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Sponsors needed for holiday gift baskets to help impoverished Westford residents



UPDATED — Westford residents living at the poverty level between 2010 and 2014 composed 2.7 percent of the town’s total population, according to the Westford Housing Production Plan published last month.

Those 625 residents out of a total of 22,771, are in need of help this holiday season, said the town’s social worker, Alison Christopher.

That’s why the Cameron Senior Center, where Christopher is based, and St. Vincent de Paul of St. Catherine of Alexandria Church are teaming up again this year to create holiday baskets containing food and gift items, and gift cards. Monetary donations and volunteers are also needed. The charitable effort is seeking sponsors, said Jennifer Claro, director of the Council on Aging.

Christopher noted that she sees many seniors who have lived in town their entire lives and would like to remain in their homes. But rising property taxes have made it a struggle for them.

“The cost of maintaining homes and paying taxes is challenging on a fixed income like Social Security –especially after one spouse dies,” she said. “Many seniors have no other retirement savings, or not enough to support their living expenses.”

In addition to rising taxes, rents are high in Westford and surrounding towns and “there are long waits for subsidized housing,” Christopher said.

According to the Housing Production Plan, “approximately 48.1% (306) of rental households earned incomes of less than $56,520 per year. In other words, the current median gross rent in Westford is unaffordable for 48.1% of the rental households living in town.” The media gross rent between 2010 and 2014 was $1,413. “Approximately 22.6% of the total households in Westford, or 1,603 households, were considered at least moderately burdened by their housing costs, paying more than 30% of their income for their mortgage or rent,” according to the same report.

The largest group of impoverished residents are those between the ages of 12 and 17 years. They compose 28.6 percent of the total. Another 18.9 percent fall within the ages of 65 to 74 years, and 16 percent fall within the ages of 45 to 54 years. Women make up 56.8 percent of those who are impoverished.

“For younger people, health related job loss is definitely at play,” Christopher said. “Many of the long-term unemployed folks that I see are not able to work due to health concerns, but have not yet or will not be approved for SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance) due to the nature of their condition.”

Those conditions include: not expecting to be out of work for at least a year, having a disability that does not meet the SSDI qualifications, or not having worked for enough fiscal year quarters to qualify, Christopher said.

“Sometimes the approval process is very long and the majority of my clients have no short term disability insurance through their previous jobs for the interim period,” she added.

For information on how to donate, contact Katie Russell at 978-692-5523.

The federal Department of Health and Human Resources published the following poverty guidelines in January:

Number of people in family       Poverty guidelines

  •   1                                                                         $11,880
  •   2                                                                        $16,020
  •   3                                                                        $20,160
  •   4                                                                        $24,300
  •   5                                                                        $28,440
  •   6                                                                       $32,580
  •   7                                                                       $36,730
  •   8                                                                      $40,890


Source: Department of Health and Human Resources, Federal Register, Vol. 81, No. 15, January 25, 2016, pages 4036-4037.