Poverty is a hard fact to put a face on.
That's because it's understandably hard to look at. But that face is changing in the Gorge.
Oregon's high unemployment rate and deep recession are bringing new people into the cold fold of need.
But the high demand for food and help paying energy bills has drained monetary reserves and emptied the shelves of many area food providers, as staff writer RaeLynn Gill reports on page A1. The near-crisis situation has led the Mid-Columbia Community Action Council, Inc., (CAC) to ask local residents for help.
CAC is seeing more people who have never before asked for services, according to Miki Ingebo, the action council's intake specialist and food share coordinator.
The local needs are clear.
The agency needs about $95,000 in additional energy funding just to help the 700 households on their waiting list. More calls continue to come in every day.
CAC is now unable to assist the growing number of people with disconnect notices from utility companies.
In Hood River, Wasco and Sherman counties more than 914 emergency food boxes were handed out between July and December of 2001, serving 3,101 more individuals than during the same time the year before.
Ingebo calls these "the new faces of hunger."
In her words, "No one should have to worry about where their next meal is coming from."
This is a good opportunity for CAC and other agencies who are in contact with the needy to draw their attention to an underused service in Hood River: free community meals served each Sunday at 4:30 p.m. at Riverside Community Church at State and Fourth streets. Under a program started on Thanksgiving 2001 anyone may come for a hot meal, served on a rotating basis by community groups. The tables are usually empty.
The continued chill of winter (along with the slow thaw of the Oregon economy) make energy assistance for low-income families the agency's top priority need. CAC is a regional agency, yet it is notable that contributions can specify a particular geographical location where they should be applied.
She said every $1 donation to the agency will purchase about 100 pounds of food that will be distributed to 15 local agencies that cover the three counties.
Turn to page A1 for full details about how to help.
It's easier than we often think.