January 9, 2023

Being an anchor in a time of crisis

Being an anchor in a time of crisis

Many of our neighbors have to work more than one job to make ends meet. Even with a second and sometimes a third job, too many are just one mishap away from not being able to pay their monthly bills. A couple of sick days might mean a reduced paycheck that month, while emergencies like a broken-down car might add another bill to the list. Now the decision becomes whether to pay the utility bill, the rent, or the co-payments at the pediatrician.

Clients who reach out to our emergency assistance programs across the diocese often face these stressors and are in crisis when they come to our doors. Our dedicated Community Navigators meet with the clients first, to assess the situation. As part of this assessment, staff will create a household budget with the client to determine if the household might qualify for certain benefits such as SNAP (formerly food stamps), and/ or HEAP (heating assistance). At times, Catholic Charities staff can directly help with the application process or they may refer the client to the appropriate community resources. Community Navigators will also make suggestions around saving opportunities, such as, utilizing a local food pantry to reduce meal related costs.

Once this assessment has been completed, Catholic Charities will determine if direct financial assistance will be of benefit to the client. Staff might make an initial payment to a utility company to prevent a shut off. Additionally, staff will set up a monthly payment plan to help the client catch up on outstanding balances. At other times the agency might pay for an ID for a client, so they can apply for benefits at their local DSS. In all cases, funds will be directly sent to the receiver such as a landlord.

Catholic Charities has strong relationships with other community entities including other nonprofits and religious organizations, oftentimes the funds needed to help a client are shared between multiple entities. This allows each entity to stretch their financial resources to help as many people as possible. The Community Navigator will follow up with each client within a three-month time period to discern if the assistance provided met the need of the client. For example, did the payment to the utility company and the payment plan prevent a shut off notice? A review of these follow up calls show that more than 90% of clients report that their needs have been met. If any referrals were helpful to the client or if any additional support is needed, staff will have access to this information to best serve clients’ needs in the future.