Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The struggle to stay warm in Massachusetts

We are seeing way too many of these kinds of story's.

In the cold weather climates, many poor people will not be able to stay warm this year. It's not only a problem in the US but worldwide.

The demand for help is growing and those who have worked in assistance programs have never seen the demand this high.

Chris Cassidy, a writer for the The Salem News in Massachuseets, examines how the US recession is effecting people's need to stay warm.

"We're seeing more people applying for (fuel assistance) than we have in many, many years. More people than I've seen in the 15 years I've been here," said Beth Hogan, executive director of North Shore Community Action Programs, an anti-poverty agency in Peabody. "We're averaging about 300 calls a day, and we're doing our best to keep up with those calls."

The food pantry at the Salem Mission had to close twice last week because it ran out of food, marking only the second and third time in the last few years that's happened, said the shelter's executive director, Mark Cote.

"It's pretty desperate right now," Cote said. "I've never seen this kind of demand for food. It really is kind of overwhelming that we cannot keep the shelves stocked."
Still, there are signs of good news. The federal government will increase the amount of money it devotes to fuel assistance this year, and Social Security benefits are expected to rise.

But leaders of North Shore nonprofits say more has to be done and called on the community for help.

"I think people really need to be more thoughtful and cognizant of the people that they do live with in their neighborhoods and think about things like whether they have food or heat," Hogan said. "This could be a very difficult year for folks."

The story also has a unique perspective from fire fighters who are concerned that high heating oil prices will lead people to do something unsafe. They site examples such as wood stoves needing permits to install, and floor heaters requiring special electric cords.

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