Report: 50 percent of Alachua County families struggling to pay for basic needs

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    A new report released by the United Way of North Central Florida show 50 percent of families in Alachua County are struggling to pay for housing, food and transportation.

    Mona Gil de Gibaja, CEO and president of United Way NCFL, said for many families their hourly wages don’t provide enough money to cover all of their expenses.

    "A family of four would have to make $28.18 an hour and that's just to survive in Alachua County,” Gil de Gibaja said.

    With stagnant wages and the cost of basic household needs rising -- many families are finding themselves in tough financial situations.

    "A lot of people are struggling to make ends meet and that causes tremendous stress, depression and mental health issues,” Gil de Gibaja said.

    In some cases, the financial burden becomes so great that families find themselves homeless.

    "At one point when I was counting there were 104 people that needed shelter and we were full and couldn't give shelter. They were all families with children, “Rita Lawrence said.

    St. Francis house case manager Rita Lawrence, said with the cost of rent on the rise they've seen even more families needing help.

    "They just were not able to make those rent payments or to start in a new place where there is deposit money that needs to be put out for utilities and the place itself. Sometimes it’s just too much,” Lawrence said.

    Swag Family Resource Center offers a food pantry, clothing closet and job resources to families in high need communities.

    Swag manager Amanda Elliott said struggling families can turn to them for help.

    "A lot of families that come in are looking for concrete support such as clothing, food, affordable housing and utility assistance. So, we're able to help them with resources we have on site or link them with resources in the community,” Elliott said.

    Families in need can also dial 211 on their phones to get access to a United Way helpline that can connect them with resources.

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