Unemployment levels leave Michigan families in need more than ever

Focus Hope works to help more families with fewer able to donate

DETROIT – Many charities say families who’ve never waited in line before need help now. With unemployment at record levels, nonprofits say donors have turned into recipients, creating a need not seen since the Great Depression.

“What went through my mind was, ‘Oh my god. This can’t be. This can’t be real, and how on earth are we going to have the capacity to keep up with what the need is?’” said Jasahn Larsosa, of Focus Hope.

Before the pandemic, Focus Hope fed 41,000 seniors per month. Since April, the nonprofit had handled 1,000 new cases, and with schools closed, it has also started feeding children in their early learning program. That brings in 700 new families who rely on assistance for the first time.

“I think this is reflective of what is happening across the nation, you know, where do we find the capacity to help people," Larsosa said. "When the helpers now need help.”

Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries says former donors now need shelter. The nonprofit is bracing for even more people who need meals and beds.

“We have an increase of at least 20% of our services, and then with the unemployment rate, we think it is going to be a minimum of 35 to 40% increase to what we already are serving,” said Dr. Chad Audi, of Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries.

The nonprofit had 2,200 beds before COVID-19. It has since added another 300. Now, with job losses not seen since the Great Depression, workers are trying to create space for 500 more beds.

“We need to provide more services with less money from the people who are donating to us, providing one to three meals and let them stay with us for 24 hours,” Audi said. "The cost was about $18. But I think right now it is minimal $45 per day.

The higher costs are due to social distancing, individualized meal prep and personal protective equipment. Shelters, food pantries and nonprofits are all facing unprecedented challenges.

“One of the biggest concerns is that we won’t have enough volunteers to keep up when packing up these food boxes so that those older adults can contribute to the households of their children, or raising young ones,” Larsosa said.

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