The Samaritan Project, a function of that helps to provide emergency assistance to residents in need, in February alone distributed $11,347 in aid; that figure makes up nearly 13 percent of the total aid distributed for all of 2011.
These figures and more come from summary documents provided by POM director Britt Nelson in an effort to better inform the Plateau community of the status of the agency's services.
Nelson said she's planning to provide monthly updates moving forward, with this first release accompanied by summary information for all of 2011.
"It is pretty incredible that over the past five years we have increased our services to this community by 93 percent," she said in an email last week to Patch.
POM's food bank saw 4,080 families last year and this February alone has already served 400 families with 16,092 pounds of food valued at more than $24,000.
Improved Jobs Numbers Leaves Some Out
In spite of cautious optimism about the nation's jobs outlook (see this Washington Post report), Nelson said that even when the positive growth trickles down to local communities, certain segments of the population that POM serves won't be able to benefit from it.
Seniors on fixed incomes and workers with disabilities don't have the ability to increase their income. Many rely on social security or disability income, she said.
"The other age group really struggling are those between the ages of 55 and retirement," Nelson said in an email Monday to Patch. "They are too young for retirement benefits, but are often overlooked for available jobs."
Winter Need Greatest
Nelson said that the bulk of monetary assistance goes toward paying utility bills with December, January and February typically being the months with the largest need.
According to the services summary for February, $8,444 went to paying Puget Sound Energy and 53 vouchers were issued. Last February, just eight vouchers were issued and $2,978 went toward paying PSE.
It's a large jump, but those numbers alone don't necessarily reflect an accurate picture of what those seeking assistance are going through. "Even if someone is very good at budgeting their fixed income, the winter months are a strain," she said. "If anything out of the ordinary occurs, they just can't make it without help."
Nelson provided an example of a woman who had always been able to pay her bills before her rent was increased at the same time a leak in her water heater drove up her electric bill. After repairs, a $175 bill jumped to more than $400.
"We are seeing more and more families that have been managing on a very tight monthly basis, but one unusual event pushes them beyond their means," she said. "I believe this is the case for many hard-working, middle income families where the duration of this recession has depleted family savings. We certainly haven’t seen prices or cost of living drop, so a monthly cushion just isn’t there."
Editor's Note: Service reports for 2011 and for February 2012 are viewable as PDFs with this story (under the photo).