Hardin says she’s also seeing an increase in single mothers and Hispanics.
“The amount of people coming through here is increasing every month,” she says. “I’m seeing people I’ve never seen before: people who have lost their job, lost their home. It is scary here in this town. Everything is increasing except our funding, which is decreasing.”
Lack of work
The two-story former fabric warehouse that houses G.O. Ministries is ground zero for poverty in Ashtabula. The blighted building, the tattered neighborhood and the battered cars in the parking lot reek of poverty. The first-floor dining room is dim, drab and depressingly silent; clients have little to say as they sign in and line up for food. Even the spaghetti, pizza and day-old cupcakes lack the joy normally associated with food.
G.O. Ministries has a clothing ministry, food pantry and soup kitchen that serves an evening meal, plus whatever leftovers are made available for breakfast and lunch drop-ins.
Signs around the building set forth rules of use: The phone is not public, and coffee costs 10 cents a cup to help defray the cost of the container, creamer and sugar. If you want a second cup, it will cost a quarter. The meal is free.
Maverick Naylor keeps an eye on the dining room as clients file through the line and take their seats. In the far back corner, a single mother watches as her five children eat slices of pizza donated by area shops. She’s been unemployed for five months and can’t find work. The free meal takes some pressure off a miniscule budget that mostly consists of entitlements from the state.
“It helps, it really helps,” she says of the free meal.
She’s been looking for nursing home or home-health work. She’s not picky.