Agencies need hand helping homeless, hungry for holidays

As the holidays approach, two Jennings County agencies are in need of a little extra help in their efforts to care for the homeless and the hungry.

Volunteers, food and funds are a bit short at both The Good Samaritan Food Pantry and the Wayside Inn Homeless Shelter.

The Wayside Inn, a 3,300-square-foot building at 304 Hoosier St. in North Vernon, provides emergency shelter to men, women and children who are homeless. The average stay at the shelter is three to 11 days, but people can stay for 30 days, if necessary.

“We are always busier during the holidays but we are anticipating more demand this year,” Wayside director Colleen Malone said. “Last year we served 202 individuals, and so far this year we have already served 216, so the need is not going away.”

Adding to the demand for emergency shelter in the community, 30 individuals were recently displaced from their apartment building when safety code violations forced its immediate closing.

“We have a shortage of low-income housing in the community anyway, and now there are even more people competing for affordable housing, and we need to expand our preparations to meet the increased need,” Malone said.

Winter brings an increased need for emergency assistance because of the effect of higher heating bills and energy costs, Malone added.

Jennings County is fortunate to have agencies that work well together to meet the needs of the homeless, but extra help is needed now, Malone said. Wayside Inn especially needs volunteers to help with administrative tasks, facility maintenance and improvements at the shelter.

“This is a big operation that requires many volunteers to keep things going. We can find everybody something to do,” Malone said.

Extra food supplies are needed, too. Food that clients can carry in lunch boxes to a job site, and food that can be cooked in a crock pot at the shelter are most helpful, Malone added.

The Good Samaritan Food Pantry, 2250 State Road 7 North in North Vernon, also is experiencing an increase in requests for food assistance for hungry families and individuals.

The pantry collects food and funding to provide food to Jennings County residents whose income falls beneath poverty guidelines. Staff and volunteers also pack food into 2,240 backpacks for Jennings County students so children will have food on the weekends.

Staff and volunteers also help provide special Christmas surprises to the children of families in need.

“Right now we have more demand and less food, and that is not a good combination,” Good Samaritan manager Ginger Miller said.

The pantry processed food requests for 188 families during the just the first week of November. That’s ahead of the October pace, when the pantry processed 564 requests for the entire month, Miller said.

“So, you can see if this trend continues November will far exceed last month’s need,” she added.

“It’s difficult to say what we need most because we do need so many things. But I can tell you we always need volunteers to help keep things going here. We can also use food donations or cash so that we can buy more food to give away,” Miller said.

How to help

To donate food, cleaning supplies or cash, or to volunteer time at the Wayside Inn Homeless Shelter, please go online at waysideinnshelter.com or call Colleen Malone at 812-352-7598.

To donate food, cash or to volunteer at the Good Samaritan Food Bank, call Ginger Miller or Joyce Holder at 812-352-0500.