When I was in elementary school and my mom lost her job and our house because of using drugs and her mental illness, we were sometimes hungry.  I was 8 when we lost the house and 9 when she lost her job.  My older brother always made sure that I had enough food, but sometimes it was a struggle.  I didn’t have warm enough clothes for walking to school in the winter, and it was much more important to my mom that we LOOK good than have the right clothes for the weather.  No coat was better than one with holes.  We were never homeless but we never had a lot in those days.

Today is a whole lot better.  I have everything I need and a lot of extras.  I don’t ever have to be hungry.  I’m planning to go to TWO Thanksgiving feasts tomorrow.  But a lot of people are hungry.   The Bush economy has made the really rich even richer but it has made a lot of people very poor. People are struggling and so are the groups that help them.

Chinodeb sent me this article and I bet that it is as true in other parts of the country as it is in Arizona.

More people seeking aid; agencies struggle to help

John Rudolf/News-Herald Photos Becky Reid and her daughter Sammi, 4, are among hundreds of Havasu families in need this holiday season.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007 10:33 PM MST

Arms laden with boxes and with three young children in tow, Becky Reid made her way though the parking lot back to her car, a four-door sedan that looked as if it had seen better days. Putting the boxes in the trunk, she opened them up to take a quick look inside.

“Macaroni. Yum!” said her 4-year-old daughter, Sammi.

A look of relief crossed Reid’s face as she opened the other box. “Soap, toothpaste, toilet paper. … This is great,” she said.

Reid’s family is one of hundreds of local families struggling to get by with less this holiday season. A stumbling local economy, rising prices for everything from a dozen eggs to a gallon of gasoline and a meltdown in mortgage lending have all contributed to push more families over the edge into poverty.

“Times are tough. Jobs aren’t turning up,” said Reid, a single mother.

The boxes of food and hygiene products came courtesy of Calvary Baptist Church, which raised more than $7,000 to pay for a delivery from Feed the Children.

“It’s really easy to go about our daily lives and not realize that people are in need and are going without,” said Sean Haynes, who organized the giveaway. “This is something I knew we had to do.”

Haynes identified needy families by working with nurses from the local school district, an effort he said opened his eyes to a growing problem in the city: homelessness.

“There is a homeless population in Havasu,” he said. “They’re almost invisible, but these families are hurting.”

Heather Roose, a school nurse at Smoketree Elementary, said dozens of her students were struggling with hunger and homelessness. “People are so surprised when they hear the numbers of homeless families we have in Havasu, stuck in a one-bedroom hotel room with four kids sleeping on the floor,” Roose said.

About 50 homeless students have been identified at Smoketree, almost 10 percent of the school’s total population. “I see an increasing need,” she said.

When children come to her office with a stomachache, it is often from hunger. Others come to school in dirty clothes or without being properly bathed. “We’ve had kids coming to school with cockroaches coming out of their lunch bags,” she said.

Local aid organizations also are struggling to meet demand this season as the number of needy swells.

“We are overwhelmed,” said Howard Weiske, director of the Interagency Council’s food bank. “As the donations decrease, the needs increase.”

Donations at local food banks are down in part because of the slowdown in construction and real estate. “Many of our donating organizations are experiencing difficult times,” Weiske said. “We enjoyed a lot of support from the construction trade.”

As institutional donations have dipped, individual contributions have taken up some of the slack. “We seem to be seeing the small donor helping us out a lot this particular year,” Weiske said.

Items with a long shelf life and foods requiring minimal preparation are of the greatest value to food banks, he said. “Many of our people have almost no way of refrigeration and limited means of cooking,” he said.

Those interested in aiding homeless families are also encouraged to contact the Interagency Council or Calvary Baptist Church, which recently teamed up to start Homes for the Holidays, which aims to put a roof over the heads of a dozen homeless families by Christmas.

Calvary Baptist Church can be reached at 855-6533. Interagency Council can be reached at 453-5800.

You may contact the reporter at jrudolf@havasunews.com.