A local organization which provides assistance with food and shelter saw the need for its services increase this past year, and is asking for increased funding from the City of Elko.

The Elko City Council met Tuesday afternoon to discuss Governmental and Enterprise Funds and the 2019/2020 tentative budget. Last year the total amount requested by community service operators was $75,011. For 2020 the budget is $95,011. Requests from these organizations remained mostly flat for the 2020 fiscal year with the exception of Friends in Service Helping. F.I.S.H. has doubled their request from $20,000 in 2019 to $40,000 in 2020.

“The main reason we went up from $20,000 to $40,000 this year was due to our increase in F.I.S.H. support here in the community,” Rudy Garcia, F.I.S.H. board chairman, told the city council members.

Garcia listed some of the services the organization provides, including the emergency food assistance program, the soup kitchen, Samaritan House emergency shelter, case management services, laundry facilities, emergency clothing and food and furniture vouchers.

According to Garcia, resident services have increased from 1,406 in 2017 to 1,746 in 2018. F.I.S.H. assists with the homeless and they have seen their numbers rise. In 2017 they helped 1,361 clients and in 2018 the number of assisted rose to 2,006.

“Our biggest expenditure this year has been the cold weather shelter,” Garcia said.

He said F.I.S.H. wants to continue providing this service to the homeless but that they need assistance from the city and the community during the cold season.

“What kinds of things is Friends in Service doing to stimulate fundraising?” asked Mayor Reece Keener.

“Some of our programs are grant funded,” said Sherry Smith, executive director for F.I.S.H. “For the Samaritan House we receive a grant through HUD that supports about 34 percent. The rest of those funds are put on F.I.S.H. to raise.”

Smith said a fundraising program was created so that people and businesses can sponsor a night at the house for $26 per night per person.

“Most of the food we get into the food bank is donated by the grocery stores. This supplies food not only to families and individuals that come in, but it also supplies food to our soup kitchen, the Samaritan House and the cold weather shelter because we do provide an evening meal, coffee, tea and snacks,” Smith said.

She said that much of the fundraising comes from grants and the community. The F.I.S.H. Thrift Store also supplies revenue that goes directly back into the services provided.

Smith said F.I.S.H. had received over $42,000 from Newmont’s Legacy Fund last year, and they were anticipating receiving over $50,000 this year.

“So we were very excited that it had gone up sufficiently,” Smith said.

With Newmont now getting ready to enter into a Nevada joint venture with Barrick, Smith does not know how much funding F.I.S.H. will be receiving from the mine companies.

Smith told the committee that the cold weather shelter costs about $360 per night. Last season the shelter was open for 19 nights with a total of 206 individuals utilizing the facility, an increase over last year.

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Smith explained that when the shelter is open there are two paid staff members per shift with two shifts per night.

“This last year we started to look for volunteers,” Smith said. “We ended up with 12 volunteers and that just does not work. Bless their hearts, because so many of them have restrictions in their life.”

She explained that one gentleman drives in from Wells to work the midnight to 8 a.m. shift. He usually also brings soup and other amenities.

The shelter can only be opened with confirmed staff members, according to Smith.

“I am just anticipating that next season we will have another increase,” Smith said. “We have seen a steady increase this year out at the [homeless] camp.”

Two other community service programs requested an increase in funds. Elko Area Transit asked for $15,000 in 2019 and $20,000 in 2020. The Firefighter’s Challenge increased its request from $2,500 to $4,000.

The Family Resource Center, Elko Chamber of Commerce and the Elko County District Student Resource Officer program did not request funds from the city for the 2020 fiscal year. In 2019 all three asked for financial support. Nevada Outdoor School and the Elko High School Homecoming Committee, new requesters, asked for $5,000 and $1,000 respectively for the upcoming budget year.

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