By: JJ Burton
TAMPA, Fla. — It’s the second day of October, but it’s time to start thinking about the holidays, according to Metropolitan Ministries.
“They are right around the corner,” said Justine Burke, the VP of marketing and communications for Metropolitan Ministries.
The organization just opened the registration for its annual Holiday Assistance Program. Burke said now is the time for people and families in need to sign up because the need is up this year.
“I get so many calls from young mothers especially,” said Marcia Hall.
As the receptionist, Hall literally works on the front line and gets 60 to 80 calls a day.
She said, lately, most of those calls are from families who need help with rent.
“It saddens my heart because I’m a mother, and I once was in a condition where I was homeless,” she said.
She and her husband also run their own non-profit, MrBubblez Inc. They give free showers to the homeless, so she also sees the need there.
“We are getting more and more families with kids.”
According to Metropolitan Ministries, the main factors are the pandemic, inflation, and rising rent.
“It’s affecting the families that we serve even more to the point where they’re not just struggling to keep up every month, they’re literally not keeping up,” said Burke.
According to data from Metropolitan Ministries, they’ve seen a 71% increase in the number of families facing homelessness and a 15% increase in the number of seniors on fixed incomes who can’t make ends meet.
We also got numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau. They said child poverty jumped from a Historic low of 5.2% last year to 12.4%, the same as the overall poverty rate.
“So something like a holiday, which many of us take for granted, isn’t going to be possible for families in those situations,” said Burke.
That’s why she is reminding people to register for help now instead of waiting. They are expecting to serve 30,000 families or more.
They are also monitoring the situation in Washington and the possibility of a government shutdown after the 45-day reprieve. If that happens, federal employees might need help on top of the families already in need.
“We don’t want to have to turn anyone away,” she said. “It really helps people just to know that somebody cares about them. It’s about that more than it is about the turkey or the toys.”
They also need donations and volunteers. If you would like to help, or if you need help, you can register and get more information by clicking the link here.