The financial meltdown is trickling down from Wall Street to places like an apartment in Los Angeles, where a young woman who gave her name only as "Roxy" lives with her two children temporarily in an apartment provided by a charity called "Beyond Shelter."
After being evicted from the rental home where she lived for ten years, Roxy didn't have enough money to rent a new place. She and her children ended up living in her car, and she felt forced to abandon most of her worldly goods.
But Beyond Shelter gave her a place to live as well as sheets, blankets and dishes. The organization is giving her time to get back on her feet.
But what would happen if Beyond Shelter itself collapsed in the current financial meltdown?" We'd go back on the street, basically, we still haven't saved up enough money to get into another place, Roxy says. "So that's a very scary thought."
It could happen. Donations from individual supporters, foundations and corporations are shrinking if not disappearing. Tanya Tull, president and CEO of Beyond Shelter, says, "The foundation grants, if we ask for 50, we're sometimes getting 25 or 15 or nothing." She pointed out one particular bank that had been a steady supporter with a $50,000 annual donation. "This year instead of 50 the check was $15,000, and the bank went under right after," she said.
Beyond Shelter is consolidating some of its offices, beginning to lay off staffers, and is hunkering down to survive and keep helping needy families.
The Chronicle of Philanthropy in Chicago says that charitable donations totaled about $300 billion across the country last year, and the shortfall in the coming year could be billions as well.
"There are people of very modest means who give a lot to charity and many of them are pinched and unable to give," said Stacy Palmer, editor of the Chronicle of Philanthropy. "And then there are people that are very affluent who are unable to give because they've been hurt by the stock market losses, foreclosure problems, other kinds of things that are hitting Americans."
And then there's the drop in corporate donations. City Meals on Wheels in New York has lost the $500,000 annual donation from the failed investment bank Bear Stearns, as well as $250,000 thousand from other financial institutions.
The Salvation Army says donations have slipped five to 10 percent going into the holiday season when the organization raises 40 percent of its annual revenue.
"We've already, in the last three months, have shut down program centers in various parts of the country," said the Salvation Army's Maj. George Hood. This while an increase in homelessness has brought increased demand for the Salvation Army's help.
In Los Angeles, Tanya Tull says she is not about to close her doors, but for the first time in 30 years of helping the poor, she sees the possibility that it could happen. He client Roxy knows what that means to people like her. "It means no help for us, no help for the single moms, all the babies, children all the families who lost their homes."