NGO reports 30% increase in families seeking welfare
Yedid: Two-thirds of requests coming from those who can't pay mortgages.
By RUTH EGLASH
There has been a 30 percent increase in the number of needy families countrywide seeking out citizens' rights advice and emergency social welfare assistance to help weather the economic crisis, the association for community empowerment Yedid reported Tuesday.
According to the non-profit organization, which runs citizens' advice bureaus across the country and provides wide-ranging legal advice services to disadvantaged families, some 8,648 new requests for assistance were received in the last quarter of 2008, compared to only 6,680 during the same period in the previous year. A significant number of those needing help reported serious problems in making their mortgage payments, the organization found.
Ran Melamed, Yedid's deputy director, said many of the requests had not come from the NGO's usual sources, but rather from families considered to be "working poor" (households with at least one breadwinner), those living in the center of the country or other places usually considered socio-economically stable and those who had never utilized the services of non-profit organizations in the past.
"People call us when they are having problems keeping up with their mortgage payments, or do not have enough money for food or medicine," explained Melamed. "We can then refer them to the various charities or government programs that can help them and perhaps ease the pressure."
In addition to the 73% who contacted the organization looking for advice on how to keep up with mortgage payments, 24% reported being faced with severe housing problems and 23% said they were dogged by serious debts. The organization, which runs a help line (1700-500-313) and operates 24 service centers countrywide, also said a significant number of people had inquired about how to obtain state benefits, labor rights and health and medical assistance.
"We still don't know how to deal with such a large increase in people needing help," said Melamed, who admitted the financial crisis had also affected some of the services provided by Yedid. "We've also been trying to find ways to save in order to make it through the recession, but whenever we cut back on one day of services we end up having the double amount of people needing our help the next day. The situation is absurd."
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