The Center’s founder and former executive director, Beatty Brasch, has always said that any one of us could end up living in poverty – that it’s simply a matter of opportunity and luck. For too many people in our country and community, good luck has not been with them during the pandemic.
Nationally, more than 500,000 people have died. Millions of people lost or were forced to leave their jobs when businesses closed and school-aged children had to be educated at home. And to make matters worse, those who cannot make ends meet right now may face enormous bills for overdue rent and utilities once eviction and cut-off moratoriums end.
Locally, the picture is a little less stark, but no less distressing. From 2019 to 2020, the Center saw a 71% increase in the number of families seeking food. We’ve issued more than 2,900 temporary Center Cards to new families seeking Center services since mid-March 2020. It’s hard to predict how many of these families will continue to need assistance from the Center in the months ahead. We are starting to see a slight decline. But we don’t expect to see pre-pandemic levels for a long time. This means that once it’s safe for large groups of people to be together again, our operations will need to be accessible to a greater number of families than we’ve ever seen before.
Distributing pre-bagged food and diapers in the parking lot has been an effective system for serving thousands of people each month. But it’s very expensive and dependent on weather. So it’s important for us to look at different options that will allow us to meet the needs of all of the families that will depend on us for food and diaper assistance in the months and years to come.
Addressing basic needs is just part of the Center’s effort to help our community recover from the effects of the pandemic and reduce poverty. As Beatty said, opportunity is also an important factor.
Prior to the pandemic, we were talking with educational organizations and local businesses about additional ways we could help people obtain jobs with a good living wage. We know that Lincoln has many of these jobs available—well-paying, entry-level opportunities that require training or certification, but not a two- or four-year degree.
To move in this direction will require strong collaborations with local educational institutions, businesses, and other nonprofits. But the interest and cooperation we’ve seen so far make me optimistic. And, with your help, our collective efforts should create both the opportunity and luck in Beatty’s formula for helping families achieve economic independence.