People who need meals blame layoffs, recession
Since the beginning of the year, the Catholic Outreach Soup Kitchen steadily has increased the number of people it serves. Usually, staff at the kitchen feed a stream of homeless or transient folks down on their luck or temporarily in need of a hot meal, but it seems much of the recent rise has its roots in the oil-and-gas bust and the recession.
According to Director Angela Walsh, the soup kitchen used to serve lunch to about 200 people daily, but that number swelled to more than 300 in recent months.
Walsh attributes the increase to recent layoffs in the oil-and-gas industry.
“We are experiencing short tempers and long lines,” she said. “We try to stay upbeat, but no matter what we do, more people are coming.”
Walsh said there also has been an uptick in the number of people using Outreach’s other services, such as food boxes and clothing.
By cutting food portions, staff at the soup kitchen so far have been able to keep up with increased demand. Generous donations from the community also have helped.
Rocky, who declined to give his last name, was laid off from DHS Oil in August without severance and found himself at the soup kitchen.
Rocky said the new oil-and-gas regulations were hurting the industry and causing companies to look to other states for contracts.
He has worked in the oil industry since he was 13 years old and is a Grand Junction native.
“The first bust was easier to ride out,” he explained. “At least then we had the agriculture industry to fall back on. Now all we have is a bunch of houses where the farmland was. We just can’t support anything else, so I don’t know what we are all going to do.”
Others eating at the kitchen Monday said that they are suffering from the trickle-down effects of the oil industry’s job losses.
Jeremy and Samantha also declined to give their last name. With their 7-month-old baby,
Ashlee, in tow, the couple eats at the kitchen daily because they can’t afford three meals a day at home, they said.
Jeremy was laid off from a managerial job at Wendy’s on March 1.
“I can’t even remember how many resumes I’ve sent out so far,” Jeremy said.
He explained that because jobs are so scarce, employers are able to demand college education even for minimum-wage positions.
Affordable housing is even harder to find, Jeremy said. He estimated that it would cost his family $3,200 up front to rent in the Grand Valley. In the meantime, the family is renting a room from a friend.
Jeremy is starting a lawn-care business to get his family into a place of their own. He’s hoping to “make the grass greener” for his family and his new clients.
Vince Tekansik said he hasn’t seen a paycheck since Jan. 9, when he lost his temporary job at PGW, a glass company.
He’s registered at Labor Ready but has only been called to work a few times this year.
“More and more people are signed up, but there are less and less jobs. Plus wages went down to minimum wage,” Tekansik said.
Walsh said many of the people she’s met recently are using the kitchen as a way to help save money, so they can return to their home states.
Danielle Rhoades, 23, carried her 1 1/2-week-old newborn into the kitchen. She said her partner had been a roofer before he was laid off.
“We’re trying to save money to get back to Oklahoma,” Rhoades said. “But there’s no money to save,” mentioning they were already late on their rent this month.
“I don’t know how we are going to get back there. We’ll just have to stay and wait until he starts working again,” she said.