Meals on Wheels Services in Demand

The demand for Meals on Wheels services is soaring and Interfaith Ministries is hoping the community will fill the need. Houston Public Radio's Capella Tucker reports.

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Meals on Wheels brings meals to senior citizens who are not able to get around on their own. The program in Houston is headed up by Interfaith Ministries. President Rabbi Elliot Gershenson says they are facing a funding shortage that is one reason for the waiting list to jump from 400 to nearly 1,000.

"It's growing 50 a month. And we're also becoming more aware that as people age in their homes they are in need of more than just one meal Monday through Friday. They may need meals for Saturday and Sunday."

Currently the program delivers one or two meals to just under 3,000 seniors in Houston. Gershenson says the first goal is to get the waiting list down to zero. But beyond that they are hoping to expand the services. One goal is to provide more than one meal a day and to expand the program to seven days a week instead of five. Gershenson says they could also provide some other services such as home repair, utility assistance, and medical assistance. He says federal and state funding has been flat. The majority of funding comes from the city and the United Way. Gershenson says they are hoping the community will step up.

"If you have a thousand people on the waiting list it's another million-two. If you want to add an extra meal for a subset of clients who need it each day and on Saturday and Sunday, that'll add another thousand dollars per each of those clients, that's probably another $150,000 per year. So really to do the program the way we'd like to do the program is another million-four."

Eligibility for Meals on Wheels is not financial ... it has to do with a person's mobility. Gershensen says the Meals on Wheels program helps keep seniors independent.S

"This touches me very personally. My mother-in-law who lives outside of Philidelphia is in an assisted living home, now for two years, sold her home, primarily because we could not find her a program that could get her a meal. The waiting list was too long, we couldn't get her on and she couldn't wait the year to get on, and she made a decision with her family, a very difficult decision, to move into an assisted living place so she gave up her independence."

Gershenson says many more in Houston are in the same situation. Capella Tucker, Houston Public Radio News.

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