Sometimes unforeseen circumstances lead clients to seek help from Catholic Charities of Livingston County, said Tabitha Brewster, the agency’s executive director.
She said that was the case recently with a family that had been evicted from a home. The home had been condemned due to mold issues, and despite not being at fault, the family had to quickly find new housing.
Eviction is just one of many ways in which people’s financial situations can change drastically overnight: for example, they may be victims of a house fire, unexpectedly laid off or fleeing a domestic violence situation, Brewster said.
Catholic Charities staff members aim to be flexible as they try to help clients adjust to the situations they face, she said. Caseworkers use donated funds from the Catholic Courier/Catholic Charities Christmas Appeal and other sources to help clients in short-term financial crises meet emergency needs.
“We’re seeing a lot of people who are either laid off or are just starting a job and need help with various things: Christmas, a utility bill, or rent,” Brewster said. “Sometimes it’s not even a monetary thing. Sometimes they need guidance or want someone to talk to on what to prioritize.”
During its 2014 Christmas Program, Catholic Charities of Livingston County provided more than 250 people with food and gifts for the holidays. Brewster said the agency is serving many people for the first time who are having trouble meeting basic needs, such as warm coats or food or guidance prioritizing bills.
“A lot of times it’s trying to figure out what they need to pay first and how to handle that particular situation,” Brewster said.
In the last year and a half, Catholic Charities of Livingston County has partnered with the Livingston County Department of Social Services (DSS) and the local Workforce Development on a new program called the Job Squad, which aims to help clients obtain and keep employment. The teamwork of all three agencies attempts to help clients be compliant with rules that require them to be job searching or to be on a work site, Brewster said.
“Our role in this is to provide some of that intensive case management to folks who are moving through DSS and may need assistance finding employment,” she said.
She noted that caseworkers have the flexibility to be able to meet with people in their own environments to get a better understanding of their challenges and needs. They may be able to help address barriers to employment, such as a lack of transportation or work history, or help them with finding suitable options for child care.
About 20 businesses in Livingston County have agreed to work with the agencies when they have entry-level jobs available to help clients build work histories and transition to long-term employment.
“So far we’ve been able to help about 115 people be able to obtain and keep employment,” she said.
But once a client obtains a job, the work with Catholic Charities of Livingston County doesn’t end. Sometimes a new job also can add complexity to a client’s financial picture, if that client no longer qualifies for food stamps. Caseworkers continue to meet with clients to make sure they are able to meet their needs, Brewster said.
They also work with clients to help them plan ahead for longer-range goals and save up for future needs.
“A lot of times people who live in poverty or are out of work literally live day to day,” she said. “They are not thinking about Thanksgiving or that their child might need lunch money.”
The goal is to help clients successfully obtain and keep employment and be able to close their public-assistance cases. Clients who are successful at doing so get many intangible benefits, Brewster said.
“Whenever you have a job, you have that confidence and self-worth and responsibility and all the things that come with employment,” she said.
– – –
Editor’s Note: To contribute to the Catholic Courier/Catholic Charities Christmas Appeal, download and print the mail-in donation form.