Long cold winter ignites need for help
It’s been a long and frustratingly frigid winter in Minnesota. From Dec. 1 until now, average daily temperatures have been brutal in cities across the state:
- Minneapolis average: 16 degrees
- Brainerd: 10 degrees
- International Falls: 4 degrees
The unrelenting cold has posed problems for low-income families. Many of them have been forced to spend extra money on heating their homes, leaving less money for other essentials like food and clothing.
Other families have faced even tougher circumstances. Example: A woman in Virginia, Minn. came to The Salvation Army recently and informed one of our caseworkers that her husband had abandoned her and their two kids.
“He left her with all the bills,” said the caseworker, named Christie.
One was a large heating bill. It had grown after months and months of ruthless arctic air in Virginia, where since Dec. 1 the average low temperature has been 6 below.
Thankfully, the woman and her kids got help through The Salvation Army’s HeatShare program, which provides energy assistance for people with no place left to turn.
Through HeatShare, the woman received $300 worth of energy assistance.
“Without this assistance, I’m not sure what this woman and her children would have done,” said Christie, noting that one day this winter, the temperature in Virginia freefell to 32 below.
The unusually cold winter has created added troubles for people who use propane or fuel oil to heat their homes. These fuels – which must be delivered to households – are not covered by the Minnesota Cold Weather Rule, which can protect people from having their heat shut off.
“If you use propane or fuel oil and you run out of money to buy more, you are in a very difficult situation,” said HeatShare director Mike McGlone, adding that most people who depend on these fuels live in rural areas.
In these cases HeatShare can help as well. Of the 312 households the program has assisted this winter, more than half have been rural households that use propane or fuel oil.
McGlone said those numbers are likely to rise sharply in the weeks ahead.
“We are anticipating an influx of households in need of help because winter appears to be far from over,” said McGlone, adding that the average amount of HeatShare assistance is $280 per household.
HeatShare is a godsend to individuals and families who need help paying their energy bill during winter. In rare cases, funds are even used to pay for furnace repairs (read success story).
HeatShare is funded by Salvation Army donors like you, and by local utility companies and their customers.
You can help heat a Minnesota family’s home by giving to HeatShare today.
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