RIO GRANDE VALLEY, Texas (KVEO) — The COVID-19 pandemic is one of the most impactful undertakings of our time.
The virus has killed more than a million people worldwide, brought down economies, and changed the way we do just about everything.
The Rio Grande Valley has seen all of this and more. There’s been an exponential spike of “homeless families” in the RGV.
With the homeless population growing to more than half a million across the nation, some organizations are raising efforts to help those in need.
“We’re in the homeless prevention business now,” says Bill Reagan, executive director of Loaves and Fishes.
Loaves and Fishes is a non-profit in Harlingen that helps the hungry and the homeless. Reagan says that before the pandemic, the non-profit would help between seven to 10 families stay off the streets.
Now, during the COVID-19 pandemic, that number is seven times higher.
“We’re probably helping more like 50 or 60 families now,” said Reagan.
And with homelessness continuing to grow by 22 percent each year since 2016, the number of families seeking help from Loaves and Fishes does not seem to go down for the near future.
“I forsee the need being enormous for years to come,” said Reagan.
Reagan says people in the RGV sought out Loaves and Fishes for habitual reasons before COVID-19.
“With families, it’s usually precipitated by something bad happening and they’ve worn out their welcome with grandma or tia or whoever it may be,” said Reagan.
An increase in homelessness is a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic. Unemployment is attributing to this issue.
“The unemployment rate in the state of Texas has come down to about 8% but here it’s at 12% or 13% in some areas,” said Reagan. “Those are numbers that are worse than the worst of the Great Recession in 2008 and 2009.”
With a vaccine still months away, Reagan says the silver lining is that no matter what, there will alwyas be a place to go for help in the RGV.
“Swallow your pride, give us a call, let us see if we can help,” said Reagan.