Clients of HELP Ministries include the under employed and working poor. Assistance available from the partnership of churches can assist with expenses when the resident is faced with a crisis, if the issue was not caused by them. Other resources can help individuals either find a new job or gain skills in an effort to exit poverty. They operate across Dauphin, Cumberland, and Perry Counties in Pennsylvania.
Emergency financial aid is focused on preventing homelessness and utility disconnections. Unfortunately in too many cases the shut off of power or heat can also lead to a homeless event, so a wide range of resources are available for both paying rent and energy bills.
As funding allows, HELP Ministries may assist income qualified individuals or families who are in imminent danger. The client will need to have a pay or quit notice from their landlord or an impending disconnection. There are various options that can be explored for help in a crisis, ranging from grants as part of Emergency Food and Shelter Program to LIHEAP.
Together, these programs may provide financial assistance. It can range from first month rent to the currently homeless, or tenants may receive a no interest loan for any overdue rental expenses. Other assistance may include security deposit help or money to keep the heat on during the winter. They also run shelters for the homeless in the service area. This is for eligible individuals or families in Dauphin county.
Any aid is limited. These programs from HELP Ministries or their partner agencies are designed to support residents in crisis situations only who are in immediate need of housing. Income and other guidelines do apply in order to receive a grant.
Food banks as well as government aid such as the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) are administered as well. The United States Department of Agriculture, in partnership with agencies such as HELP Ministries as well as the state work to prevent hunger. Clients can receive everything from surplus grocery items to applications for SNAP food stamp benefits.
The Food Banks run by the churches provide free groceries, non-perishable items, canned goods, and food boxes to low-income families. Most of the goods passed out are obtained through local donations from groups such as churches. There may also be public aid that contributes to the pantry, such as commodities provided by The Emergency Food Assistance Program.
LIHEAP - Energy Assistance is available across the service territory and the city of Harrisburg. Partners, such as community action agencies in Cumberland County, implement several different utility bill assistance programs. They are only available through both donated and government funds. They tend to be available for households with children or senior citizens, and the grants are for low income customers that are experiencing difficulties in paying for or restoring utility service. This type of financial aid is often combined with Weatherization (see below), which tends to be a better long term solution to eliminate no heat crisis situations.
Weatherization is generally provided to families with household income within 150% of Federal Poverty Guidelines. Any type of energy conservation measures from HELP Ministries are given to households with children under the age of 6. Additional priority is for homes with disabled or elderly occupants.
As part of this solution, which is free, highly skilled staff assess the entire household to determine what can be done to help people conserve energy. They will decide which materials cost will effectively provide a warm, energy efficient home while insuring occupant health and safety. All participants will also be provided with information on ways in which they can control high utility bills, as there are many simple steps that anyone can follow.
Outreach is the main referral service. People sometimes need assistance as well as guidance in connecting with any other local services or even state of Pennsylvania benefits. So staff from HELP Ministries can offer appropriate referrals for the programs of other area human service agencies.
Other programs from churches that are part of HELP include vouchers to pay for life-sustaining medication or money for travel costs. These tend to be one time only for a verified crisis.
Employment resources, ranging from Job Readiness to Placement, is for Dauphin and Perry County residents seeking to stabilize their situation. This is often required in order to receive any type of financial support.
Workshops held in the community will help people assess their current job skills. Based on the result of that, other steps will be taken. Specialists will help them improve and prepare a competitive resume, and learn to properly apply and interview for a job. There is also the free use of computers to touch up on IT skills, or to search for a job. These will be available at local workforce centers.
Before completing any type of free job readiness workshop, clients will have an opportunity to meet with a specialist to really understand any barriers being faced. Residents of Harrisburg who complete these programs are referred to other resources that can help with their job search.
As employment specialist will meet with clients on a face-to-face counseling session. This is part of the placement process. What will occur is the individual’s and their case manager will compiles job offerings from local businesses on a weekly basis. The information is then posted at locations, including HELP Ministries, and is also widely distributed.
The job placement services that are available to individuals are open to any resident who completes an assessment with a family development specialist. This will also include a mandatory interview. All clients will have access to the local workforce development center resource room and classroom computers for their job search on Internet sites.
HELP Ministries case managers, which some people may refer to as Family Development Specialists, are some of the main contacts for clients. These staff members will determine eligibility of all residents applying for the non-profit agency’s community service or grant programs. As part of this process, the case manager will assess the needs of those seeking services to assure that they are both able and just as importantly willing to work with them to establish goals. This is a requirement as any help will always be in the form of a hand up and not a hand out.
From this needs assessment an action plan is developed. This will allow the applicant to establish goals, and it is used as the template to guide the client and the case manager towards a long term solution. As part of the goals established, staff from the non-profit work with the family to develop a monthly budget. It will include expenses, income, cash flow and a money management plan.
Case managers from HELP Ministries will work with individuals and families to develop and increase job seeking and employability skills. All of this is done as it is the goal of HELP Ministries to empower low-income individuals and families to become self-sufficient.
Any applicants must complete the proper intake as well as interview process. This needs to be done first. After that, the individuals will be assessed before they can enroll in any other assistance program or receive emergency help. If qualified, as noted above, there may be free food, clothing/work clothing, tools, funds for bills or rent, personal hygiene items, and much more.
For more details on the churches, the programs are run from 413 S. 19th Street, Harrisburg, PA 17104. Dial 717-238-2851.
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