Stimulus money to help local charities

October 8, 2009 5:00:34 PM PDT
Millions of dollars in stimulus money is coming to Houston to help organizations that are there for people who can't make ends meet. They say the cash is a big boost, especially with donations down in the rough economy. Memorial Assistance Ministries and the Salvation Army told us that they are seeing more and more new faces turning to them for help.

These charities say they have seen the face of their clients change dramatically. They say those federal dollars will help hard working Houstonians who have been victims of a bad economy get back on track.

Memorial Assistance Ministries, or MAM, helps Houstonians meet their basic needs.

"We might help just with the occasional assistance check to help with rent or utilities or a doctor visit," said Martha Macris of Memorial Assistance Ministries.

MAM is one of the organizations receiving federal stimulus money to help meet a growing demand for help. The organization serves about 27,000 Houstonians every year and this year they say about half of their clients have never sought any kind of assistance before.

Demand is up 28 percent over last year. Donations are down 30 percent. This year's budget is $60,000 short, so $600,000 in federal stimulus money is critical.

"Which means they will have someone here that will help them find a job, get into a certification program to get a better job, access child care," said Macris.

Victoria Lopez is here to learn English. She is a child care provider who says the class will help her keep her job.

"It's necessary so that I can communicate with the parents of the children," Lopez said.

The Salvation Army is also getting federal money in the amount of $2 million. Donations are down 13 percent compared to last year. While the stimulus money won't change that budget, it will pay for a new homelessness prevention program.

"This is a new program with the intention to re-house and to bring people out of homelessness," said Juan Alanis of the Salvation Army.

Tamika Simon is living at the Salvation Army's shelter downtown.

"It's helping me with my GED. It's providing me with a place to stay for me and my kids," Simon said.

That assistance would not be possible without those federal dollars.

Both of those organizations say with decreased donations there are many people they still cannot help. In both cases, the federal money is earmarked for very specific purposes, so their operating budgets are still stretched very thin.

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