First Contact partners with local township Trustees in Porter County. For those that have gone through the process of applying for help from a local municipality, and that now have a referral, First Contact may then be able to assist. They have offices in Valparaiso as well as Portage for qualified families to drop in at after they have an appointment.
The four main priorities of the agency are on housing needs, such as utilities, rent, or water bills. Other more basic expenses such as food and prescription medications may be offered to prevent a health issue for the family. In addition, the staff at First Contact can also offer linkage to public assistance such as LIHEAP.
Many local businesses and churches partner with the agency. Some examples of the over 50 agencies include Apostolic Christian Church, Bethel Valparaiso, Anderson Foundation, Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church, Open Door Fellowship, Shorewood Forest Philanthropic, St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic Church, and many others.
Financial assistance is available through First Contact homelessness prevention program as well as from referrals to government grants, such as LIHEAP, or donation type services. This service intended for low-income families who are facing eviction or the loss of rental housing due to temporary monetary issues. There may also be cash grants for energy bills and other support.
Budget counseling is also provided to help prevent future recurrences of homelessness or mis-management of money. All funds are limited, and prospective clients must provide documentation from their local Trustee to verify program eligibility.
Heating bill help may be offered as part of the LIHEAP Winter Crisis Program (WCP). There may also be additional funds for expenses ranging from natural gas to water bills. When it comes to heating bills, this program runs from October or so to March. As funding is available, it provides a one-time payment for utility service for income-eligible households in Porter County who are at or below certain federal poverty guideline. Other support may be help in entering into payment plans, Bulk fuel assistance, and more.
Funded through a grant from the state of Indiana Department of Public Aid, the Weatherization Program makes free, energy-efficient alterations and very minor repairs to the homes of qualifying low-income Porter County residents. Renters can benefit as long as landlords agree to pay a portion of the cost, but most of the aid is for homeowners.
This government service was created for purpose of significantly reducing heating costs and conserving energy. Residents of the county who are eligible for assistance from LIHEAP automatically qualify for Weatherization.
The free process begins with an in-home assessment, conducted by a certified auditor. In addition, an experienced heating contractor assesses the home’s heating as well as cooling system to ensure that it is safe and in good working order. The information collected by the contractor who works for First Contact is then put through a computer analysis to determine which measures would be the most cost-effective. After a decision has been made, the modification work is done by contractors.
Upon completion of the work by First Contact, certified personnel inspect the home to be sure that the work was done completely and correctly. The work done may include, but is not limited to, repairing windows, sealing cracks and other air leaks, installing insulation, and also making minor repairs to keep the home warm in winter and cool in summer. Another key benefit of weatherization is the tuning, cleaning, and safety-checking the furnace to increase efficiency.
Prescription vouchers can be offered too. This form of help will be for life-threatening conditions. If there is not assistance available, then the First Contact case worker may refer the patient to other options. They include the following.
There are a number of low-income Porter County residents that are eligible to receive government-supplied food through either local pantries or public aid such as the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP). From these First Contact resources, free groceries or food is available on designated days at mass distributions held on a rotating schedule among sites throughout the county. As an alternative, there are local soup kitchens and pantries that furnish food on a daily basis, as needed or in emergencies.
As noted, the resident needs to see their Township Trustee first for referrals. After that, the First Contact sites are as follows.
Valparaiso Office is at 61 Indiana Ave, Valparaiso IN 46383. Dial (219) 462 – 8332
Another site, the Portage Office, has an address of 3484 Airport Rd., Portage Indiana 46368. Telephone (219)764-7322.
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