In a crisis, the non-profit charity helps the less fortunate. Programs from Lehigh Community Services are focused on both short term needs, and also breaking the cycle of poverty and homelessness. Clients can get referrals to services in the greater Lee County region, and the focus is on seniors, families with children, and the disabled.
Three of the main priorities are on homeless prevention, so rent help is offered. Other focuses are on food and ending hunger in the region, and pantries and soup kitchens can meet this need. Additional solutions may be financial literacy or credit counseling, which are for long term needs.
There are a few recommendations by staff at Lehigh Community Services. Some involve financial aid, and others are more mediation type solutions.
Mediation or communication is always important. The key is to ask for help, and talk with a landlord or property manager as soon as possible, and do not wait for an eviction notice. Mediation can be done by counselors, and it is effective and free. The end result may be a payment plan for overdue rent, and this can even help with upcoming utility disconnections as well.
Funds for rent and paying energy bills can be obtained from the ESG - Emergency Solutions Grant. This is federally funded program that provides financial assistance, counseling and a wide variety of other services. The priority is on tenants with a pay or quit notice, or funds for security deposits can quickly rehouse people.
Lehigh Community Services can refer clients to this. There will be assistance including housing relocation, money or loans for rent, and stabilization services. This last item addresses budgeting, utility bill payment assistance, and general case management. Anyone applying for help from ESG must meet the income requirement and also have some form of income.
Stabilization is another part of both ESG and general counseling. This helps people, whether they rent or own their home, address the problems that lead to housing crises. Case managers from Lehigh Community Services information that can lead to a solution. This involves both short term aid as well as longer-term, more intensive services.
Some low income families will be placed into local transitional housing programs. Lehigh Community Services and its partners provide previously homeless residents with post-shelter support. Since this form of lodging will reduce financial pressure, this gives people time to improve upon other skills. Some of these other support services include job placement, Education/Training, access to affordable child care, and referrals.
HUD Section 8 is a program local to Lee County Florida and also available nationwide. Staff from Lehigh Community Services can direct families to it. A voucher will be given to them, and the government money can be used to pay a portion of their monthly rental expenses. Another major benefit is the HUD voucher allows household to live in a home of their choosing, so it can be an apartment, town home, or condo. It will hover need to meet U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development guidelines.
Food, nutrition classes, and information on SNAP is available from free food banks and other centers. Residents of Lee County can turn to senior centers, food pantries, support shelters, and other sites. They can get groceries for the elderly, infants, disabled and needy neighbors.
Education and credit counseling is extensive. Lehigh Community Services coordinates services such as English as a Second Language for immigrants. Those that need more education can benefit from General Educational Development test preparation, writing literacy, job search seminars, reading, financial literacy, and also US Citizenship/Naturalization seminars. Classes or workshops are offered to clients.
Staff will help people understand how important it is to live within your means, and provide support and guidance on this. There is financial skills education to clients, and this will help them improve their credit scores and budget properly. Clients will get tips on setting spending priorities as well, and budgeting and the proper use of credit are critical to self-sufficiency.
Lee County families, including those with limited health insurance plans, can get referred to community clinics. The sites offer quality medical care or basic dental cleanings to people with no or limited insurance. Even patients with Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), or who are self-pay can use a local community clinic.
Clinics in the area offer multiple services, ranging from preventative care to prescription medications and also acute care. They rely on nurses as well as volunteer doctors and a team of support staff and other volunteers. They take into account the patient's overall health before deciding on what to do.
Lehigh Community Services is based at 201 Plaza Drive Suite 3, Lehigh Acres, Florida 33936, telephone 239-369-5818.
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