“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” Colossians 3:12 (NIV)
I want to provide an update on how The Salvation Army of Pickens County has served our community so far and what we anticipate for the coming months.
WHAT IS HAPPENING NOW
Like everyone, we adjusted our protocol in response to the pandemic as we continue to serve our neighbors in crisis. Back in March, we started taking appointments by telephone only, and we continue with this method. We complete our assistance assessment and pre-qualify neighbors for approval over the phone. Once we complete the assessment and approve the assistance request, we give our neighbor an appointment at our Service Center. The neighbor drives to our office and stays in his or her parked car. Our staff member goes to the vehicle, obtains supporting documentation and gives the neighbor our required forms to sign. Then, we take the supporting documents back to our office, make copies and return to the vehicle to exchange them for the signed forms. Although this new method is not as personal as our usual face-to-face service, we are still able to encourage and pray with those we serve, while staying safe.
Often, we've been asked if requests for financial assistance have increased during the pandemic. We have seen a small increase in the number of households requesting assistance. However, the more significant increase is the dollar amount requested per household for financial assistance. These dollar amount increases apply both to utility and rental assistance requests. We have seen a 170% increase in the average dollar amount required for rental assistance. This dollar amount went from a pre-pandemic average of $465 to a post-pandemic average of $1,254. We are seeing neighbors from a higher rental bracket, who have not previously needed assistance, request help for the first time. The utility assistance requests have seen an increase of 173%. The dollar amount went from a pre-pandemic average of $200 to a post-pandemic average of $547. This is the result of our neighbors requesting help with multiple months of utility bills.
As we compile data for both rental and utility assistance provided during the months of April, May, June and July, we see an average assistance request of just under $1,000 per family. We have served a total of 21 households (69 total neighbors) for pandemic-related causes. Of the 21 households served, 15 of them included children (71%). There is an average of 3.29 residents per household served.
The total for all rental and utility assistance extended during these 4 months comes to $19,435.23. For now, we are serving an average of 5 households per month.
So, what then do we expect for the next four to six months?
WHAT TO EXPECT GOING FORWARD
Although we have seen this increase in assistance requests, we feel as if the pandemic's full effect has not yet hit the Pickens County community.
The current environment has affected only a portion of our community. Utility companies have placed a moratorium on shut-offs. Both State and Federal authorities have placed a moratorium on evictions. However, these moratoriums are now being lifted. Soon, utility disconnections, along with court-ordered evictions, will begin to process and increase. Government-provided unemployment benefits have begun to decrease for pandemic-related layoffs. As financial assistance and moratoriums expire, we are unsure exactly how much need will arise.
A recent national news article highlighted the potential eviction rate associated with the pandemic for South Carolina residents. The article gave estimates of pending eviction rates over the next six months and painted a grim picture for South Carolina. This article is eye-opening, to say the least, and worth the time to read. After reading it, our staff feels compelled to prepare for increased need over the next six months. You can access the article here.
As we pray for the best and prepare for the worst, we are grateful for the continued support from faithful Pickens County residents. This year has been overwhelming, difficult and confusing for everyone. We especially appreciate our faithful donors who have increased their support to help our neighbors. Truly amazing!
We are also grateful for the United Way of Pickens County for stepping up and leading us. The United Way of Pickens County has raised funds for Pickens County residents who face multiple crises. This includes the United Way Emergency Tornado Relief fund, the United Way Coronavirus Relief fund, the One SC COVID-19 fund and serving as the lead organization for the EFSP Phase 37 and CARES Act distribution process. We are complying with required consideration for this assistance, and we commit to distributing 100% of these funds directly to crisis services.
We continue to practice collaborative financial crisis efforts with partner agencies and churches. These partners include United Christian Ministries, SHARE, Clemson Community Care, Family Promise of Pickens County and more. We are able to provide more complete assistance as we serve together. #TogetherWeCan
Are we concerned about what the future may hold? Yes. However, we were concerned prior to the pandemic about other issues. We may be concerned, but we are not afraid. We believe in our purpose, serving others. We believe in the residents of Pickens County who faithfully support helping others. We believe in the promises of God, that He will not forsake us. We believe in the hope found in Jesus Christ.
We are committed to prepare as best we can, to stay faithful to Christ and to do something in our community. We trust God for the rest. We have already seen the glory of God shine through the sacrifice and support of Pickens County residents, churches and social service agencies working together.
Thank you for your continued support as we move forward. To God be the glory.
Yours in Christ,
The Salvation Army of Pickens County | Service Center Director