Furloughed families turn to food pantries for emergency help

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Two days into the government shutdown and already, several non-profit agencies are seeing the pain furloughs can inflict on families. The calls are coming in from people worried about how they'll feed their families and pay their bills. Several agencies are scrambling to find enough funds and food in preparation for the higher demand.

With so many requests for utility assistance, Jill Cartledge fears she may have to turn people away.

"We've already had phone calls from people who've been affected by the furlough or are concerned about paying their power bill, and just questioning how to go about getting help from us," said Jill Cartledge, Back Bay Mission Emergency Assistance Case Worker. "We try to serve the many that we can with the amount of money we have and sometimes we have to say 'no.'"

So far, the biggest need at Back Bay Mission in Biloxi is for food. What you may find surprising is most of the food on the shelves actually came from Keesler Air Force Base. Just last month, Keesler donated three tons of food to Back Bay Mission. The food was collected from people who live and work on base. Now, some of the people from the base are coming in to the food pantry for help.

"We had two people in here this morning in fact, who came in for food who are by-products of that furlough, who actually contributed some of this food," said Cartledge.

With furloughs at Keesler, the Seabee Base, and Stennis, the Salvation Army is also bracing for what's expected to be a significant increase in the number of people coming to its food pantry. So on Wednesday, the organization bought extra supplies at the Twelve Baskets Food Bank in Gulfport.

"We're actually tripling up on our supplies at the food pantry. We expect that many families are going to need help and we're going to be there to help them," said Laura Bianco, Salvation Army Public Relations Director.

The non-profit agencies say it will be a challenge, but with grants and donations from the community, they believe they can meet the higher demands.

"They'll come to us and we always want to make sure we're there for them," said Bianco. "When something like this happens, we all get the jitters. We're worried what's going to happen next, because no one knows. So we've learned to be prepared."

"We've always been blessed that way. We've always had people come through for us at a time when we needed it the most," said Cartledge.

The non-profit agencies say the furloughs are hitting at a time when families are saving for the holiday season. They say if the government shutdown drags on, they expect to see more people signing up for meals, the Angel Tree Program, and Christmas baskets.

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