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Chill in the Air

January may have been the warmest on record, but times may be tough for the nation's homeless this winter. From an article by Liz Szabo in USA Today:

...many advocates for the poor say they worry about people such as Hundley, predicting the nation's poor could face a bleak winter. Community charities across the country report that donations are down. Donors who gave generously to hurricane disaster relief now have less to give to local charities, experts say, especially because of rising prices for fuel, heat and other necessities. The decline in contributions couldn't come at a worse time for charities, which typically bring in half of their annual donations between Thanksgiving and New Year's, says Sandra Miniutti, spokeswoman for Charity Navigator. "Giving doesn't change much from year to year unless there is a drop in the economy," she says. Donors are giving less and less to groups that fight chronic problems, such as poverty and homelessness, Miniutti says. This year's slump follows several years of declines in giving to human services. Donations have decreased 13% since 2001, according to the Giving USA Foundation. Prices are rising for a number of essentials: • Home heating oil prices are expected to rise 27% this winter compared with last, with natural gas prices going up 41%, according to the Department of Energy. • Although gasoline prices have fallen since their peak of $3.06 a gallon after Hurricane Katrina, they are still 10% higher now than this time last year, according to AAA. • Food costs are inching up. Kraft Foods, for example, recently announced plans to raise the price of several of its products by an average of 3.9%. Those expenses are most punishing to people with lower incomes, because they spend a greater share of their salaries on essentials, says Stacy Palmer, editor of The Chronicle of Philanthropy.


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