"People can disguise their problems, but not forever," says Nancy Paul, director of Faith in Action, a human-services group operating in Chelsea and Dexter.
"It shows up in school when you see two kids wearing the same coat on alternate days," she says. "And we know we have people living in the woods and in their cars."
Rural poverty was easier to miss ten years ago. But when a bad state economy got worse and local unemployment soared to 9.4 percent in July 2010 (see Front Porch, p. 9), the need for human services increased dramatically. And just when the need was greatest, state and federal funding cuts plus shrinking property tax revenues limited what local governments could do to help. That has placed even greater burdens on the nonprofit groups that provide those in need with food, clothing, and just about anything else.
"We're serving quadruple the number of people," says Nancy Paul. "I've been here eight years, and when I started, we had twenty to twenty-five emergency food orders a month. Now it's one hundred or more."