Unemployment, budget cuts felt at some social services

By Julia Bruck - bioemail

HARRISBURG, IL (KFVS) -  Social service providers in southern Illinois face a one, two punch.  First Senate republicans blocked a measure to extend jobless benefits.  Then Governor Pat Quinn made deep cuts to social service agencies.  At one agency in Harrisburg both those blows has made it difficult to meet the increased need.

For the past 17 years, Lori Price has been in and out of programs at the Anna Bixby Women's Center in Harrisburg.  She first came to the center to escape an abusive relationship.

"They put us in a safe home," Price said.  "They helped us out with food, clothes, which the first time I came here; I came with nothing but the clothes on my back."

A month ago, price's long-term unemployment benefits ran out.  Again, Price turned to those like Diane Taborn at the center for help.

"I was devastated because I had bills to pay and no money to pay the bills," Price said.

"Unemployment has run out," Price said.  "They are coming because they have no money, they have no food, and they can't pay their rent so they are coming and accessing our homeless programs and coming to our food pantry."

Taborn says in the last two months, the number of those in need, both men and women, has increased nearly 50 percent.  The center relies mainly on state funds to keep the doors open.  But Taborn says in the last two years, the center lost more than 15 percent of funds and nine employees.

"We're trying to run the same programs with less staff and less money," Taborn said.  "The reality of the cuts is seen in the food pantry, where shelves are nearly empty."

"Right now the funds are not there for us to purchase any food," Taborn explained.

Taborn adds they now only get the basics from the Tri-State Food Bank.  Computers also sit alone, with no employees to teach the class.  Transportation was also cut, to emergency pickups only.  However, Taborn says despite all the reductions, the need for help has increased.

"We're serving more with less," Taborn added.

The Anna Bixby Women's Center provides services to folks in the surrounding seven counties.  If you would like to help the center call 618-252-8380

Copyright 2010 KFVS. All rights reserved.