AMHERST – Non-profit organizations across Canada are struggling with the same problem: more people in need of their help. Organizations in Amherst are also starting to feel the strain.
Art Foster, treasurer of the Lion’s Club, said they are definitely seeing more people coming in for help.
“They’re coming in for all kinds of stuff, household help, medical help, bills and eye glasses,” he said. “It’s pretty continuous. There’s definitely more (people coming in) now than there used to be.”
Foster said with the higher amount of people coming to the Lion’s Club seeking their help, it’s getting harder for them to evaluate and determine just how much help they need.
“We do our best and check them out but it’s awfully hard to know who needs our help and who is looking for something more. It’s not an easy thing to do.”
The Salvation Army is also seeing a growing number of people seeking their assistance. Cpt. Chad Ingram said because of last year’s increase, they budgeted for more money.
“For the second year in a row, we’ve gone way over budget. I can recall going over by 50 per cent for client assistance. If we budgeted, say for $10,000, that means we would have spent $15,000,” he said. “This year we budgeted more, knowing we went over last year and we’re still over.”
Ingram said there are a few possibilities as to why more people require assistance. Although many people blame fewer jobs being available, Ingram said there are more jobs in Amherst than there was 20 years ago.
“Certainly, there are people who have lost their jobs recently and have not been able to replace them and for them, it’s a struggle,” he said. “Jobs are just a part of it. Another is income.”
Ingram reasoned that with minimum wage going up 50 cents, an average worker will be taking home a few dollars more each week. But, with increases in gas, food and other necessities, the small increase does not help.
“I think there’s a disconnect with inflation,” he said. “The economy isn’t balanced at the moment, to a degree, just to the point where it makes it harder for people who already are without to keep on their toes.”
Ingram said another reason they are seeing more people coming to ask for the services provided by the Lion’s Club and Salvation Army is because there is no longer a negative stigma attached to those who need the extra assistance.
With the ever-growing numbers, Ingram said they try to beat their kettle income.
“We’ve been doing pretty good the last few years but even when we beat it, it doesn’t catch up, it’s not in correlation with the needs of the year to come. We’ve hit a rough spot and there may be difficulties ahead if we don’t get some sort of donations or if things in the economy don’t change.”
Even with their new struggle, Ingram and Foster said they still try to help as many people as they can and screen as many people as possible to make sure those who really need their services are getting their assistance.