As Thanksgiving Day approaches, unemployment and the need for Catholic Charities persists.
The U.S. workforce is “still waiting for a recovery,” Catholic Charities USA said in a “snapshot survey” released on Nov. 23. There is a “steady increase” in the number of working poor seeking help for basic needs, especially emergency financial assistance.
In the second quarter of 2010, over 70 percent of Catholic Charities agencies reported an increase in aid requests from the working poor. In the third quarter, 81 percent reported an increase. Asked how the recession has affected clients, about 84 percent of agencies blamed increased unemployment, 65 percent blamed increased underemployment, and 58 percent blamed increased foreclosures.
An extension for federal unemployment benefits expires on Nov. 30 and could push more Americans to seek assistance.
Jennifer Buell, development director of Catholic Charities Terre Haute, Indiana, told CNA her office often receives phone calls from individuals who have lost their jobs. They are “for the first time seeking assistance in meeting the daily needs for themselves and their family, especially food and rent assistance.”
The Catholic Charities affiliate’s food bank serves more than 32,200 individuals and works as a distribution center for more than 75 member agencies like food pantries, soup kitchens and emergency shelters which provide food directly to those in need.
Citing a 2009 survey, Buell reported that the member agencies’ clients are predominantly white and not senior citizens. Forty-one percent are 17 years of age or younger and 73 percent have an income at or below the federal poverty level.
“The most frequently mentioned source of income (51%) was (a) non-welfare governmental source such as social security, unemployment compensation, Disability/Workers compensation, and Supplemental Security Income,” Buell told CNA.
Catholic Charities Terre Haute was “excited” to receive a refrigerated truck from the Walmart Foundation, which also made a $70,000 grant through the Walmart State Giving Program. Buell reported that the donations will be “especially helpful” to deliver nutritious food to the service sites within the Catholic Charities affiliate’s seven-county service area.
In addition to the food bank, Catholic Charities Terre Haute operates a homeless shelter, a youth center and household exchange and a clothes closet.
“Each of these programs has seen an increase in the number of individuals seeking assistance. More and more individuals are seeking assistance with clothing, especially for children; rent assistance because they are facing eviction; utilities (electric and heat) assistance; and even gas for their vehicles to get to work.”