The Wisconsin Division of Housing reported on Thursday that according to a January count, homelessness in Dane County has “substantially increased”. With a large number of people living in poverty, more people are on the edge of becoming homeless.
Middleton Outreach Ministry has also seen an increase in use of services. MOM, which works to prevent homelessness and end hunger in the West Madison and Middleton areas, hit records for numbers of households using the Food Pantry twice in the month of May. A record number used the Food Pantry on Tuesday of this week, serving 84 households in the short four hours that the pantry was open. Clients took home around 4,250 pounds of food to feed their hungry families. Since January of 2012, the pantry has distributed over 60,000 pounds of food per month, with the only exception being February, which was open less days. In 2011, the food pantry distributed 56,000 per month, a dramatic increase of 60% over 2010.
The need for eviction prevention funds and utility assistance are also on the rise, with allocations being fully distributed before each month’s end.
“Families in this community are in great need. Often people look around and say ‘I don’t see people on the streets – we don’t have a problem with homelessness and poverty in our area.’ What they aren’t seeing are families who are scraping by, living paycheck to paycheck, just one emergency away from not being able to pay their rent or having food to put on the table,” says Kathy Hansen, Executive Director of Middleton Outreach Ministry. “It is organizations like MOM who are preventing homelessness each and every day, trying to provide the resources that people who are in dire situations need to stay in their homes.”
At the beginning of 2010, Middleton Outreach Ministry changed their Food Pantry model to allow people to visit the pantry as often as they need instead of the previous limit of visiting once every 30 days. The MOM Food Pantry is open more days per week and more hours than any other pantry in Dane County. The MOM Food Pantry is one of two pantries in Dane County to adopt the “Shop-As-Needed” model.
“We’ve seen a lot less families coming to us in high-crisis mode because they know we are open six days per week and they can come as often as they need. While we can’t solve every problem a family may face, we do know we can take food insecurity off their list” says Cheri Farha, Distribution Center Manager. “But the need is rising at an alarming rate, so much that we’ve had to institute policies to help us manage the flow of people through the Pantry. We’ve also had to move produce to a tent outside to help manage the amount of food that is distributed each day.”