Increase in Hunger Leads to Overcrowding at New York Job Centers

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Nearly 35% of children in the Bronx are going hungry.

By Marianna Reilly

The increase in hunger in our community is leading to a serious overcrowding problem at New York City job centers, reports the Wall Street Journal in the January 3 article, “Welfare Lines Overflow.”

Because many job centers are located in facilities that also provide public assistance benefits like food stamps, and because some of these facilities have been consolidated, it appears that the number of individuals seeking assistance is becoming too large for many centers to manage.

The influx in individuals seeking food stamps to job centers creates lines that are so long and crowds that are so large that many clients are forced to wait outside hours before doors open, just for a chance to be seen, or get to an appointment on time.

The danger, the article says, is that people will opt not receive critically-needed benefits in order to avoid the frustration of long waits. This might already be happening, since records show that the number of food-stamp recipients dropped by 13,000 people in November 2011.

The Journal writes that Speaker Christine Quinn plans to call for hearings to examine the decrease because other indicators—the unemployment rate and food-stamp enrollment statewide—don’t reflect an improvement in the economy.

In the past two years, the number of New Yorkers receiving food stamps has increased by 200,000 – a reality we’ve seen firsthand at Catholic Charities.

As we try to do as much as we can to help those in need, we are reminded that it is our calling and our responsibility as Catholics to help those who have nowhere else to turn.

We also have to ensure that administrative hurdles don’t restrict public assistance from flowing to those in our community who need it most. At a time when so many are facing prolonged unemployment and an unpromising job market, our neighbors need all the help we can provide.

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