Rough economic times prompt new demographic to seek help

The Fred Jordan Mission is serving more than 2,000 homeless people today at its 65th annual Thanksgiving meal. Dozens of organizations throughout the Southland are offering meals to victims of the recent wildfires, to cops and to homeless people. KPCC's Brian Watt says the rough economic times are prompting many people who normally wouldn't need help to look for it.

Brian Watt: Harbor Interfaith Services in San Pedro helps homeless and working poor people with groceries, transitional housing, job training – anything that moves struggling families toward self-sufficiency.

Shari Weaver runs the agency's family resource center. Just before Thanksgiving, she said she's seeing a new demographic.

Shari Weaver: It's not just the people that we serve, but it's also people that are, that are donors, that haven't had to come our agency previously for help.
Watt: What are they saying when they come?
Weaver: They just never thought they would have to come to an organization to get help. They thought they'd be able to support themselves and stand on their own two feet. And the economy is just not offering them that opportunity.

Watt: Weaver was picking up 25 food baskets at the Longshore and Warehouse Workers' hall in Wilmington. She said they'll help to feed more than a hundred people. Outside the union hall, Francisco Flores and his wife waited in line for one basket.

Francisco Flores: It's a little embarrassing you know, because we need the help. We cannot afford to pay even the bills. And you have to choose what you want to keep. Gas or power.

Watt: Flores worked as an independent contractor for a delivery service until last March. That's when the company told him it didn't have enough packages to keep him busy. His wife is a nursing assistant. Her employer's cut her hours way back, too.

So this is the first time in 10 years of marriage that they've asked for a hand-out at Thanksgiving.