UDMO Director: Need for services is up throughout 12 counties

“It’s getting harder for the poor to survive.”

FORT DODGE — Only six months into the current year, Upper Des Moines Opportunity has already served more than 3/4 the people they served in all of last year in Webster County.

“Chances are we’ll be bypassing those numbers from last year,” said Jamey Whitney, UDMO executive director. “My point in telling you that is, the need continues to grow, even though we are supposedly in good economic times.”

Whitney has been updating county boards of supervisors in all 12 counties the agency serves, to show how money has been spent from October 1, 2018 to March 31.

UDMO went through some significant changes last year, he said. The governing board went from 36 individuals down to 16. One of the changes as part of the restructuring was to provide more data to county supervisors throughout the year, to show how services are being provided.

In six months in Webster County, UDMO assisted a total of 3,923 individuals in 1,704 households in Webster County.

Last year there were 4,966 individuals served over 12 month.

In other words, UDMO has already served 79% of the households and individuals it served last year, Whitney said.

Most of UDMO’s aid so far has been for emergency and energy services — that’s through the state’s Low Income Home Emergency Assistance program, to help people keep the heat on in their homes.

“With our emergency money, that’s if a furnace goes out, or if there’s an emergency where they can’t pay off one utility,” Whitney said.

UDMO has spent $967,411 dollars in Webster County from October 2018 to March, he said.

Of that amount, $692,331 was for the emergency/energy services.

The next largest category was UDMO’s weatherization program, with $153,390 spent in Webster County.

This includes caulking, weather stripping, and attic insulation to make a home more energy efficient, so the resident can spend less on utilities.

Another major increase is in spending on food pantries, Whitney said, although that isn’t reflected in Webster County’s numbers. UDMO has food pantries in other counties, but not in Webster because there are already multiple food pantries.

UDMO funds come from a variety of sources including state and federal money. Webster County doesn’t make any direct contributions to the organization, while other counties do.

At the Lord’s Cupboard, the largest food pantry in Webster County, Director Joni Ham-Olson said new families are using their services every week.

“Since Jan. 1, we have seen an average of three new people a week,” Ham-Olson said. “In addition to our regular clients.

“We also have had a lot of larger households,” she continued. “A lot of times it’s not just a family that constitutes a household. It can be single people living together. It can be children, parents, and grandchildren.”

Since Jan. 1, the pantry has served 1,104 people total, or 534 individuals, she said.

In all of 2018 the pantry served 2,435 individuals, or 1,041 households.

In other words, in about 33% of a year, the pantry has served 45% the individuals and 51% the households it served in 2018.

The numbers show that the need is great — and that not everyone is getting ahead in the current economy, according to Whitney.

“Even though we’re having discussion of an economic upturn, ‘Things are going really good,’ you already, like the other counties, are at 3/4 of the numbers you completed for the full year last year, and we still have six months to go,” he said. “We encourage everybody to give to their local food pantries, and help out as much as they can.

“The need is growing out there. Everybody is talking about this big economic boom, but the people at the low end of the spectrum are not enjoying any increases in that area. It’s getting harder for the poor to survive.”