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

Turbulent Transition Imperils Tunisia’s Arab Spring Gains

Critics say new anti-terrorism laws worsen Tunisia's situation while others put faith in country’s vibrant civil organizations, women’s movement More

Burundi’s Political Crisis May Become Humanitarian One

United Nations aid agencies issue warning as deadly violence sends tens of thousands fleeing More

Yemenis Adjust to Life Under Houthi Rule

Locals want warring parties to strike deal to stop bloodletting before deciding how country is governed 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.
Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threati
X
Greg Flakus
May 29, 2015 11:24 PM
Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threat

Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video New York's One World Trade Center Observatory Opens to Public

From New Jersey to Long Island, from Northern suburbs to the Atlantic Ocean, with all of New York City in-between.  That view became available to the public Friday as the One World Trade Center Observatory opened in New York -- atop the replacement for the buildings destroyed in the September 11, 2001, attacks.  VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs