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Massachusetts Families Seeking Help in Record Numbers

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Back in November, Peter Schworn of the Boston Globe wrote that nonprofits in Massachusetts are reporting an unprecedented rise in human need. This unfortunate increase in persons without adequate resources underscores the importance of Here’s Life Inner City’s planned city office and ministry activities in Boston.

With unemployment and underemployment ravaging the country and with falling wages, working families are earning less and facing higher costs. As a result, the number of individuals and families seeking assistance from the community has increased markedly.

According to Project Bread, the number of Massachusetts residents who are hungry or at risk of going hungry has jumped 20 percent in a single year.

Deborah Rambo, the president of Catholic Charities of Boston, reported a 30 percent increase in requests at its area food pantries. Rambo said of struggling families:

"They are no longer in a position where they can pay all their bills…they've been out of work. They've gone through their savings. They can't just make it anymore.''

Julie LaFontaine, the director of The Open Door, a food pantry in Gloucester, Mass. said requests for meals rose 22 percent between 2008 and 2009 and the demand is not waning.

The United Way has seen a 50 percent increase in calls to its Massachusetts help line, which helps people find assistance. The organization is receiving thousands of calls for help with utility bills and rent from families that, until the recession, had been self-sufficient.

Jeff Hayward of the United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley, told the Boston Globe:

"People are walking through the door who never have before…A lot of times they don't know what services there are or where to get them.''

Ellen Parker, the director of Project Bread, also noted that the economy has impoverished thousands of newly poor families. She pointed out in The Globe that “the percentage of Massachusetts children living in poverty has climbed from 10 percent in 2007 to 13 percent last year.”

The immediate and growing need is inescapable, and those struggling with poverty and those who help low-income communities are increasingly exasperated about the future. As John Drew, president of Action for Boston Community Development, an antipoverty group, articulated the question we are all asking ourselves:

"... how, as a country, are we going to help these people get on their feet and, in the meantime, help them survive?''

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