By CRISTINA JANNEY
First Call for Help has seen its request for food double in the last month and expects more calls for resources as the financial downturn caused by the coronavirus continues.
The organization gave away twice as much food in March compared to February, said Linda Mills, First Call for Help director.
Most of that aid came in the last couple weeks of March, and Mills said she believes about half of the aid was a result of people being laid off because of the coronavirus.
First Call also provides rent and utility assistance. Mills said First Call had not seen an increase in requests for that type of assistance, but she said she thought those requests will likely increase if layoffs persist.
The governor has issued orders to delay evictions and utility disconnects at least through this month. First Call is not scheduling any interviews for utility and rent assistance until after May 1.
First Call is applying for grants to help with what Mills said she thought would be an increase in need for assistance in the coming weeks and months.
First Call is not seeing people face to face as a precaution against the spread of coronavirus. Workers are taking applications over the phone. Food donations and food assistance are being done through no-contact procedures.
First Call plans to post a list of food and household items that it needs donated on its Facebook page in the coming days.
If you wish to make a donation, Mills suggested you call ahead. Items can be left at the east side door. Monetary donations can be made online through First Call's website. Checks can also be mailed to First Call for Help, 607 E. 13th St., Hays, KS 67601.
First Step raffle
A group of Leadership 310 students from Fort Hays State University had scheduled a donkey basketball game in April to raise funds for the First Call for Help First Step project.
The governor's stay-at-home order resulted in the event being canceled, but the students are still trying to raise money for First Step through a raffle that will run now through May 3.
Participants in the program would live at the center, work and take classes on subjects such as budgeting.
The goal is to help people to transition to permanent, stable housing of their own.
Meleny Jacome, FHSU sophomore in organizational leadership, said the students wanted to raise awareness about homeless even in this time of the coronavirus crisis.
"Right now everybody is saying, 'Stay home. Stay home. But it is really hard to do that when you don't have a home," she said.
Homelessness might not look the same in Hays as it does in cities, she said. Homeless individuals may be moving from house to house, sleeping on friends' couches.
However, Jacome said that does not mean there is not a need for programs like First Call and First Step in Hays.
"Everyone one needs a safe place to go back to — somewhere they can build a family," she said.
The students are raffling four baskets.
Raffle ticket prices are one for $2, five for $5, 15 for $10, and 40 for $20.
If you don't want to buy a raffle ticket, but want to donate to the First Step project, you can do so directly through the First Call for Help website. Select the First Step program from the designation menu on the online donation form.
The students will write your first and last name, and phone number on a raffle ticket, and they will send you a picture of the front and back of the ticket for your documentation.
Payments can be taken online through Venmo @FirstCall-ForHelp. You can contact one of the students below for more information or to buy raffle tickets.