Effect of Tyson seen as minimal so far

The Salvation Army is seeing the impact of the Tyson Foods plant closing in Norfolk.

Capt. Alex Velasquez reported Monday that the number of meals served so far in April by the soup kitchen is up 700 over the same half-month period a year ago.

By month’s end, he expects it will be up more than 1,500 meals over last April.

He also noted that Tyson Foods had pledged $3,000 in food assistance. A recent food drive also netted about $3,200 in donations, he said.

Velasquez and four members of the Madison County Collaborative Care Action Team met Monday to talk about developments as workers receive their last checks from Tyson this month.

Also attending were representatives of Nebraska Health and Human Services, Goldenrod Hills Community Action, Norfolk Housing Agency and St. Vincent DePaul Society.

Velasquez said a special presentation is being arranged for Saturday, May 6, at the soup kitchen, when a representative of Northeast Community College will talk about free skills training. Two or three local employers who may need workers also will be invited in an effort to help any unemployed people find jobs.

Sheila Miller of the Norfolk Housing Agency said some landlords are reporting high vacancy rates, while others -- many with nicer apartments -- have low vacancies.

“Read into that what you’d like,’’ she said.

She said the waiting list for people seeking public housing assistance is minimal and stands now at about 60 days. It used to be six months.

Some people with housing vouchers, mainly Somalian individuals, have transferred them to other states and to Dakota City and Minneapolis, she said.

Velasquez said it may make sense to landlords to reduce rents to try to keep people from leaving Norfolk.

Melissa Fehrs of Goldenrod Hills Community Action at Wisner said her agency has seen only a few more requests for rental assistance, which may go up next month.

A representative from Health and Human Services said that the state agency’s caseload had actually gone down slightly.

Ann Hobson of the St. Vincent DePaul Society said that group “really hasn’t been hit’’ by the Tyson closing, though it would start tracking assistance requests from those workers.

“We’ve been surprised,’’ she said.

The team also discussed how to coordinate requests for meal assistance by individuals to prevent duplication of services by the agencies, which isn’t allowed.

Miller noted that the vouchers people sign to receive aid in Norfolk specify that they aren’t supposed to be getting assistance from another agency.