Since expanding into all of DuPage County, Loaves and Fishes food pantry has experienced a 71% increase in visitors needing their services. That’s a trend that echoes the spike in poverty nation-wide, which could be the highest its been since 1965. With the 2011 census yet to be released in November, economists already anticipate the population of impoverished Americans to reach as high as 15 point 7 percent.
“People were on prolonged unemployment and the unemployment benefits ran out. They still don’t have jobs,” said Charles McLimans, Executive Director for Loaves and Fishes. “There are a lot of factors. Market conditions still have not improved. We still have not invested enough money in training people in new job sectors.”
McLimans says keeping the impoverished nourished can prevent them from falling into a depper level of poverty.
“A cycle of homelessness which is much more difficult, much more vicious cycle for people to get out of,” he said. “We’re trying to lift them up [and] we say we empower them to be self sufficient.”
But for those that have become homeless, Hesed House offers a place to rest their head at night. The shelter’s executive director, Ryan Dowd says he’s not at all surprised by the higher poverty rates.
“It’s a tough time all around,” Dowd said. “We see that with homeless, food pantries and we see that with people who are not homeless yet but are afraid they’re going to be homeless.
Some months Hesed house has seen an increase in people seeking assistance. Perhaps the biggest trend recently is having repeat visitors.
“People who had been homeless before and got out,” Dowd said. “[They] were not wealthy by any means but were kind of eeking by, doing okay and then the recession pushed them over the edge right back into homelessness again.”
Dowd attributes much of the poverty to the loss of entire job sectors, but the Illinois Department of Employment Security seems more optimistic.
“Prior to January 2010, for nearly two consecutive years, Illinois lost jobs every month,” said Greg Rivara, the department’s Communications Manager. “It was unprecedented. We had never been there before. And since January 2010, we’ve had some months where there’s been some job loss. It’s been a very uneven recovery but we have added 140,000 jobs.”
Still some aren’t convinced that’s not enough as pantries and shelters continue to fill up across the area and around the country.
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