Two Minnesota-based non-profits announced a new $2.2 million fund today to assist low-income residents with housing, food, and financial counseling and assistance.
The Community Economic Relief Fund, a joint effort between the St. Paul Foundation and the Minnesota Community Foundation, aims to help those hit hardest by the recession.
"The economic downturn has a broad and deep impact on Minnesotans," said Carleen Rhodes, president of the two foundations. "Many people who have never before struggled with homelessness or hunger are now facing the same issues as traditionally low-income populations."
The effort will fund strategic projects with non-profits around the state, with an initial focus on hunger relief, housing stability, and financial assistance services.
Hunger Solutions Minnesota is among the funding recipients. The advocacy organization received $54,000 to fund its Minnesota Food Helpline. The toll-free service provides guidance on how to apply for food support and information on food shelves and other food assistance programs.
The organization reports a 28 percent increase in food shelf visits from over the same period last year. Hunger Solutions tracks data from 300 partner food shelves statewide.
The increased visits have strained the capacities of local food shelves, said Jill Hiebert, spokesperson for Hunger Solutions. "Food shelves are meant to be a stopgap, a temporary measure," she said.
By assisting Minnesotans with the food support application process, the organization hopes to direct low-income individuals to more stable sources of assistance. "It takes some of the pressure off of the food shelves," Hiebert said.
Dakota County Social Services received funding to provide housing assistance for 72 people with disabilities or other barriers. The county reports being "backlogged" with homeless and near homeless clients in need of housing assistance.
"Most of these people have been living on the margins for years in low paying jobs that allowed them to be self-sufficient," a Dakota County Social Services official said in a statement. "Because of job losses and reduced hours, these people no longer have the ability to stay in their homes."
The foundations also released funds to Emergency Foodshelf Network, Second Harvest Heartland, The Family Place, Home Ownership Center, and AccountAbility Minnesota.
Future fund support will focus on healthcare, mental health, employment, and job training programs.