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08
Mon, Aug

Helping Hands
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Fr. Michael BolandBy Fr. Michael Boland

No emergency food pantries… no emergency shelters. No way for seniors to find the dignity of protection from the vulnerabilities of aging. No means of healing and new life for homeless families. No access to affordable housing, and job-readiness training for armed forces veterans who are homeless after valiantly serving our country.

Last year, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago touched the lives of more than 1.1 million people in Cook and Lake Counties. This means that one in eight people who live anywhere from the Wisconsin border to the Indiana state line were positively impacted by the services provided locally by Catholic Charities.

Catholic Charities yearly provides more than 5 million meals and answers over 80,000 calls for emergency food, clothing, shelter, rent and utility assistance. Last year 1,500 children received childcare through our Childhood and Family Strengthening Centers. Our 17 beautiful apartment buildings provide safe, secure housing for 1,335 seniors. Our 18 nutrition centers in Chicago nourished 126,125 low-income women, infants and children with more than 2,800,000 food packages and many supportive services.

Since 1917, Catholic Charities has been the safety net for thousands of unemployed, low-income and working poor families and individuals in hundreds of communities—for anyone in need—exerting a tremendous, positive impact on the community and the economy, in addition to representing a significant cost savings to taxpayers. Catholic Charities provides the “safety network” for hundreds of communities.

But for some months, demand for human services among everyone—from the poorest of the poor to the “working poor”—has been increasing. The gap between rich and poor is growing, and the traditionally “middle class” population is quickly dwindling.

Here is a quick look at the negative factors that affect the people we serve:
• In 2008, one billion dollars was cut from the Illinois State budget for programs that provide support to the poor, leaving those who bear the brunt of poverty even more vulnerable.
• In July 2008, the Illinois unemployment rate reached 7.3 percent, the highest it has been in almost 15 years.
• Similarly, the Chicago-area unemployment rate was at 7.3 percent for July 2008, up from 5.4 percent in June 2007.
• In August, 2008, the national unemployment rate reached a five-year high of 6.1 percent.
• The number of American full-time jobs cut to part-time has swelled to more than 3.7 million—the largest since the government began tracking such data.
• Food prices are rising at the rate of 5.8 percent, a pace not seen in almost 20 years.
• A record of 1.3 million Illinois households now receive food stamps.
• 49 percent of Chicago-area renters can’t afford the median rent.

As a result, we see more people at our food pantries and clothing rooms, and more families struggling to stay housed.

As Catholic Charities releases its 2008-2009 statement: “The Impact of Catholic Charities,” the situation has not improved. In fact, the recent financial upheaval in our country has deepened the crisis and further threatened Catholic Charities’ ability to provide services to those in need; even while the number of people needing our help grows.
In spite of these setbacks, we continue to make the greatest possible use of our resources.

At Catholic Charities, 92 cents of every dollar goes directly to help people of all ages, backgrounds and religions. And Catholic Charities saves money by solving—and preventing—problems:
• For example, the $2 million Catholic Charities distributed to prevent homelessness saved $24 million taxpayer dollars that would been spent for housing the same number of people in shelters.
• It costs Medicaid (and therefore taxpayers) $43,000 per senior, per year to provide care in a nursing home.
But it costs Catholic Charities only:
• $6,461 per senior, per year to provide adult daycare;
• $1,188 to provide home-delivered meals; and $4,028 to provide homemaker services.

Any one of these in-home services can allow the senior to live independently in their own home as opposed to being placed in a nursing home.

To assist our professional, committed staff, Catholic Charities has gratefully harnessed the power of 10,000 dedicated and generous volunteers who annually devote their talents to help those who come to us. From dedicated board members to professionals who provide unique skill-based services to assist our clients; to servers and donors of our six weekly dinners for the homeless in the city and suburbs—to committee members who organize our 18 annual regional and agency fund-raisers—Catholic Charities is blessed with friends who reach out a helping hand to their neighbors in need.

However, Catholic Charities must raise $20 million annually in supplemental funding each year to provide our comprehensive, wrap-around services to our clients.

Therefore, so that we can meet the growing demand for our services in a weakened economy, Catholic Charities is reaching out to the corporate and philanthropic communities, as well as to the parishes and communities we serve, to educate, advocate and fund-raise on behalf of people in need. If you wish to join us in our mission of charity and strengthen the safety net, please call (312) 948-6865.

To read Catholic Charities’ 2008-2009 Report: “The Impact of Catholic Charities,” visit www.catholiccharities.net/publications.

 

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