In the state of Massachusetts, non-profit community action agencies play a leading role in helping the less fortunate, unemployed, and low income residents. Many of the centers administer an extensive number of financial assistance programs to help families make it through a crisis. So short term grants may be available for paying expenses, such as rent or heating bills, while a client works with a case manager on self-sufficiency.
While many of the agencies provide direct short term assistance for basic needs, or they can refer families to other government or private resources, the focus is always on preventing or ending the cycle of poverty. So to that end the centers will work with clients to help them gain new skills, find employment in Massachusetts, or increase their educational level.
Child development programs are offered from Head Start as well as the similar Early Head Start service. Many agencies are considered to be experts at early childhood development. They will do whatever it takes to help children from low income families and prepare them for future success. If your center can’t assist, they will refer you to other local options.
The federal government Head Start program focuses on preparing children up to age 5 for school. Teachers and social workers will develop each child's learning and social skills. Some of the services offered include High Quality Education, Individualized Curriculum, free Health Screenings (Including Dental, Vision and Hearing), Family Case Management, and Disability Services and Support. Often times pre-school-age children are also enrolled in early childhood education and the Massachusetts Department of Social Services may refer families to community action agencies.
After school programs offer a nurturing, safe and educationally appropriate environment for school aged children and students whose parents are attending school or working fulltime. Many locations also coordinate care during the summer or holiday months when the public schools are not in session.
The SummerWorks program can help youth prepare for college and work. Students can join the Career Exploration program, which introduce younger workers to job skills and career fields that teach the importance of work and contribute to family income and stability.
Workforce Development can help unemployed and other individuals with job skills training, career awareness, and counseling. All services are intended to enhance someone’s employability.
Specialized computer workshops may be offered, and these will teach a range of basic and more advanced skills to participants. Some of what may taught includes introduction to Windows, the fundamentals of Microsoft Word and Excel and other popular programs. Clients can gain necessary skills crucial to enter the work force.
Case managers are focused on helping people increase their income, and gain new skills to help them either find a job or maybe gain a new one. Counseling and assistance programs are offered for low and moderate-income residents who want to gain new skills and/or further their education. Some of the educational services offered include adult basic education, GED preparation and help obtaining high school diplomas as well as college preparation.
Some of the employment skills and classes include career counseling, classes on developing computer skills, resume review, and interview practicing. As an example of a more detailed service, computer labs are open at many non-profit community sites. The locations will allow clients to access computers and search for jobs, work on cover letters and resumes, check email, research services, and take classes.
ESL, or English for Speakers of Other Languages, are available across Massachusetts. These programs target immigrants and anyone who is a non-English speaker. Clients are given an opportunity to learn or improve their English writing, language speaking, or reading.
Massachusetts residents with Medicare can receive free, unbiased, and confidential health insurance information from Serving the Health Information Needs of Elders, or SHINE. Highly trained and certified counselors can help senior citizens and the elderly make informed choices when it comes to their health care and medical bills. The counselors can provide information on how to enroll in new Medicare benefits. Learn about which program may be best for you among Medicare A & B, Prescription Drug Coverage, Medicare Advantage, Medigap, and Mass Health. There are other federal government and state of Massachusetts health care plans or discounts as well, so clients can learn about other programs that help pay for health care bills for people with limited resources and income.
A variety of Elder Service programs can help senior citizens in maintaining financially secure, healthy, and independent lifestyles. Some programs are even offered in-home.
Paying for heating, natural gas bills, and oil can often be challenging in the cold Massachusetts winter. The LIHEAP Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (known as Fuel Assistance in Massachusetts) may be able to help. It is the state’s largest grant program, and it assists tens of thousands of families with keeping their homes warm. Community action agency staff can help clients in the application process for LIHEAP.
The application period begins in the fall and ends early spring of each year. Seniors and the disabled can apply first, and they get priority. All heating types may be eligible for financial assistance. It doesn’t matter whether you heat with wood pellets, oil, propane, kerosene, cord wood, or another source, all utilities can be covered by LIHEAP.
Some centers can direct people to food pantries or clothing assistance programs. People in the community can receive furniture for families with young children or infants, free food from a pantry or nearby charity. Many towns and counties also run holiday programs, such as Toy Drives, each holiday season for low-income families with children. Children can get gifts, toys, winter coats, and maybe even gift cards.
A another energy service is Weatherization, and this can help people save money on their heating bills. The program helps makes the households of low-income and people who are at risk more energy efficient. The goal is to help people lower their utility bills. Studies show that weatherizing your home can reduce your annual heating and gas bills by as much as 25% per year, and it is free to people who meet guidelines.
Weatherization will not only improve the energy efficiency, but also the comfort and safety of homes. The resource is monitored by the Commonwealth's Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) and funded through the US Department of Energy (DOE).
HEARTWAP, or the Heating System Repairs and Replacement program, is focused on your furnace, boiler, or heating system. It provides heating system repairs, tune-ups, and even entire system replacements. All services are available for free to clients.
If you are faced with a crisis, then the program can pay for the repairs of your heating system. If your system breaks during the winter, then replacement of heating systems are also considered as part of HEARTWAP. The main goal of this program is ensure that families have energy efficient heating systems that function well.
WIC is a federal government paid for supplemental nutrition program for women, infants and children under 5 years of age. It provides support to pregnant, breastfeeding and postpartum women and children. Clients in Massachusetts can access nutrition education, formula, healthy foods, and referrals to clinics as well as health and social service providers. Those who are enrolled may receive vouchers redeemable for healthy foods like cheese, peanut butter, milk, eggs, and more. WIC also coordinates workshops and seminars on nutrition and healthy eating.
Emergency assistance programs are less common, but may be offered as resources allow. Look into assistance with critical needs. Many community action agencies partner with charities or government resources, such as the Salvation Army or United Way of Massachusetts. Offices may offer some or all of the following.
This is a core function of any community action agency. The centers can help low-income individuals and families identify and work towards goals for long term stability and self-sufficiency. Case managers will work with families to remove barriers to school or jobs. Learn about resources and benefits that may be available, including federal government and state of Massachusetts public aid. Services are also focused on helping parents with other activities such as providing affordable childcare, obtain health insurance, enroll in a vocational training program, and to help people set and meet other goals.
Some of the services that can assist unemployed and low income families include the following. Receive advice in applying for benefits, such as cash assistance, food, WIC, or clothing services, among others. Learn about regional non-profit organizations, or get information on counseling, budgeting, and other resources.
Advocacy is offered, and is wide ranging. It includes support services for eligible residents who are dealing with, utility termination notices, lack of heating fuel, payment plans, and other related problems. Agencies also offer individual case management and access to job training, education and nutrition programs. Case managers will work with qualified low income individuals to create an action plan for getting your life back on track.
Immigration and citizenship services are available at centers. Some of the services offered include consultation and advocacy services, assistance with immigration and citizenship applications, renewals, special visa assistance, workshops, and fee-waivers and petitions.
General credit counseling provides clients with confidential, one-on-one advice. This is available to residents seeking to improve, establish, or repair their credit scores. Community action agencies either have on site, or work with certified non-profit credit counselors in Massachusetts. They will help you determine your score and identify ways to build or improve your credit. Workshops are held on budgeting and financial literacy, and they help people create savings accounts, establish household budgets, reduce debts, and build and maintain solid credit scores.
Other services include evaluation of one’s current financial income and expense situation and also the development of a spending and savings plan. Receive information on bank accounts and fees and credit card and medical debt management. Learn how to avoid identity theft and financial scams. Those and more are offered.
IDA Individual Development Accounts help build assets towards educational, home purchasing and other business goals. The program allows people to put money into a special savings account on a scheduled basis, and then their savings are matched. Participants will not only save money, but clients will be enrolled in financial education workshops.
Income tax assistance filing services are offered from VITA. The program will help low income and qualified residents prepare and file their state and federal income taxes, and it is offered for low-to-moderate income taxpayers, individuals who are disabled, seniors, or those who speak limited English. IRS certified staff will ensure you access all of the tax credits available, including the Child Tax Credit (CTC), Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), and any education credits.
Client Services departments are offered at many community action agencies in Massachusetts. The centers offers a range of resources and assistance. Advocates and case managers help with applications for public benefits, help with housing issues such as eviction notices, referrals to other service providers, provide financial advice and budgeting, and more. Get help understanding and applying for public benefits, including Medicaid / MassHealth - immediate onsite submission available, TAFDC (Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children), SSI / SSDI, Food Stamps / SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), EAEDC (Emergency Aid to Elders, Disabled, & Children) and more.
Offices can even help people apply for Supplemental Security Income (or SSI), which is a federal government program that provides payment and cash grants to low-income people who are unable to work because of blindness, age (65 or older), or other disabilities.
Family Planning Programs are available, and these provide counseling, medical care, and education services to thousands of women, men and teenagers. The program operates from school-based health centers, community clinics, hospital primary care programs, and youth development services. They are focused on some of the more diverse Massachusetts cities and neighborhoods, including Boston and Springfield. Family Planning can insure that residents have access to free and high quality preventive health services and education services.
Some agencies will operate Housing, Foreclosure and Homelessness Prevention groups. Advice and assistance is provided to both renters and homeowners. Clients of the community action agency can be provided the skills and assistance they need to either maintain their house, pay their mortgage or rent, or find new housing.
Many of the non-profits provide stabilization, prevention, and case management services to the low income and needy, and resources will help ensure that housing is sustained and families can work towards other educational and family goals. Some of the resources administered in Massachusetts are part of the Housing and Homelessness Prevention Department's package of stabilization programs. Many low and income households living in Boston can get assistance in eviction prevention, help with maintaining their tenancy, and advice and support in understanding their tenant’s rights and responsibilities.
Emergency financial assistance services may be offered to homeowners facing foreclosure or who are delinquent on their mortgage. Clients will receive one on one, individualized credit counseling services and learn financial management skills related to credit card interest analysis, monthly budgeting, and other saving techniques. Community action agencies offer a comprehensive set of free prevention services and workshops. Specialists help clients learn to avoid poor financial and housing related decisions. Homeowners can also learn about their legal rights when it comes to a foreclosure.
Eviction Prevention is offered. Often times a counselor will open dialogue with landlords and mortgage lenders to try to keep you housed. They can meet with tenants, negotiate on your behalf with landlords and lenders, stand up in court with clients, connect people to resources, mediate, and more. If tenants must move, case managers can help people find safe, sanitary, and affordable housing somewhere else in their Massachusetts town.
Work with a case manager or specialist on mediation with a landlord or property manager, get access to information on your legal rights and responsibilities, and agencies can provide renters and homeowners with access to external resources to help maintain your home. For example, get help from federal government programs like HAMP, or homeless prevention services.
Transitional housing and stabilization programs will help families who are in the process of, or who have successfully completed, the move from shelter living to more permanent housing. Clients will be provided up to 18 months of dedicated case management services and support.
Many studies show that families coming out of short term shelter are still vulnerable to missing a rent payment or somehow falling back into homelessness. So this additional support and counseling is provided by Massachusetts to assist them during their transition. Resources provide families ongoing support services so they can continue a self-sustainable lifestyle. Some of this case management type services can include assistance with educational goals, Money Management/Budgeting classes, and job skills.
Another statewide initiative is the HomeCorps Borrower Recovery Initiative (BRI) program. It too can prevent foreclosures and homelessness. Components include loan modification assistance, information and referral to legal assistance, crisis management referrals, and general debt counseling.
Action for Boston Community Development, Inc.
Address is 178 Tremont Street
Boston, Massachusetts 02111
Telephone number - (617) 348-6000
The leading non-profit agency is eastern Massachusetts. Provides services to residents of Boston, Middlesex and Suffolk County. Some of the priorities tend to be heating bill assistance during the winter, food, and job training programs. Counseling and referrals may be offered too. Thousands of lower income, working poor, and unemployed individuals receive some form of assistance every year. More on ABCD Community Action.
180 Main Street
Gloucester, MA 01930-6002
Supports counties and towns of Essex, Gloucester, Ipswich, Manchester-by-the-sea, and Rockport Massachusetts.
Berkshire Community Action Council, Inc.
1531 East Street
Pittsfield, MA 01201
Telephone: (413) 445-4503. The agency operates programs such as Project RECONNECT, emergency loan programs for housing costs, fuel assistance, and eviction prevention. More Berkshire Community Action.
Cambridge Economic Opportunity Committee
11 Inman Street
Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139
Call (617) 868-2900
Counselors can try to help residents find affordable housing, and eviction prevention services and programs are administered.
Citizens for Citizens, Inc.
Main address is 264 Griffin Street
Fall River, MA 02724
Telephone: (508) 679-0041
Supports regions and counties of Berkley, Dighton, Fall River, Lakeville, Rehoboth, Seekonk, Somerset, Freetown, Taunton, Westport, and Swansea.
Community Action Agency of Somerville, Inc.
Main address is 66-70 Union Square, #102
Somerville, Massachusetts 02143
County of Middlesex and Somerville
Community Action Committee of Cape Cod and the Islands
Location is 115 Enterprise Road
Hyannis, MA 02601
Telephone: (508) 771-1727
Regions and towns of Barnstable, Dukes, and Nantucket can call for help. Read more.
Community Action Programs Inter-City, Inc.
Location is 100 Everett Avenue, Unit 14
Chelsea, M Massachusetts A 02150
Supports both Middlesex and Suffolk. Some of the services include homeless prevention in the form of rental assistance. Funds for security deposits may be offered for new housing. Other resources include job training, weatherization, and free income tax filing. Resources are in Lowell and other regions. More.
Office is at 393 Main Street
Greenfield, MA 01301
Call (413) 774-2318 for intake.
Covers Franklin County and North Quabbin Region, including Athol, Petersham, Royalston, Hampshire, and Phillipston.
Community Action, Inc.
145 Essex St.
Haverhill, MA 01832-5617
Locations supported - Amesbury, Boxford, Georgetown, Haverhill, Merrimac, Groveland, Newbury, Newburyport, Salisbury, and Rowley.
Community Teamwork, Inc.
Main address is 155 Merrimack Street
Lowell, MA 01852
Counties – Middlesex is supported. Loans for home improvements, security deposits, and foreclosure counseling are just some of what is available. Click more details.
Greater Lawrence Community Action Council, Inc.
305 Essex Street
Lawrence, Massachusetts 01840
Telephone: (978) 681-4900
Towns covered are Andover, Methuen, North Andover, and Lawrence. While services vary, they mostly offer referrals to other non-profit agencies or government benefits. Read more.
Lynn Economic Opportunity, Inc.
Main address is 156 Broad Street
Lynn, MA 01901-1603
Telephone: (781) 581-7220
If you live in Lynn, Lynnfield, Nahant, Saugus, Swampscott, or Wakefield, call this community action agency. Apply for fuel assistance, government benefits, food stamps, and receive ongoing case management. More Lynn Economic Opportunity programs.
Montachusett Opportunity Council, Inc. of Northwest Worcester County
Location is 133 Pritchard Street
Fitchburg, MA 01420
North Shore Community Action Program
Main address is 98 Main Street
Peabody, MA 01960
Call (978) 531-0767
Supports Beverly, Danvers, Peabody, and Salem.
Mailing address is P.O. Box 5626
166 William Street
New Bedford, Massachusetts 02742
Call (508) 999-9920 for information.
Residents of Acusnnet, Dartmouth, Fairhaven, Marion, Mattapoisett, New Bedford, and Rochester can call this location.
Quincy Community Action Programs, Inc.
1509 Hancock Street, Suite 310
Quincy, MA 02169
Counties and towns covered are Braintree, Hull, Milton, Norfolk, Quincy, and Weymouth
Location is 780 W. Main St.
Avon, Massachusetts 02322
Counties - Bristol, Norfolk, Plymouth
South Middlesex Opportunity Council
Office is based at 300 Howard Street
Framingham, MA 01702
Phone number is (508) 620-2300
Cities and towns supported are Bellingham, Framingham, Wayland, Holliston, Hopkinton, Marlborough, Natick, Southborough, and Ashland.
South Shore Community Action Council, Inc.
Main address is 265 South Meadow Road
Plymouth, Massachusetts 02362
Call (508) 747-7575
Counties are Carver, Duxbury, Scituate, Hanover, Hull, Kingston, Marshfield, Pembroke, Plymouth, and Norwell.
Springfield Partners for Community Action, Inc.
Main address is 619 State Street
Springfield, MA 01109
Telephone number - (413) 263-6500
Provides services to the unemployed and low income is Hampden and also the City of Springfield. Assistance programs from the community action agency include a free eviction clinic, credit counseling, Financial Literacy, job readiness and other support. More Springfield Partners for Community Action.
Tri City Community Action Program, Inc.
110 Pleasant Street, 3rd Floor
Malden, Massachusetts 02148
Everett, Malden, and Medford are supported.
Valley Opportunity Council, Inc. of Hampden County
Main location - 300 High Street
Holyoke, MA 01040
Main telephone is (413) 552-1554
Worcester Community Action Council, Inc.
Main address - 484 Main Street, 2nd Floor
Worcester, MA 01608
Telephone number - (508) 754-1176
A number of towns are supported by case managers from this agency, including North Brookfield, Auburn, Brookfield, Charlton, East Brookfield, Hardwick, Douglas, Horden, Leicester, Millbury, New Braintree, Oakham, Boylston, Oxford, Southbridge, Spencer, Webster, Worcester, and Dudley. The working poor and others who are struggling can sign up for job training and employment programs, grants for paying energy bills, and public benefits such as food stamps. Continue with community action agency Worcester programs.
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