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Who Gives The Long-Term Jobless A Helping Hand?

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More than 40 percent of the long-term unemployed say they've received a lot of help from family and friends. But only 1 in 10 reports getting much help from churches or community groups, according to an NPR/Kaiser Family Foundation poll.

While family may be the first stop for help, these groups say they're indeed seeing large numbers of people who have been out of work a long time.

'We're Overwhelmed Now'

The vast majority of those polled — about 70 percent — say they've received no help from nonprofits or community groups. Liz Hamel with the Kaiser Family Foundation says there are a several reasons. Some may not know resources are available, and others want help that nonprofits may not provide.

"So they may be looking for specific job placement services or help with job training and may be having difficulty finding that in their local community," Hamel says.

But as friends and family get tapped out, community and church organizations say the long-term unemployed do turn to them.

Darlene Duke, the director of the Christian Aid Mission Partnership in Austell, Ga., just west of Atlanta, sees 1,000 to 1,200 families every month — about twice the number she saw before the recession hit.

"Knowing what the unemployment rate is and that few people say they're getting help from nonprofit organizations, I would be just be amazed to know if there were still yet 90 percent of folks out there to come to me because we're overwhelmed now," Duke says.

CAMP's waiting room is filled with families and the elderly applying for aid or picking up food. The unemployment rate in Georgia is around 10 percent, but in this area, it's higher, and it's a challenge to find a good-paying job.

Alma George, a single mother, was laid off in 2008 from her job in retail design. It paid about $40,000 a year. She now works part time at CAMP helping others apply for aid. "I've come across gentlemen that have always been the only provider that have come to me in tears," George says. "They say, 'What do I do? I'm so ashamed. I'm embarrassed,' " she says.

And George says her own life has changed dramatically. Her church is helping make her house payment, and she has little money for extras, like a church camp her son wanted to attend in nearby Villa Rica, Ga. Nor does she have have the gas money to get him there.

The gas "has to take me back and forth to work and take us to church on Sundays. There's not enough gas to take [him] to Villa Rica," she says through tears. "But I've seen a lot more cases that are worse off than me."

'Every Little Piece'

Across town in the more affluent Atlanta suburb of Sandy Springs, people line up at a food pantry to get fresh bread, vegetables and whatever meat is available. Many don't know the Community Action Center is here unless they are referred, says Tamara Carrera, the executive director.

"The poverty here is not so obvious because you don't see people with scruffy clothes and half-naked with no shoes or whatever, but they're barely making it," Carrera says.

The center has helped about 5,000 people this year with rental assistance, utilities, clothing and food. Among those in line is a young couple. Heather Ochsner says she is disabled with a neurological disorder and her boyfriend, Matthew Prince, is underemployed.

"I have three part-time jobs that I'm just trying to string together enough for us both to survive," Prince says. He says he was working full time as a security guard and then for a deli until his hours were cut.

"You see all kinds of people from all walks of life. It's not just typical people you would think of being impoverished, like, everybody needs the help. Every little piece they can get," Prince says.

"There are days like today when we have $20 to our name, and we can't get any food and we can come here and we know we're going to be able to eat tonight and that's a huge deal," Ochsner says.

This couple had to turn to community groups for help because Prince says he can't find one good, full-time job.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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