Catholic Charities Agencies Being Asked to Help More People with Less Funding This Holiday Season

Catholic Charities USA
Thursday, 13 November 2003

Agencies report increase in need for food and financial assistance in 2003

This holiday season is a time of need for many Americans and for the Catholic Charities agencies across the country that are experiencing increases in requests for help when government funding and other revenue sources are declining or remain flat.

A new survey by Catholic Charities USA of 71 local agencies across the nations finds that nearly six out of 10 Catholic Charities agencies anticipate shortages in financial contributions this holiday. In addition, 59 percent of the Catholic Charities agencies believe it will be more difficult to meet the needs of the people they serve this holiday season because of rising requests for help and reductions in revenue.

"This holiday season serves as a stark reminder that during this uneven economic recovery, many Americans are still lacking the most basic needs such as food and affordable housing," said Rev. J. Bryan Hehir, president of Catholic Charities USA. "With revenue down on many fronts and an ever-increasing need, holiday donations become even more vital in helping Catholic Charities meet the needs of the less fortunate."

Key findings of the survey of agencies include:

  • Nearly 75 percent of Catholic Charities agencies report an increase in the need for assistance for rent or mortgage payments and utility bills; 66 percent report an increase in the need for food; and 54 percent of the agencies cite an increase in the need for temporary housing.
  • 84 percent of local agencies report an increase in the number of families coming to them for help, 52 percent are seeing more seniors, and 49 percent report an increase in children needing help.
  • 62 percent of the local agencies reported a decrease in government funding in 2003, and 54 percent reported a decline in United Way support. In addition, the agency survey showed that 46 percent saw a reduction in funding from foundations, 34 percent saw a downturn in corporate funding, and 32 percent reported a decline in donations in 2003.

"Catholic Charities agencies need financial help this holiday season in order to provide help and offer hope to those in need," Fr. Hehir said. "In state after state, we face rising human needs and declining resources to meet them. It is critical that people support their local Catholic Charities agency."

The survey indicates that the financial squeeze on Catholic Charities agencies spans the country:

  • At Catholic Charities of Galveston-Houston, mortgage/rent assistance has increased by nearly 20 percent from 2002. Overall requests for help are up about 25 percent in 2003.
  • The number of families using the food pantry of Catholic Social Services of Fall River, MA, has doubled over the past month. The agency is now serving 400 families per week at its food pantry.
  • Demand has been up 25 percent each year for the last three years at the food banks and soup kitchen of Catholic Social Services in Scranton, PA.
  • Catholic Charities of Denver has experienced a 40 percent increase in requests for rent assistance and energy assistance over the past year.
  • Catholic Charities of Cleveland's Information and Referral Service had a 20 percent increase in calls from older adults who requested help for prescription drugs, in-home healthcare, and basic needs such as rent, utilities, or mortgage payments.

National Survey of Catholic Shows People May Be Willing to Give More this Year

On a brighter note, separate national survey conducted for Catholic Charities USA indicates that U.S. Catholics are preparing to dig deeper this holiday season.

The survey of 1,029 Catholics in October shows that 87 percent expect to give more or the same to charities this holiday season, with only 13 percent saying they expect to give less to charity during the holidays. The poll indicates that 75 percent expect to donate the same amount as last year, with 12 percent planning to give more.

Catholics are willing to donate more as their personal financial situations improve and they understand that the needs of the less fortunate are growing. Those Catholics who plan to donate more to charity this holiday season say they will do so because their financial situation has improved (34 percent), the need for assistance is higher (33 percent) and donating more is the right thing to do (28 percent).

"We understand that personal financial situations may not allow some people to give as much as they would like, and we appreciate any donations they can make to help us meet the growing need," Fr. Hehir said. "It is gratifying that this new survey shows that 20 percent of Catholics expect to donate more than $250 to charities during this holiday season, with another 30 percent planning to make donations of at least $100. This demonstrates that Catholics want to act during the holiday season to help those who are less fortunate."

Another 39 percent said they would donate between $1 and $99 dollars, with only about 11 percent indicating no plans to donate to charity during the holidays.

The national survey also indicated that the uncertain economy also impacts what people believe they can afford to give to charity. Among those Catholics who expect to donate less to charities in the upcoming holiday season, 86 percent cite personal finances as the biggest factor. Only 6 percent saying they are reducing donations this season because of questions about trust.

Programs developed and administered by Catholic Charities agencies are community based and assist all who need help—regardless of faith. For more information about donating to a local Catholic Charities agency visit

For more information, or to contact Catholic Charities USA, see their website at:

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