Low income families and those working to exit poverty are some of the clients of Olmsted Community Action Agency. Case managers from the non-profit work with clients on helping them overcome their challenges, access government benefits in Minnesota or receive emergency aid. A combination of government grants from CSBG as well as private donations are used to fund many of the agencies programs.
Relying mostly on funding from the Community Services Block Grant, or CSBG, the agency’s case management department helps needy individuals and families become self-sufficient. This is achieved by offering a combination of job training, referrals to employment, and economic-asset enhancement. The process will put an emphasis on family and other support systems. This Olmsted County Community Action department also provides emergency services in Rochester and other cities. Assistance is available on both an as-needed and long-term basis.
The staff offer clients long-term case management through its family self-sufficiency program, FSSP. The service aims to help families in crisis become more independent over the mid to long term. Individuals receive assistance with home acquisition, employment needs, education and even expunction of criminal records in some cases.
FSSP includes job training type support as well. Examples of this will include referrals to services for driver license commercial programs in Olmsted County and individual development account (IDA) as well.
Individual self-sufficiency plans, meanwhile, focus on different needs. These range from available of low income housing to employment, education, health, childcare, transportation and nutrition.
Families or individuals that enroll will get help in developing specific goals and objectives, and the community action agency evaluates the clients progress as they move beyond crisis situations. The organization provides emergency financial support to help individuals follow educational and vocational pursuits and works to eliminate barriers to entry in the workforce.
The non-profit community action agency also helps clients obtain GEDs, enroll in trade schools or colleges, and find jobs. If necessary, referrals are made to other community resources such as one stop job centers to further address the resident's needs.
Part of the referral process will include information on how to get help for basic needs. The agency has information on charities and other groups that may offer emergency funds for certain expenses such as rent to stop an eviction. There is also assistance such as food, clothing, and referrals to pantries. A key goal of any rent or food program that is offered is on both homeless and hunger prevention in Olmsted County.
The state of Minnesota provides cash grants for homeless prevention as well, and these funds are meant to be pro-active. So the money will be used to pay overdue rent in an emergency, or the homeless can get funds for moving costs or a deposit on a new, low income home.
The agency operates LIHEAP in Minnesota, which is the federally funded Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program. Participants in this income-based program receive grants from the government in an effort to help pay for home heating and cooling needs.
In the state of Minnesota, LIHEAP features two forms of service. The first in general home energy bill assistance, which helps eligible households meet the cost of their monthly utility bills.
For qualified households at risk of losing access to home energy, crisis assistance provides up to two benefit payments for bills. This is the second component and it is available during the program year - once between October and March for heating purposes and once between April and September for paying cooling bills.
Weatherization is also managed by Olmsted Community Action Program. This free energy conservation program can help homeowners improve the energy efficiency of their homes. The priority is for people that meet low-income limits.
The updates will help homeowners reduce their monthly energy expenditures. Services under this program address energy-wasting electric units as well as air infiltration. The organization applies weather stripping, replaces windows and doors, installs attic ventilation and solar screens, and repairs or replaces inefficient heating and cooling units and water heaters.
While more limited, for those that qualify or need it, solar reflective coating is applied to manufactured homes. There will even be suggestions and free advice given to households on steps they can take to save money on their bills, even including water costs.
Both the Head Start and Early Head Start programs administered provide development and support services for low-income, preschool-aged children, the parents and really their entire families. It stresses education and long term development. They are all inclusive services.
These federally funded programs serve children up to five years in age and promote school readiness through social, emotional, mental and physical growth. Head Start will stress health, education, nutrition and socialization, with parent and community development as another cornerstone of the resource.
Children from Rochester and other cities that are able to enroll will also be able to receive free physical and dental care, eat healthy meals, and play indoors and outdoors in a safe environment. Parental involvement and social services are crucial to the programs as well, as a family advocate helps each family perform a self-assessment and develop written goals that are monitored throughout the year.
To learn more on the programs available from the agency, call them at (507) 328-6345. The offices are also located at 2117 Campus Drive SE, Rochester, Minnesota 55904.
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