June 22, 2010
Charlottesville welcomed the official start of summer with a series of hot and humid days, but many families in Charlottesville and Albemarle County aren't able to afford air conditioning units.
Many families that have them just aren't able to pay the bills anymore in this economy.
Shevona White works full-time. When she comes home every day, she has another job -- taking care of her injured cousin.
"It's really hot, and with my cousin, she stays at my aunt's house, and there's no central air," White said.
White's cousin is Yolanda Chambers, the Greene County woman who suffered third-degree burns all over her body. Her boyfriend allegedly dumped gasoline on her and set her on fire.
Now, Chambers is healing, but she must stay in bed most of the day. White said the heat and lack of air conditioning is taking its toll.
"With her not being able to come outside, and her being inside all the time, it's just miserable," White said. "And she has two small kids, too, and it's miserable for them."
More people than ever are needing cooling assistance. Social Services in Charlottesville and Albemarle County are slammed.
"Already just a week into the program, we've taken just under 300 applications, and last week, in the whole season, we took 480 applications," said Susan Moffett of Charlottesville Social Services.
The applications are for air conditioning units and helping to pay electric bills.
"We've seen a whole new population of people finding themselves in need, asking for help, and they never had to do that before," Moffett said.
To apply, the income requirements are fairly low. A family of four must make less than $2,839 a month. That's with a child under 6, an adult over 60 or a disabled person in the household.
White said she hopes she'll qualify for her cousin's sake.
"The more comfortable we can make her, the quicker her recovery will be, I think," she said.
Social services officials said people can donate money to the >Monticello Area Community Action Agency to help people in need of cooling assistance. There are also other cooling assistance programs Social Services want people to be aware of, like the Jefferson Board of Aging's Cool-Aid program, which is under-funded, but can still help seniors. MACAA also has a cooling assistance program.