Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Blog Action Day - Poverty
When I signed up for Blog Action Day, it was suggested that we stick to our usual format. Instead of watching a movie or reading a book about poverty though, I'm going to tell you a little about my job.
About 3 months ago I started working for a small, faith-based community services agency in Wilmington, DE. We have a number of programs geared toward low-income families including food, shelter, and clothing programs. Demand is at an all-time high.
Our housing program focuses on homelessness prevention. We provide assistance for those who are looking for help with back rent or mortgage payments or who need some help with security deposits. Many in this area are living paycheck to paycheck and when disaster hits, tough decisions need to be made. Do I pay my rent or my doctor bills? If I don't get my car fixed, I can't go to work and I'll lose my job. If I don't pay my rent, I'll lose my house. I could pay both and not buy food this month. No one should have to make these kinds of decisions. The last month we have been receiving 50+ calls a day for housing. Of all the people who call, we end up being able to help only about 1/4 of them. While some simply don't qualify, this is more because we don't have the money or manpower to do more, and every person we have to turn away, breaks our heart.
The agency also oversees the operation of 11 food pantries and grocery clubs. At this time in 2007 our largest pantry was serving 30-35 families a day, this year it's between 80 and 100. While the demand has gone up, so have the prices we have to pay, limiting our budget and forcing us to again turn away people who need our help. We had to close our doors for a week at the end of September. Thankfully, the faith community who supports us stepped up big time, donating large amounts of money to get us back up and running and organizing food drives at their churches, offices, and gyms. If things continue, the demand will continue to grow and we may end up needing to close our doors more and more often, something that was only done for the first time this year. (For a little perspective, the agency turns 50 this year.)
Everyday I see and talk to people who are living on social security and food stamps. People who were injured and can no longer work. Single mothers trying to feed, clothe and shelter their children on less than $10/hour. People who are desperate for the basic necessities so many of us take for granted. Children who have never had a winter coat before we give them one. Poverty is right outside your doorstep and the agencies who are working to help are hurting as well. I would encourage anyone reading this to contact your local food bank, shelter or pantry and see what their need is. Organize your own food collection. If you don't have the money, give of your time. It's time for us all to act.
- I'm human, so I've got some issues, but all things considered I guess I'm reasonably normal. My parents are still married. My best friends are my sisters...okay, so I'm normal for the 1850's whatever. I'm opinionated and nerdy. I'm walking the line between tweener-style pop culture love (witness my ever-burning New Kids love and inexplicable Twilight obsession) and elitist culture snob (I can't seem to get enough 19th century British Lit and historical biographies) but, after 30 years, I'm finally learning not to give a crap what anyone else thinks about me. Oh, and those are my feet in the picture. The socks were made by a friend.