CORVALLIS, Ore. – A homeless shelter is anticipating an increase in need for social services because of the government shutdown.
Community Outreach, Inc., the only homeless shelter serving families in Benton, Lincoln, and Linn Counties says it is not only worried about its own cuts in funding, but that more community members are going to need its services. Executive Director Kari Whitacre says she can’t imagine that all 800,000 furloughed federal workers have several months of savings to get by.
“We’re such a country run by money, and this need for money to just provide those basic needs – your rent, your utilities; your food,” Whitacre said. “That when you don’t have it, it becomes a panicked type situation, and people aren’t sure what to do.”
Whitacre says during the recent recession, the Corvallis shelter saw an increase in community need for food, shelter, and medical services.
“What we saw is that the need for food and shelter went up, but also the need for treatment services,” she said. “Domestic violence goes up; people turn to self-medicate: they turn to drugs and alcohol to self-medicate, at which point it pushes them into addiction. And then it turns to domestic violence or criminal activity.”
She says financial difficulty isn’t as simple as needing a place to live.
“It’s a person in crisis who often times hasn’t been in crisis before,” she said about those who lost their jobs during the recession. “For the first time, experiencing and having their families experience, what it feels like to be vulnerable. And to be in a place they’re not in control of anymore.”
She says the shelter receives $5,000-10,000 a month from the Veterans’ Administration to provide services to vets. She says since it is federal funding, the shelter may see cuts by the end of the month.
“We’ll still continue to provide services to veterans,” she said. “We would just do it without reimbursement, and it would affect our bottom line.”
She says the shelter might have to cut a staff member to part-time or cut one of its services, such as child care. Whitacre says she not only hopes the government reopens soon, but that lawmakers listen to the voice of the impoverished.
“I can tell you, from the perspective of a non-profit, that what they’re arguing about, which is Obamacare or the health care reform, is so important, and so essential to the populations that we serve.”
Whitacre argues that many people staying at the shelter previously would not have been able to afford their own health care. Or she says they have pre-existing conditions and would not have been able to find coverage.
“My plea to the federal government is to really take a hard look at your frustrations and recognize that it truly does help the impoverished in our country.”
All the beds at Community Outreach are full, but Whitacre says they are still running the emergency shelter, so people can sleep on a mat at night if they have nowhere to go.