Amarillo, TX -- Homelessness and hunger are constant issues just about everywhere - and sometimes those affected don't know where to look for help. So the Department of Agriculture is trying to educate the public.
The USDA recently released a clarification of the eligibility requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (or SNAP) - commonly known as food stamps - to dispel a few common misunderstandings and incorrect assumptions about eligibility.
For instance, many people think if you're homeless or under eighteen, you aren't eligible - but that's not always the case. The new clarifications address several misconceptions about food stamp eligibility, including age requirements - there are none - and that you must have a permanent address - you don't.
Homelessness is more prevalent in Amarillo than you might think - in fact, the number of people walking through the door at the Guyon Saunders Resource Center is equivalent to about eight to ten percent of Amarillo's total population.
"So far, we've seen 1,185 individuals in the first seven months of the year," says Courtney Foster, the Director of the center, "so if our projections are on track, it looks like we should see 2,031 individuals, which is essentially a 28 percent increase in individuals that we saw last year in our community dayroom."
And many of those experiencing homelessness either don't know how to apply or whether they're even eligible for food stamps. And many resources, including the Guyon Saunders center, try to educate those asking for help and at the very least, point them in the right direction.
"When people do come in, we're very fortunate there is an agency here that has a staff member that is certified to work with them on their food resources, and so we can send them over to her office," says Foster. "We also try to make sure that we have paper applications handy, to give to them to apply."
Texas actually has more people participating in the SNAP program than any other state, and our food insecurity rate is about nineteen percent, which is higher than the national average.
"Our goal here should just be to help each other," says Foster. "When someone's down, you're supposed to lend a hand, and if we could just have some more of that, where people can help each other out, I think it would make our town a lot better."
Facilities like the Guyon Saunders Resource Center depend largely on grants and donations from the public. If you're interested in donating time or money, or you simply need help, you can reach the center at 373-0867. You can also contact 211 Texas at 373-2662.
If you'd like to find out if you or someone you know is eligible and how to apply, follow the links attached to this story.