Once in awhile, a news story says a lot more than what’s on the page. This month, South Seattle’s Operational Emergency Center closed its doors to the 187,000 people they served last year. One of Seattle’s largest food banks has closed after 35 years. A balloon payment on a needed building upgrade came due and they didn’t have it. The credit crunch made refinancing impossible and no angels were waiting in the wings.
The food bank’s story of needed upgrades, escalating energy costs, and plans gone awry due to increased expenses and a poor economy is one that many of us share. It’s a story of economic vulnerability. With the very poor, it happens all the time. The margin for error is thin to non-existent. The car transmission fails. Getting to work takes three buses and with kids it’s easy to be late. The job is lost, the rent comes due, end of sad story.
For others, the margin is less thin, but times are still perilous. More and more of us have become less able to securely weather a few hard knocks in a row. And when the worst happens, help is getting harder and harder to find.
When OEC hit the wall of things gone wrong, there wasn’t a cushion. Private money for meeting human basic needs that should really be supported by government anyway just isn’t adequately there. Food banks, said the funders, are just band-aids, and not the solution.
But here’s the thing. Times are very hard, and when you don’t have band-aids, people bleed.