In the Northwest, the coming of fall marks the beginning of months of rain and cool temperatures. For the Salvation Army, it marks a time where the need for shelter and warm clothes ramps up.
Captain Felicia Grant oversees social services for the Salvation Army Northwest Division – including their shelter system that houses over 550 people every night. The need for their services, which include help with rent, has increased since the pandemic.
"This is a 269-bed congregate shelter facility. Individuals are allowed to come in and out up until 11 o'clock," said Grant. "We do have rental assistance depending on funding. So that is one area that we struggle with to assist individuals."
According to the U.S. Census Bureau,poverty rates spiked in 2022 — going up for the first time in years. The data shows that 12.4% of Americans were living in poverty in 2022, up from 7.8% in 2021. The poverty rate for children also increased to 12.4% last year, doubling from 2021.
Beth Amadio is the president and CEO of One Warm Coat, an organization that partners with nonprofits to provide free coats to children and adults, while promoting volunteerism through coat drives and sustainability. They're present in all 50 states and in Canada.
"We have already received more requests for coats this year by Oct. 11, then we typically receive through an entire winter in previous years," said Amadio.
She says their partners report seeing a 30%-50% increase across the board in the need for the services since the pandemic, and it's not stopping.
"People are really struggling to meet their basic living needs. High cost of groceries, the high cost of utilities, of rent, of gas, health care, insurance and medication," said Amadio.
Amadio says that they had a record number of coat drives last year, but it still wasn't close to being enough, and with the winter coming there's concern about coming up short again.
"Still 80% of our agency said they did not receive enough coats to distribute to all the clients that they have," said Amadio.
With such a need, nonprofits are sending out a plea to the public to give whatever they can — be it money, their time as volunteers, or their gently used outerwear. They say by doing so, you're not only helping out their work, but you're strengthening your own community.
"When I start to worry about, are we going to meet the demand? Are we going to be able to keep people warm this winter? I remember that there are some really amazing human beings out there who really care about other people," said Amadio. "Appreciate just participating in making someone else's life better and how that makes a greater impact on the community because of one person at a time, moving forward and better."
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