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The Daily Tar Heel

Shelter Fills as Economy Struggles

"I'm living here until I get back on my feet," he said. "I'm trying to do better."

Nelson, a 30-year-old originally from Georgia, has been at the IFC shelter for the past three weeks. He's been without a home for the past six months.

Chris Moran, executive director of the IFC, said that within the past year, and especially the past few months, an increasing number of people have found themselves in financial distress and in need of the shelter's services.

"The state of our economy long before Sept. 11 was beginning to erode -- particularly in our community," Moran said.

Moran said the IFC provides food, clothing, shelter, job referrals, career counseling and medical treatment to people who are homeless, physically impaired, financially distraught or victims of abuse.

Last year, the IFC shelter served more than 75,000 meals, had 1,775 overnight stays and had1,200 clinic visits.

Between July and October, the IFC assisted 39 percent more households and received 56 percent more food requests than it did last year, Moran said.

Jim Cameron, who has helped out at the shelter for 11 years, said he's noticed an increase in attendance. On average, the shelter prepares for 80 people, Cameron says.

But the numbers are growing, and Cameron said he expected more than 90 people to show up Tuesday night.

Moran added that until the economy turns around, the number of people in severe financial trouble is going to continue to increase.

He also said it is essential that the Chapel Hill community respond to this problem. "Our community needs to stay focused," Moran said. "We have to work on increasing wages, job training and our relationships with one another."

Moran added that the focus on the Sept. 11 attacks has distracted the community from local issues and the IFC is finding it necessary to broaden its support base.

"We're trying to be positive and productive and to consider new methods for fund raising," Moran said. "We want to be more visible in the community."

Raney Norwood, who has been on staff at the IFC homeless shelter for 16 years, said that without community support, people like Sammy Nelson would have no place to sleep and nothing to eat. "For somebody that doesn't have money it's a blessing from God to have food and shelter."

The City Editor can be reached

at citydesk@unc.edu.

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