Jul 18, 201307:29 AMOpen for Business
with Jody Glynn Patrick
Hunger doesn’t take the summer off
(page 1 of 2)
The average age of a homeless person in Dane County is 7, and we still have a couple days left during the Salvation Army’s bell-ringing campaign to help them. Ringing a bell or making a matching contribution isn’t top of mind for you at all (you ring bells in December, after all), but here’s what you don’t know and why you might want to ring in July, too:
When you think of a soup kitchen or shelter operation, it likely conjures an immediate image of a drug addict or derelict. However, at a time when United Way is cutting back on mainstream emergency support programs in favor of preventive measures (permanent housing is also a mission of the Salvation Army), more and more people who need emergency help today are falling through the cracks. Children in our area are affected the most when parents lose jobs, transportation, and eventually homes and the ability to feed their families. They are affected when schools close for the summer, and along with the cheers that school is out, they realize they won’t have a proper lunch for months.
That’s why, when Dane County also reduces its support of emergency vouchers — sense the perfect storm brewing? — more people are denied vouchers for hotels after the shelters fill up and so are turned back out into the street.
Think about what it must be like for Salvation Army caseworkers — the front line, staffed by selfless people trying to provide baseline services for other people. How long would you stay in one of the lowest-paying social service programs when you open the door each day to more and more people asking for help, knowing you have fewer and fewer available resources and options for them? And yes, more of our neighbors than ever are asking for a helping hand or a hot meal, or a safe place for a child to sleep.
One thing is needed even more than your change and folding money (which is always appreciated during a kettle campaign). Major Loren Carter is issuing an emergency distress call to the Greater Madison business community asking you to consider (as a business or work group) making a pledge to man a bell-ringing station during this campaign to help balance the budget, which has a significant, serious shortfall predicted.
“When we have kettles that aren’t staffed, we lose about $40 an hour that we could be raising to feed and shelter people,” Carter said. “We have a critical shortage of manpower to cover all the shifts. People will give when asked or reminded, but without someone ringing that bell or standing by a kettle … we fear the need is invisible when the bells fall silent.”
As an aside, let me answer an objection before it is raised (again). Recipients of Salvation Army assistance are NOT required to listen to any preaching whatsoever to gain access to services. None. This is a miscommunication that has gone on far too long. Yes, the Salvation Army is a Christian organization. However, it does not discriminate in any way — certainly not regarding sexual orientation or race — in its hiring practices or service delivery. As a member of the board of directors, my fuse is getting shorter and shorter with every year that this fallacy goes unchallenged.