“This time of year gets lonely for people,” says Wendy Lockwood, a 74-year-old resident of Green Ridge Meadows Apartments in Evergreen.
Not only does Lockwood have occasional loneliness to contend with, she also is living on a meager income of $700 a month.
While talking about her life and the challenges she faces, Lockwood remembers times when she was among the homeless.
“It’s been a rough road,” she says. “I’m just barely making it financially.”
Lockwood is a college-educated woman who has worked professionally and has fallen on hard times.
Despite her current and past difficulties, Lockwood says she tries to have a positive attitude. She tries to think of others and take care of herself as best she can.
“No matter how tough my life has been, I thank God for it,” she says. “I am grateful for what I have … I have learned compassion for other people.”
Because of her physical disabilities, which include severe arthritis and back problems, Lockwood receives financial assistance from the government. Her monthly income is a combination of Social Security and disability payments.
However, without other assistance provided through Medicaid, the housing authority and the federal food stamp program, Lockwood would be struggling far more than she is.
The apartment complex where Lockwood lives serves impoverished senior adults and people with disabilities. Residents living there pay rent on a sliding scale based on income.
Lockwood’s income falls below that federal poverty guidelines that agencies, including Jefferson County Health and Human Services, use to determine eligibility.
An individual whose annual income is below $11,170 is eligible for government assistance. The poverty guideline for a family of four is $23,050.
In the midst of relative affluence in Evergreen, where the per-capita income was reported as $50,206 in 2010, 5.1 percent of the community is living below the poverty level, according to 2010 U.S. Census data.
Since 2008, the number of people seeking assistance has dramatically increased, says Lynnae Flora, division director for the Jeffco community assistance program.
In 2008, the county received approximately 300 requests each month for food assistance. Now the number has jumped to more than 1,000 a month, according to Flora.
“We average 1,800 a month for all programs,” she added. “We’re concerned about how quickly we can process applications.”
According to federal guidelines, 95 percent of applications for assistance must be processed within 30 days, said Flora.
Jefferson County is currently at the 97 percent mark, she added.
“Our processing is looking better,” Flora said. “The story is the need has increased. All of us have seen huge increases.
“I just gave you the number of applications,” she said. “That does not translate into people eligible for assistance.”
Flora also pointed out that many people who are struggling financially make too much money to be eligible for assistance.
“A fair percentage are not eligible,” she said.
“We know there is hidden poverty in Evergreen,” Flora said. “Jefferson County is also that way.”
Many people who are struggling come to the Evergreen Christian Outreach ministry for help. While they are required to fill out an application for assistance, EChO does not qualify people based on income.
Although exact numbers were not available, EChO also has seen a sharp increase in requests for help in the past few years. Recently, the EChO food bank was running low on supplies because of the volume of clients coming each week.
The Mountain Resource Center in Conifer also assists many Evergreen residents. About 40 percent of the agency’s clients are based in Evergreen, said Mary Alice Cohen, program director.
In the past two years, the MRC has seen a 30 percent increase in clients seeking services, she said. Last year the center provided assistance to 4,421 individuals, Cohen said.
“We’re continuing to see a steady increase,” she said.
People are seeking help with multiple services, including assistance in paying rent, utilities and buying food. MRC does have the flexibility to help people who may not qualify for county assistance, Cohen said.
“Some people need support with immediate crises,” Cohen remarked.
Many of the people coming to MRC are eligible for government services, she said. On Wednesdays a county representative comes to the center to talk with people and determine their needs and eligibility.
Approximately one-third of MRC clients receive county assistance, Cohen said.
Even with government assistance for people like Lockwood, some things seem unattainable.
Lockwood has a recliner chair that has no seat. She would like a replacement for it, but does not have the means to purchase it. Books and other materials are stacked on the floor of her apartment because she lacks shelves on which to place them.
But she is grateful to still be here.
Contact Sandy Barnes at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 303-350-1042.