by Fran Yeatts
“It felt like doing crisis counseling for hundreds of people each month.”
Samantha “Sam” Thompson manages our emergency financial assistance program at the West Seattle Food Bank, and she spends most of her time connecting with West Seattle tenants who need support with overdue rent or utilities. During the pandemic, the number of people needing support went through the roof, and while the lockdowns have ended, the economic impacts for people in West Seattle are ongoing. Our clients include people who lost their jobs during the pandemic, had their hours reduced, or are going to soon lose their unemployment benefits.
Since the West Seattle Food Bank merged with the West Seattle Helpline in 2020, our services now include both our shopping-style model of food distribution as well as emergency grants for individuals struggling to pay rent or utilities. The merger was well-timed, as need in our community exploded during the pandemic the following year.
Compared to 2019, in 2020 applications for Helpline services — the arm of our organization that provides help with rent and utilities — nearly doubled. Helpline staff and volunteers worked overtime, and to meet the growing need we increased the average amount of our financial assistance grants by 35%.Continue reading OPINION: Despite Governor’s Actions, Eviction Crisis Still Looms Large