Canadian needy are not seeing an end to the recession

  • October 15, 2009
{mosimage}TORONTO - Economic experts may say the recession is over, but unemployed workers are still bearing the brunt of the economic crisis, say directors of Catholic-run agencies.

Good Shepherd Centre executive director Br. David Lynch said the centre has been “seeing more and more people than we’ve ever seen before.” He says there has been a 46-per-cent increase in demand for meals this year at his downtown shelter. The centre is serving an average of 1,100 daily meals and snacks, compared to 800 last year.

On Oct. 12, it prepared 1,400 Thanksgiving Day meals.

The Good Shepherd Centre is being supported by parish and Catholic school food drives. Lynch said although donations haven’t increased, they also haven’t decreased significantly during the recession. But he adds that if demand continues to grow, there will be a need for more assistance.

“We can’t sustain it. People in need can’t take it much longer,” he told The Catholic Register.

At Parkdale’s St. Francis Table , Br. John Frampton, O.F.M., says there has also been a spike in numbers. There are now up to 139 dinner guests, compared to 100 last year and up to 100 lunch guests from about 60 to 75 last year.

St. Francis Table is a “restaurant for the poor” run by the Capuchin-Franciscan friars. The ministry, which serves primarily men, invites guests to donate $1 for their meal. The restaurant is open six days a week and serves nine meals, including lunch and dinner from Tuesday to Thursday and lunch on Friday and Sunday. It is also open for dinner on Mondays.

For its Thanksgiving meal on Oct. 11, it served about 200 meals.

Frampton said he’s been hearing stories of how unemployment is bringing more men to St. Francis Table. One of the guests had told Frampton that he had been passing by the restaurant for the past 30 years. But it was only last December, when the company that the guest was working for went bankrupt, that the guest started coming to eat at the restaurant. He’s been coming ever since, Frampton said.

Thankfully, Frampton added, the restaurant doesn’t have a shortage of volunteers, with many from schools and churches. In fact, they have had to turn many volunteers away, he said.

This year, St. Francis Table gained new donors, along with some donations from local grocery stores, Frampton said.

Meanwhile, Catholic Charities of the archdiocese of Toronto executive director Michael Fullan said there has been a noticeable increase in demand for services at Catholic Charities’ 27 agencies because of increased stresses on the family during the economic downturn.

“When the need is great in tough financial times, you see a direct correlation between people suffering and needing services, but (this demand) is going up at a time when there are less dollars,” Fullan said.

And with unemployment, some families are one or two paycheques away from social assistance, he said.

Fullan said there will be a meeting this month with ShareLife about why Catholic Charities needs more funds and to quantify this need.

Catholic Charities is funded by ShareLife, the Toronto archdiocese’s charitable fundraising arm.

In August, ShareLife was half a million dollars shy of its fundraising goal. It raised $13,726,863 which was $300,000 less than last year’s amount.

“It’s quite a concern because we don’t want to cut services when services are needed or lay off valuable staff providing great service,” Fullan said.

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