Local family hit by recession featured in HBO documentary

Local family hit by recession featured in HBO documentary »Play Video
Paula and Ben Rieck were victims of the Great Recession and decided to tell their story in a new HBO documentary so other families in the same situation know they're not alone.

HILLSBORO, Ore. – It takes courage to show the world just how vulnerable you are, but one family, who had a documentary made about them, believes something good can come from it.

The Rieck family now lives in a small apartment, which is a far cry from the 3,000 square foot home they used to have.

They're victims of the Great Recession and the housing crisis.

The new documentary, "American Winter," was on HBO Monday night and it will see many more airings over the coming weeks.

The filmmakers turned to Portland to search for families hit hard by the housing crisis and the Rieck family was just one of many pushed to the brink.

"We had steak tonight, which is a huge treat. It's a big deal," says Paula Rieck.

Success for her is measured in what she can feed her kids.

"A night when we don't have ground beef, it's a good deal," she says.

It's a small step for her and husband, Ben, but it's important to help overcome what knocked them down.

"How do you look at your small children and realize I can't protect you from what's coming," Ben says.

What came is chronicled in the documentary.

"I was working for Volkswagen Credit – company cars, new car every year, made every bonus," Ben says in the documentary.

When the Riecks fell victim to the Great Recession, their kids soon learned some hard life truths.

"We came home and saw the foreclosure sign on the front door. That was really scary," son Devin says in the documentary.

But scarier than that was the need for food and not being able to buy it.

"I started crying when I was in the food bank, because it was humiliating for me to have to go in there," says Paula during an interview with KATU News.

For Paula and Ben, they take some comfort in how they've all stuck together.

"We're still a family, that's the important thing," Paula says. "I think that's probably what's kept us going. We have faith and we have each other and we make it through one day at a time."

The Riecks say they participated in the documentary because they wanted other families to know they're not alone.

Seven other Portland families also appear in "American Winter." You can catch it currently on HBO.