Nonprofit surviving Illinois budget impasse while feeding more families

While some community agencies are reducing hours or closing altogether without state funding, Good Samaritan in Carbondale, Illinois, is staying busier than ever.

Thanks to dedication from the community, it’s surviving the Illinois budget impasse while continuing to help those in need.

Inside Good Samaritan’s soup kitchen, Aaron Barnett is cooking up lunch. He says these days there are always lots of people counting on the hot meals the kitchen dishes up.

"It makes us feel good about what we do, but it’s sad to see," Barnett said.

 Last year alone, Good Samaritan served more than 33,000, an increase of more than 30 percent over the agency’s seven-year average.

Director Mike Heath says more people are turning to Good Samaritan as other agencies in the area close or reduce services from a lack of state funding. He says, thanks to a big boost in donations, the kitchen always has plenty of food to go around. 

But not beds. Heath says the agency has to turn people away often because their 30-bed emergency shelter is constantly full.

"Almost always. Not every time, but there’s a very large waiting list," Heath said. He says it’s not just individuals staying with them, but families with babies and even elderly adults.

With no promise of this year’s funding or the $70,000 the state never paid up from last year, Heath says he’d like to expand the shelter and other services, but they’re just scraping by as it is now.

"We’re just keeping our head above water right now. Sure, it would be great. We would love to do it, and it would help the community," Heath said. He said expansions take money, and that’s something they and every other Illinois agency is short on this year.

Heath says they’re lucky. Churches, businesses and neighbors have stepped up donations. He says it’s made all the difference to keep going for people in need and make sure every adult and child there gets something to eat.

"It’s sad to see kids coming in the door, but it’s good they have a place to go," Barnett said.

Heath says they and the families at Good Samaritan will get through the impasse as a community, one day and one meal at a time.

Good Samaritan provides a food pantry, soup kitchen, emergency and transitional housing, as well as emergency assistance for those in need. The nonprofit reports an increase in demand for all programs but transitional housing, saying that comes from a program communication issue and not a lack of need in the community.

The soup kitchen is open 365 days a year, offering free meals to everyone, no questions asked.

For more information on how you can find the help you and your family need or to find out how you can donate to help in your community, call 618-457-57-94 or click here.

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