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More Families, Children On Food Lines This Holiday

November 25, 1986

Undated (AP) _ In Nashville, they came for jobs they couldn’t handle. In Phoenix, they were drawn by stories of Sunbelt prosperity. In Kansas City, they went from the farm to the food line.

They are the new poor, these newly unemployed, and they are seeking help in increasing numbers this Thanksgiving.

More and more, they include women and children, whole families.

″What’s changing is the kind of people we’re seeing,″ said the Rev. Kenneth Fox, director of the Open Door Mission in Rochester, N.Y. ″Women in crisis, teen-agers, the elderly, it’s not the typical person everyone thinks.″

Across the country, organizations are preparing Thanksgiving meals for armies of the homeless, the lonely, the poor. In the farm and oil belts, organizers are preparing for more people than they’ve seen before. In Kansas City, Mo., the Rev. Maurice Vanderberg, director of the City Union Mission, said people from farms and rural towns are increasingly among the homeless.

″I think it has to do with the farm economy,″ said Vanderberg. ″Farms don’t require the manpower they used to.″

And in New Orleans, ″the typical person we’re working with now, compared to maybe a year or two years ago, are the new unemployed,″ said Jess L. Duncan of the Salvation Army.

″The trend we see is the number of intact families thrown into homelessness,″ said Mike Moreau of New Orleans’ Traveler’s Aid. ″Three or four years ago, that wasn’t a problem.″

In Tennessee, where construction and new auto plants are drawing the hopeful, Nashville’s Union Rescue Mission is catering to a larger and younger clientele.

″A lot of people across the country are hearing that Nashville is on a building boom and they’re coming here for the jobs, and they’re not skilled right for the jobs,″ said the Rev. Richard Kritsch of the mission.

Social agencies in Phoenix, Ariz., are also finding that migration to the Sunbelt has its downside.

″People are coming to Phoenix for the weather,″ said Teresa Coury-Davia of the St. Vincent de Paul Society, which is preparing 2,500 dinners, up from 1,500 last year. ″It’s all over the newspapers that Arizona is the place with a lot of jobs.″

But many people arrive and find they are not qualified for the work available, she said.

Elsewhere, traditional Thanksgiving generosity will feed thousands.

In Los Angeles, 3,000 people are expected at the Union Rescue Mission, including a growing number of women and children. ″More families are making their way to the streets,″ said spokesman Mark Holthaus.

In New York City, where 1.7 million people live below the federal government’s poverty level, the city welfare agency and more than 20 religious and community agencies will provide dinners to about 26,000 homeless people living in city shelters. The Salvation Army plans to serve more than 7,000.

Turkey is on all the menus, but the trimmings vary.

″If they want collard greens and corn bread in Harlem, they get it. If they want ravioli in Little Italy, they get it,″ said Barbara Lepis of Citymeals on Wheels, which will provide 5,400 holiday meals.

In San Francisco, the Salvation Army plans to provide about 2,100 meals, about 600 more than last year.

″Last year we noticed an influx of refugees, especially from Southeast Asia and Central America,″ said spokesman Dave Pharr.

The dinners often come from donations from millions of Americans who are moved by the holiday spirit.

″We get all kinds of organizations - churches, businesses, sports teams, theaters, radio stations, schools - that come together over these couple of months and donate food and money to the city’s hungry,″ said Margaret Jones, a spokeswoman for the mayor’s office of special events in Chicago.

In North Carolina, social services agencies vowed not to turn away any of the hungry.

″They’re coming from as far away as West Virginia, and there are more families, women and younger people. That seems to be the case across the country,″ said Barbara Edwards of the Salvation Army in High Point.

And in Plymouth, Mass., site of the first Thanksgiving meal some 350 years ago, the Salvation Army will welcome the needy to its center at Cole’s Hill, a Pilgrim burial ground overlooking Plymouth Harbor.

″Half the Mayflower folks didn’t make it through the first winter. It’s significant that we’re on this site where those people died,″ said Stephen Carroll of the Salvation Army. ″Now people are still hungry and homeless in America’s hometown but at least they don’t die.″

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