Not everyone benefits from economy

Buck Wargo

GLENDALE -- A strong U.S. economy doesn't mean every Glendale resident

is benefiting with a good job and stable finances, according to some

Glendale religious leaders.

Request for assistance from the Salvation Army is up 14.25% from last fall, said Major Floyd Bacon of the Salvation Army. The organization

operates a food bank, provides limited financial assistance for

utilities, vouchers for clothing and daily meals to the homeless, and

operates a transitional housing program.

"Everybody seems to think that there are not a lot of folks unemployed

and that unemployment is going down," Bacon said. "Frequently, what that

means in practical terms is that benefits have run out and people have

dropped off the rolls. It doesn't mean they went back to work."

Instead of seeing 18 to 20 families a day a year ago, the Salvation

Army is assisting 20 to 22 families a day, Bacon said. That increase

makes it difficult to help families because contributions dwindled over

the past decade as the economy improved, he said.

"It is more difficult to finance what we have been trying to do,"

Bacon said. "People assume when the economy improves that everybody goes

to work and nobody needs help. They don't contribute as they normally do.

We used to receive $4,000 to $5,000 a month in mail appeals. There will

be months that go by and we don't get one of those letters."

Pastor Tom Adams of Glendale Presbyterian Church agreed that the good

economy doesn't mean the community doesn't have its problems. The church

has used its facility as a homeless shelter for 15 years and serves lunch

to the homeless in cooperation with the Salvation Army.

Adams said his church gets overwhelmed with requests for help from all

over the region and country. The church provides financial counseling and

some support to many seniors who have no relatives and need assistance to

survive.

"Right now, it is my sense that things are much better than they have

been in years," Adams said. "The improved economy has helped a lot, but

there are thousands of people right on the edge. The economy gives a

false sense of security. There are so many people living with low-paying

jobs and they don't have a margin. If things became inflationary, more

people would find themselves on the street."

The concerns of religious leaders follow a study released by the

California Council of Churches about the willingness and capacity of the

state's religious community to respond to the potential expansion of

faith-based, government-funded social services within the nation's new

welfare system.

According to the study, the 1996 federal welfare reform legislation

makes it easier for faith-based organizations to compete for

welfare-to-work contracts.

Representatives of the religious community do not agree it is in the

public interest for faith-based organizations to reassume welfare roles

that were transferred to public agencies in the 1930s, according to the

study.

The study stated that policymakers and human service administrators

have been slow in promoting the involvement of the religious community in

the new welfare system.

The study is available at www.calchurches.org.

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