One of the poorest neighborhoods in Minneapolis
Each week, more than 500 people walk through CES's doors seeking assistance. CES is located in the heart of Ventura Village in the Phillips Neighborhood, a large, bustling, diverse neighborhood, which is home to many immigrants. We serve one of the poorest demographics in Minneapolis, where the income for a family of four is 40% lower than for Minneapolis overall and 42% of families with children live below the poverty line.
Safety-net programs being cut
In some ways, the economic situation for those living in our neighborhood has not changed as much as it has for other Minnesotans living through the 2008 recession and its aftermath. Unfortunately, many of our neighbors were already living from hand to mouth. However, fewer jobs, as well as prevalent underemployment, have meant fewer opportunities for people trying to improve their lives. At the same time, federal and state government is cutting safety-net programs for poor people to help bring budgets into balance. Moreover, an uncertain economic environment has translated into fewer resources available to social service organizations through donations from foundations, corporations, churches and individuals.
Short-term housing funds reduced
Coping with increased demands on limited resources, many local foundations have shifted their focus away from short-term assistance, especially for housing, to long-term poverty reduction. Two years ago, CES lost one of its most significant housing funders and we also have received a major reduction (40% decrease from 2010 to 2011) in federal housing funds. In the past, we have been able to provide up to $10,000 a month in housing assistance to families to prevent evictions. In 2011, we had only a quarter of that amount and in 2012 even less. Sadly, demand has not lessened. CES receives an average of 20 calls a day for housing assistance.
Shortages of free and low-cost food supplies
This year we are seeing new strain on the food supply. Our partners who help us keep our food shelf stocked, including food banks such as Second Harvest Heartland and the Emergency Foodshelf Network, are seeing a decrease in the amount of free and low cost food available to them. This is due to multiple causes: grocery stores are becoming more efficient in stocking their own shelves, and therefore, are donating much less expired and rejected food; farmers find it more cost effective to plow under excess produce rather than harvest it; food manufacturers are now selling lower grade food to discount stores rather than donating it. Last year at this time, CES was receiving 3-4 tons of food weekly from Second Harvest Heartland for distribution at the Friday GiveAway. This year, we are receiving an average of 1-2 tons a week for Fridays.
CES has long relied on the May USPS Letter Carriers' Food Drive as a mainstay for our summer food stock. A couple years ago, this drive produced 11 pallets (approximately 500 pounds of food per pallet) for CES. In the year following, we were shocked when the drive resulted in only two pallets of food for CES. This was because the drive produced a total, not of the 2,000,000 pounds received last year, but 150,000 pounds. This means that we must use more funds to purchase food to keep the food shelf stocked.