7 Resources to Help Meet Essential Needs in the Event of a Crisis

People volunteer at a food pantry.
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We talk about the importance of having a well-stocked emergency fund and wiggle room in your budget.

That’s the ideal, but living paycheck to paycheck without a savings cushion is a reality for millions.

Losing income due to layoffs, a family emergency or illness leaves many unable to meet basic needs like paying rent and putting food on the table.

Various charities and private companies have stepped up to provide help to those in need.

7 Ways to Get Assistance Covering Basic Needs During a Crisis

Here are a few avenues you can turn to for help.

1. The United Way and 211

The United Way’s 211 network is a helpful resource that connects people with health and human services in their area, like finding housing assistance or food banks. You just dial 211 on your phone or visit 211.org.

Chris Preston, vice president of corporate relations at United Way Worldwide, advises people to reach out for help earlier rather than later if they foresee needing assistance. Don’t wait until a bill that you can’t pay is due.

Click here to find your local United Way.

2. Salvation Army

The Salvation Army provides aid to vulnerable populations with services like homeless shelters and soup kitchens.

The Salvation Army also has programs that assist specific groups, including veterans, seniors and victims of domestic abuse.

Programs and services vary with local needs. Use this search function to find your nearest Salvation Army location.

3. Modest Needs

Modest Needs is a nonprofit that provides grants for low-income people in crisis to cover essential expenses like rent, utility bills and medical expenses. They give special consideration to people living alone, veterans who have recently returned home from military service, teachers and first responders. 

You can learn more about the application process on their website.

4. Food Pantries

Feeding America and its network of food banks connect millions of Americans with their local food banks. They can also provide information about how to apply for national food programs like SNAP and WIC.

You can search for a food bank in your area via your zip code or state.

5. Utility Companies

If you believe you won’t be able to pay your next water, electricity or gas bill, contact your provider to explain your hardship. Get any agreement for financial assistance in writing rather than accepting a blanket statement that utilities will remain on regardless of payment.

Pro Tip

These tips for saving money on utilities can help you lower your bills.

6. Churches and Religious Organizations

Regardless of the type, most churches offer assistance to those in need. 

In addition to food pantries and free meals, many churches offer assistance if you need help paying for utilities and housing. Some even help stock a place with essentials like laundry detergent and toiletries. 

Stopping by the local parish office is typically the best place to ask about services available at that particular church. You can search by region for your local St. Vincent de Paul Society, which offers assistance with rent, food, clothing and other emergency needs. 

7. Family, Friends, Neighbors and Social Networks

Sharing your struggles on social media platforms like GoFundMe or Nextdoor won’t guarantee that someone will be able to help, but you stand a better chance than if you keep yourself in a silo.

Nicole Dow is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Deputy editor Tiffany Wendeln Connors updated this post.