GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – The week before Thanksgiving is Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week. It’s a time dedicated to educating and raising awareness across the country about the issue of poverty and how it impacts the community.
The week is sponsored by the National Coalition for the Homeless and National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness. It was first held in 1975.
In Pitt County, there is an increasing need for local groups about hunger and homelessness. The Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina said one in eight are facing food insecurity in the 34 counties the organization serves.
Finding a solution can be challenging. At Joy Community Center and Soup Kitchen, the number of people served has doubled.
“It’s everybody now, I mean, our numbers have gone from an average of 80 to 100 a day to, the other day we did 180 for lunch. And it’s doubling for lunch. (Tuesday), we’re on pace now to do 140 right now, and we still got about an hour to go,” said Tom Quigley, the executive director of Joy Community Center and Soup Kitchen.
According to the Food Bank, food prices have gone up as well.
“With the rise of cost of food this year, there is going to be a higher need, especially closer to, once we get closer into the holidays,” said Greenville Branch Director of Food Bank Whykeshia White. “So, I think there will be a more influx of people coming and people asking to help with donations as well.”
Pitt County Homeless Program Coordinator Lynne James said homelessness can take many forms.
“Homelessness is a mix of those things right now: people who are at-risk of homelessness and people who are on the street and people who are in our shelters,” James said.
She also said it can be difficult to figure out how many people need housing assistance.
“The numbers are hard to quantify because a lot of it is invisible. People sometimes don’t make themselves available, don’t want us to know that they’re homeless, don’t want to be identified as homeless, and so it really is hard to quantify,” James said.
While solutions to homelessness like rental assistance and affordable housing can seem simple, James said rising costs make things difficult.
“In the current market, it’s a challenge because there is not a lot of available affordable housing. So, it’s really been for us a frustrating time in that we have moneys that we would like to spend and we’re having difficulties finding affordable units for the people that we’re trying to assist,” James said.
For more information on the Joy Community Center and Soup Kitchen, click here.
To learn more about the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina, click here.
More information on Pitt County’s Homelessness Programs can be found here.