The need for assistance increases in regional ministries

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With the help of volunteer Dawn Reister, Chris Joiner purchased canned goods from the Sister Visitor Center’s food pantry of choice on April 18. The center’s clients almost tripled last year compared to the previous year. (Recording photo by Ruby Thomas)

The residual effects of the pandemic and the rising cost of food, fuel and housing are causing the needs of people in the Archdiocese of Louisville to steadily increase, according to social service providers.

Catholic Charities of Louisville’s Sister Visitor Center – which serves people in the neighborhoods of Russell, Portland and Shawnee – is one such agency that is seeing a steady increase in the number of people who need help.

Lori Feris, associate director of Sister Visitor, said at the height of the pandemic, the center began serving individuals and families outside of its usual three neighborhoods. While that may partly explain the sharp increase in food needs, Feris said the effects of the pandemic and the rising cost of food are also to blame.

“In October, we really started to see the numbers go up quite significantly,” she said in a recent interview.

So far this year, Sister Visitor is serving an average of 1,400 people per month, Feris said, adding that in January alone, the agency has served 1,493 people. This represents an increase from an average of 660 people per month in 2020 and around 850 people per month in 2021, she said.

Speaking with customers, Feris learned that many lost their jobs – many in service and manufacturing sectors – during the 2020 lockdown. She said she also frequently hears customers say their money “ doesn’t go as far” as he used to.

Many of these clients are on the federal government’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and “they are looking for other resources because their SNAP money doesn’t go that far,” she said.

Sister Visitor has also seen a “huge increase” in the number of people asking for help paying their utility bills, she said.

The natural gas market has driven heating bills higher this winter, starting in late 2021, with an increase of around 33% for LG&E customers who use an average of 6,000 cubic feet per month, according to the company. of public services.

“People have higher bills. Because we are coming out of the colder months, some have big sales,” Feris said. Some are also struggling to pay off balances they accumulated during the height of the pandemic, she noted.

Community ministries in the metropolitan area are also seeing an increase in food and financial aid needs.

Marlon Cummings, executive director of Jeffersontown Area Ministries, called the impact of the pandemic and the continued level of need “historic.”

“I have never seen this before,” he said, noting that ministries have seen a 50% increase in food aid needs in 2020 and that increase has not diminished.

Cummings has also seen a surge in the number of people asking for help paying their utility bills, particularly LG&E. The need has increased during the pandemic and is still present, he said.

Over the past two years, the Community Ministries Association has received millions of dollars in funds to help families with these bills, but most of those funds—distributed to member ministries like JAM—have already been used to help struggling people, Cummings said.

Between January and April, he said the association distributed more than $500,000 to LG&E customers.

JAM also distributes food and toiletries once a month, fresh produce once a week, and meat every day. He currently fulfills around 400 produce orders each month and between 150 and 200 other food orders per month, which amounts to 20,000 pounds of food, he said. It’s still operating as it did during the height of the pandemic – filling orders and distributing them to customers outside, Cummings said.

“Food is our best resource and we encourage people to use our pantry because food is expensive,” he said.

The ministries assist needy people mainly in the 40299 postcode, as well as part of the 40220 and 40023 postcodes. It sees widows and widowers struggling because of the high cost of buying a house with just one income, seniors on fixed incomes, as well as families with children, he said.
Community ministries in central Louisville are also experiencing a record increase in food needs.

CLCM is located at 809 S. 4th St. at the First Unitarian Church. The pantry, located at Calvary Episcopal Church, 821 S. 4th St., is small and funded by churches and individuals in the community, said Linette Lowe, executive director of ministries.

At the height of the pandemic, the pantry was open to anyone who needed it and remains so today, she said.

“They’re seeing record numbers of customers every week,” Lowe said, noting the need is still on the rise. The pantry distributed food to 1,053 customers during the month of March, three times more than in February, she said in a recent interview. “That’s a lot for a small pantry.”

Lowe believes the rise they are seeing is largely related to the rising cost of food.

The US Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service said food costs are expected to rise 3-4% this year.

“People are struggling to feed their families,” Lowe said. “People are choosing between gas in their car or food on the table,” she said. “People are really trying to get back on their feet. They work but it’s not enough. It’s hard to watch, knowing that we will help but our hands are somehow tied,” she said.

The Reverend Carrie Gerard, executive director of community ministries in the Eastern Region, has also seen an increase in need.

“During the pandemic, we have seen needs like we have never felt before,” she said. With funds from the federal government and Metro Louisville, EACM has been able to meet the needs of those seeking emergency financial assistance, she said. In 2019, EACM spent $151,000 on emergency aid, up from $647,000 in 2021.

“All of that (the extra funding) is gone,” she said. “The need is still very high, but again we only have the resources available at pre-pandemic levels.

“This means that we can only help around 20 families per month with housing assistance, 40 families per month with LG&E and another 20 with water.

At the height of the pandemic, we served over 200 families per month. »

Gerard said the EACM depends on donations for its support.

“Everything has increased and people are struggling. … When you’re already living on the edge and you start paying triple for gas and food prices have gone up, it’s almost impossible to meet those needs,” she said.

For more information on local community ministries, which are supported by churches located in their areas, and the Sister Visitor Center, visit www.louisvilleministries.org and cclo.org.

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