Economic woes pinch the poor |

Economic woes pinch the poor

Barren shelves and long lines plague Park City’s food pantry, which busily served about 2,400 people last month.

"It was about triple, which is amazing," Tim Dahlin, executive director of the Christian Center of Park City, said Monday. "I just went in there and there are several shelves that are totally empty."

Businesses donate to the food bank daily, but the Christian Center is more dependant than ever on community contributions, Dahlin explained.

"They still have food, but last month just went through the roof. It’s crazy," Dahlin said. "It’s not like people are taking more, just more people are taking I was over there just a couple of minutes ago and there were eight people in there."

And those who visit the food bank shouldn’t expect the cost for a gallon of milk, a loaf of bread or box of cereal at the grocery store to decrease any time soon.

"It’s tight," Dahlin said. "Where you can save money you are smart to save money. If people get free products here it frees them up with another $20 or $30 they need for something else."

Worries over a recession have pushed the price of oil to its lowest in over a year. But it won’t mean a break on the average grocery bill, according to the Associated Press.

You can blame "sticky" prices. That’s what analysts call it when companies slap higher prices on products and keep them there even though the rationale for the price hikes such as soaring oil prices is gone, the AP reported.

An emergency food drive conducted by the Boy Scouts of America Nov. 8 will aim to replenish the food pantry’s shelves.

"We’re going to have a citywide drive to help alleviate the food needs," Dahlin said. "It’ll all stay right here in Park City."

Summit County residents earning $29,427 per year receive the lowest average salaries in Utah, United Way Regional Director Judy Sobin said.

"In these really tough times it becomes more difficult for people to stay ahead and not have to live paycheck to paycheck," Sobin said. "Housing is becoming more difficult for people because rents haven’t really come down, and people have less money."

The average salary in Summit County is only 72 percent of the national average, Sobin said.

"In our community many of the poor people are hidden because we don’t have ghettoes and this abject poverty that we see in the cities," Sobin said. "Our lower-income community here is not as visible."

But for more than a third of homeowners and renters in Summit County housing takes more than 30 percent of their income, she explained.

"Our donor community, even though they are hurting too, they need to be more generous," Sobin said. "All of the nonprofits need help right now so people really have to step up to the plate and think about the fact that even though some of us have less money than we had last year, we still have a lot more money than the people at the bottom."

County has 12 percent uninsured

Roughly 12 percent of people living in Summit County do not have health insurance, according to the United Way.

The People’s Health Clinic in Park City provides health care for the uninsured and officials there expect the patient load to increase as the economy gets worse.

"We have had a number of new patients who have just lost their health insurance. People have been losing their jobs and I think we’re seeing an uptick because of that," interim People’s Health Clinic Executive Director John Hanrahan said. "If they lose their job and either lose their, insurance or cannot afford to continue their insurance by paying for it themselves, then they’re certainly going to come here for their health care."

That, compounded with a likely decline in funding from charitable foundations, could force belt tightening, Hanrahan said.

"Individuals and businesses might contribute less and all the foundations are almost certainly going to reduce their giving," he lamented. "If donations decrease, all of the social-service nonprofits that rely on those could be affected."

Incidents of domestic violence, child abuse spike

When money is tight typically violence against women increases, said Jane Patten, executive director of the Peace House, a shelter for battered women in Park City.

"It seemed to be that way in past times when there have been downturns, so I really think there is a connection between the two, very sadly enough," Patten said. "As people become more frightened, more frustrated, maybe they can’t find work or there is pressure about their mortgage, and it’s like the pot boiling over and all of the sudden there is an explosion of violence."

There are more cases today of domestic violence and child abuse in Summit County than at this time last year, she said.

"One of the really sad things is to make a woman wait until she is beaten so much that the police bring her or a victim advocate brings her," Patten said. "We’re really fearful that a woman is going to say, ‘Hey, I can’t find a job, I will never be able to find housing and I might as well stay here, at least it’s a roof over my head.’ And she’s being abused."

The Peace House can be reached at 647-9161. Information about the United Way in Summit County is available at The number for the Christian Center of Park City is 649-2260 and the People’s Health Clinic can be reached at 615-7822.

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