EDITORIAL: Food and shelter

By NEMS Daily Journal

A half-million-dollar federal grant for emergency food pantries and shelters announced Tuesday by U.S. Rep. Travis Childers for counties in the 1st Congressional District could not have come from Washington at a better time.
Heavy demand for food and shelter, fueled in part by the recession, has placed higher-than-normal demands on many pantries and homeless shelter facilities across Northeast Mississippi. In some instances, the pantries and shelters are dealing with lower-than needed contributions.
Childers, in a statement released by his Washington office, said $468,297 has been designated for the 1st District through the Emergency Food and Shelter (EFS) Program. The EFS Program has existed since the 1980s, and its grants are directed by county and/or city dispersal councils composed of local leaders, including faith communities.
The program’s objectives are solidly humanitarian:
- Provide food, in the form of served meals or groceries.
- Provide lodging in a mass shelter or hotel.
- One month’s rent, mortgage, and/or utility bill payment.
- Provide transportation costs associated with the provision of food or shelter
- Provide minimal repairs to mass feeding or sheltering facilities for building code violations or for handicapped accessibility.
- Provide supplies and equipment necessary to feed or shelter people, up to a $300 limit per item.
Melinda Tidwell, who heads United Way of Northeast Mississippi, said the funds are apportioned to several different agencies in Lee County, and that any agency meeting program guidelines can apply.
The official EFS goals are practical and simply stated:
- To allocate funds to the neediest areas.
- To ensure fast response.
- To foster public-private sector partnerships.
- To ensure local decision-making.
- To maintain minimal, but accountable, reporting.
A complex network of private-sector sources combines with the federal funds – usually exceeding them – to make the food pantries and shelters possible. The federal government, contrary to its critics, has a role to play in charitable enterprise; the EFS program is a successful example.