South Charlotte

Economy slumps and needs increase

In these tough economic times, many companies are experiencing a downturn in business.

Unfortunately, the Matthews Help Center is busier than ever. More people are lining up for help with rent, utilities, food and other necessities.

The 30-year-old nonprofit agency serves residents in Mecklenburg and Union counties who live within a five-mile radius of the center at 119 North Ames St. Workers refer people outside their service area to other agencies.

The Matthews Help Center assisted about 300 families in September, 55 more than in August. This month, even more are asking for help.

“We're getting so many calls each day. October is going to set a record. And people are coming to us with greater needs. It used to be that they were only a few hundred dollars short on rent. Now, they need rent for the entire month,” said executive director Patti Palmer.

With the arrival of colder weather, she says, clients are particularly concerned about keeping their gas or electricity on, or getting it restored.

Palmer says many clients are single, working mothers who, because of reduced work hours or a sick child, have started on a financial downward spiral that's hard to stop. She says it's important to help them before their utilities are disconnected, if possible.

“Once that happens, you have to pay a reconnect fee, a late fee, and many times a greater deposit,” Palmer said.

The Help Center also has a small pantry where clients can get emergency food. It is privately funded with grants, donations and proceeds from the center's Backporch Treasures thrift shop.