Charities hit hard by economy - Philadelphia News

NORTH PHILADELPHIA - September 17, 2008 A Salvation Army Roxboro thrift store is more crowded than ever these days. Shopping at area thrift stores has increased 10-percent in just the last year. It seems the strained economy has bolstered used clothing and household shopping.

"It's just more economical when you come. You have to take care of kids, bills food, gas," shopper Vernita Tucker said.

But as demand for bargain goods climbs, donations are beginning to dwindle. Salvation Army officials worry the shift could drive a wedge between need and their ability to meet it.

"If the economy continues like it is for a long period of time, it could hurt us eventually," Major John Cranford of the Salvation Army said.

The Salvation Army's Emergency Social Services Centers have seen a tenfold increase in need as people come in seeking help with rent, utilities or food to get through the end of the month. These centers served 42,000 area people last year.

While the economy has made helping people difficult, the loss of $879,000 in funding from the United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania has forced the Salvation Army to close all of its emergency help centers in the region at the end of this week.

"We're squeezed. And we already spent 91 cents of every dollar to help people in need. So there was no fat," Chaz Watson of the Salvation Army said.

Some emergency center clients will go elsewhere for help and others may slip through the cracks.

Tami Williams is underemployed and doesn't know what she's going to do now.

"It just broke my heart. Because there other people in need as well as I," Tami said.

In the face of economic challenges, the Salvation Army has laid off 10 workers. It's closed a child day care center that serves poor families in Darby. Officials say they can't turn things around unless they find new sources of funding.

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