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Aid site in high demand

Center that provides homeless services is fielding unusual amount of calls from people seeking help with bills.

May 13, 2009|By Christopher Cadelago

CITY HALL — Demand from low-income residents for utility bill assistance through the nonprofit Burbank Temporary Aid Center has increased 60% over the same period last year, administrators said Monday.

The rise in demand, exacerbated by the slumping economy, souring job market and elevated foreclosure rate, has put the organization on pace to exceed its budget by 80%, Executive Director Barbara Howell said.

“We knew it was going to be a hard year,” she said. “But I don’t think any of us could foresee the huge increases.”

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Howell said her organization — which provides daily help to local homeless clients in addition to groceries, transportation and laundry assistance to low-income residents — has managed to keep pace with demand, even though income and donations have failed to rise at the same clip.

“I have taken calls from donors that say, ‘I am embarrassed to ask, but I can’t pay my power bill,’ or, ‘I am having trouble putting food on the table,’” she said. “I look at that and I am just glad people are coming to us rather than missing a mortgage payment or something worse.”

Last week, Howell was the one seeking assistance as she joined a dozen local nonprofits who went before the City Council asking for a share of annual federal grant funding.

The council eventually awarded $185,197 to 13 social service programs, including $46,200 to the Burbank Temporary Aid Center, $38,000 to the Burbank Unified School District for summer youth employment, $13,500 to the Boys & Girls Club of Burbank for the drop-in teen program, and $30,000 to the Family Service Agency of Burbank.

“This was the first time we received everything we asked for,” Howell said. “And I think it’s because the council realizes how difficult things are in the community.”

Her full allotment came despite the applicant pool seeking $291,210 more than what was available from the city’s annual allotment from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The Family Service Agency of Burbank alone had sought $155,000 for its program.

“Everybody has to realize, especially in today’s economy, that we’re trying to help as many people as possible,” Councilman Jess Talamantes said at the meeting last week. “But when you have somebody that comes forward and wants $155,000, that’s almost the entire available monies.”

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