Social service providers see spike in need

April 30, 2009 While so many families struggle to make ends meet, a new report predicts the fate of thousands of families in Illinois. Thousands more may be forced into poverty before the recession is over.

We've heard the figures about unemployment and foreclosure. But the numbers don't show the effect of the recession.

The Heartland Alliance wanted to give our leaders statistics for which to base their funding and policy.

Some social service providers already know that some people are in trouble meeting their most basic needs.

The Elgin Salvation Army gives food from their pantry once a week. Friday is their distribution day but you couldn't tell be looking at the shelves.

"It's scary because we're going to have about 160 families here tomorrow and they desperately need food," said Major Ken Nicolai, Elgin Salvation Army.

Major Ken Nicolai says last April they had 200 food orders. This April there were 2600. They offer other services too but things are running dry.

"It has been a real crisis we get calls constantly we ran out of rental assistance money we ran out of electric/gas assistance money at this location we're not used to run out," said Nicolai.

A few blocks away the all peoples interfaith food pantry operates in the basement of the First Congregational Church. The pantry manager has seen 33 percent more need than last year.

"A woman came in she lost her house and job the same day that type of thing is what we're experiencing with a lot of people," said Joan Wesner, All People's Inter-Faith Food Bank.

The Heartland Alliance reports projects 405,000 more Illinoisans will become poor in this recession. They define poor by federal standards, a family of four making $22,050 a year.

Cook County is on the agency's poverty watch with 9.4 unemployment. Among the collar counties, Kane County is also on that watch list with unemployment at 10.3.

Social service providers in Kane County struggle to keep up because tomorrow more families will be looking for help.

"Until you work in it you don't realize how much the need is how many people are out of work," said Wesner. "People we've never seen before they come in they're losing their homes they're trying to get foo for their families it's a real serious situation," said Nicolai.

In the meantime, the Heartland Alliance suggests those who can give understand that the need is great and many food pantries may be reaching out for even more support to keep up with demand.

For more information on how to take advantage of these services, visit the links below:

Heartland Alliance: Resource Guide:

Salvation Army

All People's Inter-Faith Pantry
256 E. Chicago Street
Elgin, IL 60120
(847) 741-2329

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