The Greater Twin Cities United Way kicked off a year-end fundraising campaign this week, designed to address the urgent food and housing needs of a growing number of low-income families.
The online campaign, called "WarmSafeFed.org," will provide funding to move families from homeless shelters to permanent housing and to restock area food shelves.
"The need out there is just overwhelming," said Andy Goldman-Gray, the organization's senior vice president of marketing.
Food shelf use in the metro area has increased by 43 percent in the first six months of this year. Homeless shelters, including domestic violence shelters, have been full for months.
Goldman-Gray said the increased number of families seeking emergency domestic violence services has put a strain on an already taxed social services system. Since domestic violence shelters are full, victims turn to traditional homeless shelters for emergency housing.
"So it actually has a ripple effect," he said. "Not only are they not getting the right kind of services that they need in that kind of situation, then it's causing this domino effect where there are less beds available for people who are just more traditionally homeless."
At the same time, non-profits are struggling to raise money. The Greater Twin Cities United Way expects to raise almost $4 million less this year than in 2008.
"In light of the fact that we have such a significant increase in demand, especially in these safety net services, that makes us especially concerned," said Frank Forsberg, senior vice president of the agency's Community Impact department.
The agency has contributed $300,000 in reserve money to jump start the campaign. Organizers are hoping that community members will match the amount and are encouraging donors to publicize the effort on Facebook and Twitter.
"As much as we can raise, we'll be happy about it," Goldman-Gray said. "But more importantly, the people that we're helping get into housing will be happy about it."
Donors can contribute online by going to http://www.warmsafefed.org.