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AZ Homeless Helpers Need Help Themselves

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April 9, 2009

Phoenix, AZ – The agencies that provide emergency food and shelter for Arizonians are in trouble. Government grants and donations are down, while the demand for services is up. In response, 10 major state charitable groups have teamed up to help by matching donations dollar-for-dollar in a fundraising campaign called "The Changing Face of Poverty." Ed Portnoy, director of Grants Programs-Arizona for the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust, Phoenix, describes the situation.

"We cannot make up for what the government has cut. What we're trying to do is fill an immediate strategic gap. We need to get people fed; we need to make sure that people don't become homeless; and if they are already homeless, we want to be sure there are beds to take care of them."

Donations will be matched through April 19 and can be made online, at a> href=""> A donation coupon also runs daily in the "Arizona Republic." One hundred percent of the money contributed will go directly to help the 10 agencies.

Portnoy says contributions of food and time also are welcome.

"People can go to food banks and help sort food. They can go to crisis shelters and read stories to children. If you don't have money to give, you certainly have time and effort to offer."

Emergency assistance programs across the state are being swamped by people who have lost jobs. Mary Lou Rosales runs a community action agency in Pinal County, where caseloads are up nearly 50 percent. Rosales says people who used to donate are now lining up for help.

"Many of them are saying, 'I gave to United Way.' And we say, 'We understand and appreciate it.' It's so sad. They're desperate. They're frustrated."

Rosales credits the "Changing Face of Poverty" campaign with not only raising badly needed money but also spotlighting the seriousness of the problem.

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ