Mission inundated by requests from families
Written by Jane Stebbins, Pilot staff writer   
June 20, 2014 08:24 pm

Once again, for reasons he cannot fathom, the cupboards keep going bare at the Outreach Gospel Mission in Harbor, said executive director Michael Olsen.

The mission has been inundated with requests — increasingly from families — for food this month. Last Monday alone, OGM distributed more than 200 pounds of food in a three-hour time frame. That doesn’t include the 40 to 45 people who are seeking shelter that OGM is feeding each day.

“I don’t have a solid, definitive answer,” Olsen said regarding the uptick. “I’ve seen it in the past.”

But this go-round, they are all locals, and most are adults with three to five kids in tow. Each food box, weighing about 30 pounds, has enough food for three days — and people can only come in once a month to get it.

“That has really spiked since the middle of May,” Olsen said. “And then they’ll ask us for gas money so they can get back home.”

Employees there refer people to the community kitchens open every day for hot meals and the Community Helpers Food Bank in Brookings for longer-term needs.

“They’re taking opportunities of the (free) lunches, they’re taking opportunities of what we can give, what the food bank can give,” he said. But we’re kind of playing tennis,” he said of the back-and-forth referrals. 

The local Boy Scout troops collected 1,500 pounds of food for the mission in late March.

“That got us through the late winter, early spring,” he said. “And it was unbeknownst to me; they just went out and did it. That really helped us.”

Many believe the mission gets food for free from the state, too.

Food costs were 14 cents a pound from the Oregon Coast Community Action, the state’s regional food bank, but recently rose to 18 cents a pound. Some items are expected to jump to 21 cents a pound this summer, as well.

It’s not just food, either, Olsen said. 

Last week, he had seven requests for rental assistance, when usually OGM would get just one.

“Most of them say their food stamps were cut back; they’re not able to make it through the month anymore,” Olsen said. “When were food stamps cut back — February? March? Now I think it’s really hitting.”

Other factors, particularly ever-increasing gasoline prices, aren’t helping.

People wanting to make donations can do so any time at the mission at  15701 Highway 101 in Harbor or beginning June 24, at its Shabby-to-Chic store, at 702 Chetco Ave., in downtown Brookings.

“We’re hoping it’s just a spike,” Olsen said. “We are a small ministry, and we need large help with this demand. I can assure you that those requesting this type of assistance are not ‘panhandlers;’ these are families with serious needs. Hopefully it’ll level out over the summer.”