What You Need to Know About Hunger and Homelessness in the Triangle (And How You Can Help)
HINT: Check out Activate Good’s Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week opportunities!
Hunger and homelessness in North Carolina are not what you think they are.
Problems like homelessness and hunger are universal, but they are also deeply personal. The landscape of these problems are shifting, not just in far off places but right here in North Carolina. With the onset of the global coronavirus pandemic, local distribution and support networks have been transformed and the supplies of food or shelter that would normally put a bandaid on the problem have fallen off. What’s more, needs have changed dramatically.
“Poverty can easily ‘hide’. At a university you don’t just have professors, but dining hall workers. At the hospital you don’t just have doctors, but custodians. Lack of a federal minimum living wage causes poverty to exist everywhere.” Carrie Moses, TABLE
Check out volunteer opportunities with TABLE
None of this is news to anyone, not when we pause for a moment to connect the dots. We all know that the coronavirus pandemic has caused massive changes in every area of life for everyone. The scope of the problems has increased, straining even the most vivacious of our support systems. Volunteerism and fundraising are different than they were a year ago as well, a challenge that local organizations in the Triangle are rising to face.
Tough choices for families
COVID is forcing tough choices on many families in the Triangle. Paychecks are stretched due to lockdown furloughs and changing childcare needs. Families have to choose between food and rent. Children who rely on free and reduced lunch to keep their bellies full are no longer able to get the nutrition that they need at school. Job losses and dwindling resources are hitting older North Carolinians as well, leaving many to face a choice between needed medication and food.
It’s not only food insecurity that is a major problem. Families across the counties of central North Carolina have lost their homes due to conditions brought on by the pandemic. As rent freezes and mortgage assistance have expired, more and more families are turning to local relief organizations to help maintain a roof over their head.
“The number of families entering our program everyday has increased significantly. And—because of the pandemic—we have been forced to help families find shelter in less than ideal circumstances.” Brittany Westmoreland, Passage Home
COVID-19 effects on hunger and homelessness
In normal times, these kinds of realities exist among a percentage of the population that relies on relief from organizations like food banks and civic help groups. In coronavirus times, that percentage has increased, with no signs of slowing down. Traditional disasters like hurricanes or floods, and even economic downturns have a known pathway. Community groups have known routes for getting them help. COVID-19 is not a phenomenon with a clear end in sight, nor is it one with clear paths to aid.
“The response to this crisis has been very different from a natural disaster, but we know that like the storms we’ve faced in the past, the devastating impact is long-lasting and the need for increased hunger relief will continue for some time.” Julia Waters of the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina
Groups are adapting to the pressures of increased need, but it’s not easy. No one knows how long this will last or what possible solutions might be available. The sand continues to shift beneath everyone’s feet. What we do know for certain is that there are still obstacles in front of us. Smart choices and increased education, coupled with experience and community support are most definitely the path to help families who are struggling. Find ways to support hunger and homelessness causes with Activate Good during Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week (November 15-22, 2020) here.
Critical facts about hunger and homelessness
People often think of hunger and homelessness as two separate problems, but in fact, they are intimately intertwined. Lack of affordable housing puts a strain on the ability of families to pay for both food and shelter. Lack of good housing means that families cannot prepare quality, nutritious meals. Lack of access to quality food makes it harder to maintain the jobs that pay for the housing and the food. It also makes it harder for children to succeed in school and thus to step up the social ladder.
The system becomes stacked against families who are pedaling as fast as they can to stay afloat. The cycle of poverty is interconnected, and it’s impossible to fix the problems in a long-lasting way without looking at the sources.
Cracks in the existing system
The pandemic has created new problems, but in the main, it has shown where the cracks are in our existing systems. Families are placed in temporary housing, like hotels, during high need times. These hotels don’t offer the kinds of home staples like a simple kitchen that would allow families to prepare meals. They are a quick fix, but hardly a long term solution.
“Since July 1, 2020 we have worked with more than 111 families living in hotels and that includes more than 175 children under the age of 17.” Brittany Westmoreland, Passage Home
According to the Food Bank of CENC, food need has increased by 38% in the last half year. One in five people in general and one in three children are living with food insecurity in North Carolina. Though record amounts of food have been distributed since the start of the pandemic, there is still a major need for donations and volunteers to help get those donations to the people who need them.
“The pandemic has amplified these tough choices and forced people who have never needed it to seek help.” Julia Waters, The Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina
Four ways to help
No matter what your ability or comfort level, there are things that you can do to help tackle hunger and homelessness right here in your own community. Social distancing and COVID precautions may have changed the specifics, but they haven’t changed the basic concepts. Food must be collected from donations and distributed to families who need it. Housing has to be sourced and connected with families facing homelessness. Local organizations know how to make those things happen, they just need our help to do it.
“Collect plastic grocery bags from your family or friends and deliver to TABLE. We use nearly 1,400 per week, so we like to re-use clean bags to reduce our impact on the environment.” Carrie Moses, TABLE
Your simple contributions make a huge difference in the lives of people who need you. Here are four simple ways that folks can help with food insecurity and housing challenges in the Triangle.
1 – Volunteer
Though the pandemic has put new limitations on volunteering, organizations have stepped up to offer assistance in ways that are safe and compliant with health and safety guidelines. Your volunteer time is one of the best things you can do! Stocking, sorting, bagging, and other logistics are a top need at local food banks. Check out Activate Good’s Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week opportunities HERE
2 – Organize
Communication is at a high point right now, thanks to virtual connections and forced social distancing. That change can be empowering for local relief groups. Reach out to your friends and family to amplify your efforts. Many organizations offer specialized pathways for creating your own drives, like collecting supplies and coordinating food drives.
3 – Donate
For every dollar donated, organizations can provide multiple meals to a family. For example, the Food Bank gives roughly five meals to hungry families for every dollar that comes in. Money that flows through local organizations stays right here in North Carolina, going directly to the heart of the need.
4 – Learn
Knowledge is power. Learning about these issues can be motivating and prompt you to help. Spread the word on social media, read about what local organizations are doing. Even when you can’t help directly, simply staying in the loop and gaining information is important! Learn more about Triangle Hunger and Homelessess Causes on the Triangle Cause Wiki!
Though we are separated further than ever before, we also have the opportunity to come together. Now is the time for the Triangle to be compassionate and activated for the greater good.
Learn more about volunteer opportunities during this year’s Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week (November 15-22, 2020) here. Also, view opportunities to volunteer to tackle hunger and homelessness throughout the year.