UPDATE: Budget cuts force meal cuts at City Mission
Budget cuts are forcing meal cuts at the Huntington City Mission. It comes at a time when the demand is at an all-time high.
For years, the mission has served three meals a day to anyone and everyone who needs one. But as of Thursday, it will be serving two meals a day: a mid-morning brunch and an evening dinner.
The changes really date back to July 2016. Executive Director Mitch Webb said after three years of averaging fewer than 9,000 meals a month, the number jumped to more than 10,000. Every month since, that figure has been hit more often than not, including one month with about 15,000 meals.
Webb said the mission made two budget moves to trim about $200,000, laying off eight staff members and cutting the meals. It aims to bring a $1.8 million budget to a little under $1.6 million in the fiscal year beginning Oct 1.
"It makes me feel horrible,” Webb said. “No one on our staff or on our board that wants to do this. Nobody, least of which me. But it's the fiscally responsible thing to do. We don't want to close the place down either."
Webb said these meals aren't just for the homeless. About 50 percent are served to community members who come in and get a free meal, possibly freeing up some money for rent or the electric bill.
He said $300,000 is allocated for the meal program each year.
Webb adds this calendar year, the mission is on track to serve 140,000 meals. It comes after last year’s record of 126,000. The previous years averaged about 106,000 meals.
Webb tells WSAZ there is no easy answer for why the jump in meals, but last summer some changes were made to the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program or SNAP, which meant fewer people qualified and that's about when the mission started seeing a big jump in their demand.
Webb hopes those in need can adjust.
"But I'm certain that there are people that are going to be missed. It pains us to do that but at this point, right now, we still feel it's the best option to make these choices," he said.
He adds if finances turn around, he hopes to add the third meal back. He’s also very grateful to the agencies, churches and individuals who have reached out offering aid since news of the cuts got out.
The Huntington City Mission has announced it will be serving two meals a day instead of three due to budget constraints.
According to a release, the new meal schedule will begin on Sept. 28.
Brunch for woman and families will be served from 9 a.m.-9:45 a.m. and dinner will be served from 4:30 p.m.-5:25 p.m.
For men, brunch will be served from 9:50 a.m.-10:30 a.m. with dinner being served from 5:30 p.m.-6:10 p.m.
According to a release, the Huntington City Missing served 126,000 meals in 2016 which was a 20% increase from 2015.
The mission says if current trends continue the mission will serve over 140,000 meals in 2017, 50% of those meals are served to the community and not just to people living at the Huntington City Mission.
The meals are free to all.
According to release, the Huntington City Mission houses 143 men, women and children each night.