branch has a great selection of new titles, and now that I have less space, it's actually more convenient."
Look! Flowers, Dogs, Babies
Cate has also seen her daily routine change significantly in the face of unemployment. She power-walks around Noe Valley every day, discovering little details about the neighborhood that she never would have, had she been in her car or rushing to work on the J-Church. She talks about the people and dogs and babies she says hello to each day and the pretty side gardens she notices. On Tuesdays, she sneaks into the many realtor open houses in the neighborhood.
"That's fun," she says. "I've seen some pretty nice houses, but you have to wonder who is buying them. How do they do it?"
Woloshyn, too, appreciates the extra time he's got. He starts his day with breakfast at the JumpStart Café on 24th and Guerrero and then works out.
"I'm more rested now," he says. "And I'm paying more attention to the woman I'm dating. The relationship has definitely improved."
'Soups and Stews' on the Menu
Eric has started holding informal cooking classes for friends in his apartment. He finds the classes a great way to connect with friends and bring people from different parts of his life together.
"We do a little networking, talking about jobs and companies," he says. "But we also cook. 'Soups and Stews' was a great lesson because it's good food for the unemployed."
Of course, unless you're Paris Hilton, unemployment can't last forever.
"I love reading and naps," Cate says. "But after a while, it's like, No! I want to be working. I want to be productive!"
Bye-Bye, San Francisco
Cate has cast her job-searching net wider and is a finalist for one job in Oregon and another in Solano County. She's owned her flat in Noe Valley for over 10 years, and says that if she does have to relocate for a job, she'll rent out her home to keep the possibility of returning open.
"Leaving is not my first choice," she says. "But who knows? Maybe I'd get to a different place and be as happy as a clam. That's hard to see, though."
Eric's choice is a bit clearer. He recently started a relationship with a Chicagoan and is moving there to be closer to him.
"My relationship seems more stable now than the job market," he says. "And Chicago's economy is coming around."
Venture Capital, Anyone?
Eric and his partner have discussed starting their own business, a venture, which Eric says, isn't likely to make them rich, but rather will provide them with a steady income as they pursue careers in the risky world of high-tech.
Like Eric, Woloshyn sees starting a new business as a way to keep uncertainty at bay. A former city planner for San Francisco, Woloshyn anticipated his layoff and started writing a plan for a consulting practice focused on land use in San Francisco.
"If someone wants to build even a small addition to their home, it triggers a whole, complex process," says Woloshyn. "My business will help people get their permits and understand the process without having to use permit expeditors and attorneys. I've got my web site launched (www.advancelanduse.com), and I'm ready for business."
And until the clients start rolling in, he can pass the time among the many people who are on 24th Street at 10:30 a.m. m