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Northwest Ohio non-profits seeing increase in first-time need

The United Way's 211 hotline is taking about 1,000 more calls a month than usual.

TOLEDO, Ohio — Northwest Ohio non-profit organizations are experiencing increases in people asking for first-time assistance this year. 

"We really just want to make sure that people have access to what they need," says Jill Bunge, outreach coordinator for The United Way of Greater Toledo. 

Bunge says the 211 hotline averages about 4,000 calls a month, but in the past 90 days, 15,700 calls for assistance have come in. That's about 1,200 more a month than normal.

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The top need is housing and shelter. 

"In June we had 69 households across our single male, single female and family waitlists," Bunge said. "Since September that number has been over 400."

Right now about 450 households are looking for a safe place to stay. 

The Cherry Street Mission is one of the places providing shelter. President, Ann Ebbert is noticing a new trend. 

"In the last five months we have seen more people declaring homelessness for the very first time - a 900% increase as a matter of fact," Ebbert said.

That's something the United Way has seen across the board with the agencies it works with, like Sylvania Area Family Services. 

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The non-profit hosts regular food and hygiene distributions and has seen more than a 40% increase in need for services since the beginning of the pandemic. 

"And it's leveled out and stayed at that point. There's many people in the food line who've never been in a food line before," says Mary Beth Darah with Sylvania Area Family Services.

Bunge says everyone's situation is different so there's no one reason for this new need, but she says if you find yourself is this position, an anonymous call or text to 211 is a great place to start.

"There should not be shame in this. That's why folks are here to help and make sure that folks have the things that they need to take care of themselves and their families in a time of crisis," says Bunge.