On the streets of Ward 8 in the District about one in five adults are out of work. Some of these unemployed workers lack substantive job skills or are recently released from prison. Many others are veteran laborers with extensive work histories. They are electricians, carpenters, plumbers and brick masons and are accustomed to long hours and back-breaking work. And they want their jobs back. Below is one of four skilled laborers east of the Anacostia River who talked to us about how they have been affected by the poor economy.
Hortensia Teamer, 48
Working is something I’m used to doing. And not working, it’s like having a part of me that is actually missing. You ever have that feeling when you walk out the the door and you don’t have your watch on? You’re looking around and you walk out and you feel...what is it that I’m missing? And you know what it is in the back of your mind but you can’t shake it. That’s what it feels like.
Everyday I wake up and feel that...I’m not going to work. I try fill up the gap by volunteering, I find things to do to keep myself busy. I volunteer at a church. I try to make myself productive. You fill the gap somehow.
What do I miss the most? The fact that I love working with my hands, the stamina it takes. Breaking up that sheet rock. When they call for demolition, I’m happy. It feels like I’m actually doing something, creating something. When I’m on a site, my barrel stays pretty full.
But I keep going for my family, my children. It shows them there’s no giving up. Push, push, push. Strive, strive strive. Keep going. That’s always been part of my life. [My children] have always seen me get up in the mornings and work. It only pushes them more in what they’re doing. Pushes them to do good in school; to go out and find a job when it’s necessary. They know the work ethic because they see that I’m not stopping my work ethic even though I don’t have a job now.