BERLIN- More people in Worcester County are using food banks and soup kitchens than usual for this time of the year, local agencies report.
“We saw probably a 200-percent increase in the people who are coming for food,” said Claudia Nagle, director of Diakonia homeless shelter, in the first week of November.
Staff counted 40 households requesting food that first week of this month, representing 125 people. That is as many as the shelter usually gives food to in a month. Moreover, many of those people had never sought help at Diakonia’s food bank, according to Nagle.
“They’re people who have not come before, you can tell this is something they haven’t done,” said Nagle. “They bring something to donate to us, like a pair of socks. Then they ask for food.”
People have lost jobs, seen their hours cut, or have to pay higher rent.
“The season’s over and there’s no holiday help that they’re hiring,” Nagle said. “It’s pretty amazing,”
Diakonia usually doesn’t see that kind of need for food assistance this early in the fall, she said. Usually, people who lose seasonal work limp along until December before looking for help.
“The thing that’s most discouraging is that there’s no hope for work,” said Nagle. “People are just not finding work.”
Diakonia has had to extend the deadline on its requirement that new residents find work in order to stay at the shelter because no one is hiring. The south end of the county is seeing the same problem.
“We’re really seeing a big increase in our soup kitchen and our food bank,” said Shelly Daniels, administrator of Samaritan Shelter in Pocomoke City.
The two-day a week soup kitchen has seen attendance swell to nearly 60 with many new faces arriving for a hot meal. Demand for food assistance has also increased at Samaritan.
“Now we’re busy every time we have food bank,” Daniels said, who said the facility is serving from 15 to 20 families.
Like Diakonia, Samaritan is also seeing a different demographics coming in for help with food or shelter.
“Lately, we’ve been seeing a lot of younger people,” said Daniels. “Usually it’s older people.”
Both homeless shelters are also at capacity.
“We have a few beds and we’re filling them today,” Nagle said Thursday. “We’re full.”
Samaritan Shelter’s ten beds are full, Daniels said, but she expects to open five new rooms, with 20 additional beds for women and children, in the next two to three weeks.
They will open just two rooms at first, Daniels said, to be sure the four person shelter staff can handle helping new guests connect to services which will help them move out on their own. The beds in all five rooms are needed.
“I believe it would fill up just with the calls we get everyday,” Daniels said.