Kirk Beebout shakes the sleep from his eyes each weekday morning, pulls his seat into an upright position, washes a Pop-Tart down with some Mountain Dew and walks about 100 feet to Modesto's unemployment office to see if he can find some work, any work at all.
Once in a while, he lands an odd job, such as clearing brush or picking up walnuts. Most of the time, the out-of-work computer technician comes up empty, then heads to the downtown library to surf the Internet and read a book.
Beebout – who lives in an 18-year-old van across from the Alliance Worknet office on 12th Street – relies on government food stamps and nonprofit agencies that give people like him hot meals, showers and a place to send mail.
And he waits in line for every small kindness, because local charities are serving more and more people every day.
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"My hobby is trying to just survive," said Beebout, 51, who can't remember the last time he went to the movies or kicked back to watch TV.
As people such as Beebout try to make it through the day, the recession is forcing nonprofits to stretch every dollar, work harder to secure donations and brace for cuts in government grants. People who spearhead charitable efforts said grim economic headlines hold few surprises.
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