The Bristol Cares committee met today, exchanging information on what is still a tough time for social service agencies and the people they serve. Here's what I wrote for Friday's edition of The Bristol Press (www.bristolpress.com):
BRISTOL – Human service agencies in Bristol are bracing for more cuts in state funding, even as the number of people in need of help continues to climb.
“There’s going to be cuts. We all know that,” said Thomas Morrow, chairman of the Bristol Cares committee. But the cuts are coming at a time when the demand for services is great, he said.
“The shelter’s full,” said Phil Lysiak, executive director of the St. Vincent DePaul Mission of Bristol, which operates three homeless shelters in town.
Last year, Lysiak said, they were hit with a $7,000 cut in aid from the state Department of Social Services and he expects another this year.
To cope, Lysiak said, his board is planning a new fundraiser every month that they hope will grow. They’ve had a family night event at a health club and next will have a wine tasting at St. Gregory’s CCD Center on Saturday, Feb. 20.
“We’re going to have a classical guitarist,” said Lysiak.
Mayor Art Ward said that while he keeps hearing “little glimmers of hope,” he knows that the reality is that citizens continue to struggle with lost jobs and reduced hours.
Ward said “the need is as great, if not greater” than when he started the committee more than a year ago, then called Winter ’09.
“People are being affected by the economy,” said Morrow. “We’re all feeling it.”
Morrow, who is the executive director of the Bristol Community Organization, said unprecedented numbers of people are coming for help with home heating costs.
BCO energy assistance caseworkers are seeing three or four people every 15 minutes, said Morrow.
“It doesn’t stop,” he said. “People are looking for every opportunity to stretch what dollars they have.”