News / USA

US Charities Endure Hard Times

Concern grows as holiday season approaches

Multimedia

Audio
Mike Osborne

For the first time in her life, Jameka Usher is homeless. Since April, when the family was evicted, she and her four children have been living in rooms provided free by the Salvation Army. The Ushers are among America's large and growing class of working poor, who don’t earn enough to support their family.

"It wasn't like it was just me. I have four little ones following and looking up to me," Usher says. "So, it was scary. I felt like I didn't have anywhere to turn to."

The last few years of economic upheaval have been scary for a lot of Americans, as well as for the non-profit agencies that serve them. The Nashville command of the Salvation Army has seen a four-fold increase in requests for help.

That's unprecedented in Lt. Colonel Charles White's 45-year career with the charity. “Had someone the other day just come into our office here and say, 'I'm embarrassed to be here. Last year I was contributing to the Salvation Army, but now I'm coming to the Salvation Army to ask for help myself.'"

And just as more families like the Ushers are asking for housing and other help, benevolent agencies are seeing a downturn in charitable donations and government assistance. White says Nashville recently lost a $400,000 federal grant, and he fears more cuts are ahead.

"We understand the need to balance the budget, but we also see the direct impact that has here on the street, at the local level, on families and on individuals who have no place to turn other than the Salvation Army and agencies like us."

Second Harvest Food Bank, also in Nashville, provides free meals to more than 400,000 Tennesseans each year. Like the Salvation Army, Second Harvest has seen a dramatic increase in requests for help, and an equally dramatic downturn in donations.

"Federal and state funding dollars are shrinking," says the food bank’s Tasha Kennard. "Donors are experiencing fatigue because they've helped pitch in during this great time of need over the past three years, and they're at a point when they may not be able to give at higher levels any longer."

And that has agencies like Second Harvest and Salvation Army worried, because the last two months of the year are traditionally a time Americans make their largest charitable donations.

"During November and December, our food bank raises 60 percent of the necessary funds and food to provide 14 million meals to this community on an annual basis," Kennard says. "So we've got to raise nine million meals in 60 days. For us that is a huge challenge."

That challenge has had some positive effect.

Homeless for the first time, Jameka Usher is among America's growing class of working poor, not earning enough to support her family.
Homeless for the first time, Jameka Usher is among America's growing class of working poor, not earning enough to support her family.

"We've had to be innovative. We've had to be more collaborative than ever before," Kennard says. "So our organization has grown drastically in terms of our ability to serve this community in ways we never thought possible and we're proud of that."

Jameka Usher is feeling some pride as well. She recently completed her high school education and is now taking classes on financial management. She’s even seen positive changes in her children.

"They realize now that you cherish what you have and you don't take it for granted. And I think that's going to take us a long way. Actually, I think this place has brought us closer."

Usher says her family has also learned patience. It’s a trait that they, and the charities that serve them, will likely call on often as the American economy recovers at a glacial pace.

You May Like

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid