JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. — Emmanuel Stitts says he was at the top of his career, working in the transportation industry at The Players Championship when the pandemic rocked his world.
“It effected everyone unexpectedly. Everyone was surprised,” Stitts said. “It was just devastating.”
In March he suddenly found himself laid off from the job he had held for nearly seven years. As his bills started to pile up, he said he was forced to make a decision between paying rent or having money for food.
“I'm going into funds I never thought about spending, going into funds in my retirement and things of that nature and seeing that I'm like wow. I was in a place where I said wow I need help,” Stitts said.
That's when he reached out to The Beaches Emergency Assistance Ministry known as BEAM which helped him with food and paying his rent, and he’s not alone. In May, BEAM said it helped 280 households with rent and utility payments providing more than $130,000 to keep families in their homes. That’s a 330% increase compared to May of last year.
“We have seen an increase that is just astronomical and it does not seem to be abating so far,” Lori Richards, Executive Director of BEAM, said.
More than 60 percent of the people who have reached out to BEAM since the end of March have never accessed the non-profit's services in the past according to Richards.
“I think that the people that we're beginning to hear from now are people who perhaps did have some emergency savings and that has run out or who thought they would be back to work by now but are not back full time or maybe not back at all,” Richards said.
Stitts is grateful to have just gotten his job back and grateful for BEAM's support.
“They did help me with my rent this month, and thank you, dear Lord, I am thankful for that and my blessing came upon and now I am back at work so everything is working out,” Stitts said. “I will always be indebted in my heart to BEAM and what they do, and I will volunteer any time I get the chance to help them out to help someone else because they are wonderful.”
If you want to help, you can donate to BEAM’s Keep Their Homes Campaign, which has already raised $68,000 to help families cover their rent or utility bills. If you live or worked at the beaches and need help you reach out to BEAM for assistance.