Both emergency assistance and self-sufficiency is available from Westmoreland Community Action. The non-profit helps hundreds of families per month and they administer numerous assistance programs. They range from Next Steps housing to free food and government grants for paying heating bills.
Another focus of the community action agency is on tackling poverty in local communities. So staff deal with the root cause of a hardship, whether it is unemployment, lack of job skills, or similar concerns. Some of the main programs in the Westmoreland County region are as follows.
For any struggling household in need of assistance with obtaining free or low cost food, WCA provides distribution services through the Westmoreland County Food Bank. Another resource for groceries is the Emergency Food Pantry. They often work together to help feed the hungry, including children and elderly.
The Emergency Food Pantry is based at the home office, and is targeted at families or individuals experiencing crisis situations. If need be, referrals to similar services or government programs (such as SNAP food stamps) throughout Westmoreland County are available as needed. WAC also works with the Westmoreland County Food Bank to distribute groceries or even items like baby formula on the third Thursday of each month.
Transitional housing and shelter is offered as part of the Next Steps Supportive Housing Program, or NSSHP. Westmoreland Community Action provides short term, low income housing and support services for homeless individuals and families.
In order to be eligible, homeless families must include either a homeless pregnant woman 18 years or older or at least one parent or guardian with one child under 18 years of age. Shelter is also available for an individual in the process of securing legal custody of any person under age eighteen.
The support services are geared to help low income or evicted families acquire needed skills to secure appropriate, safe, permanent housing and to live independently. In addition to housing, NSSHP support services include education on money and case management, life skills training, help with transportation needs, and budgeting classes. They also advocate for school intervention for children, offer referrals to community services, and various basic personal items.
When ready to move out, staff from WCA will direct clients to any grant programs that may help pay a security deposit, moving costs, or even a partial rent payment. This will normally be available for any local, low income apartments.
PSHP - Permanent Supportive Housing Program maintains a large number of furnished apartments in Greensburg Pennsylvania. They are set up to house chronically homeless clients who are receiving mental health care. Specifically, the PSHP program provides housing and support services to individuals under 28 years of age, who apply for and meet eligibility requirements to receive HUD vouchers. Dial 724-834-1260 for details.
WCA’s Housing Counseling and Money Management Center is for those people who are buying a first home. As most people know, the process can be a complicated and confusing.
To help make sense of it all, WCA’s Housing Counseling and Money Management Center makes free services available to all Westmoreland County Pennsylvania residents, including those referred by local mortgage lenders. The community action agency will provide one-on-one, individualized education and counseling in regard to a wide range of housing related topics, including foreclosure prevention, pre-purchase, paying for closing costs, and more. Counselors also have information on programs provided through state of Pennsylvania and federal government agencies.
Based on the result each client’s credit report, housing counselors from Westmoreland Community Action create a credit restoration plan and provide education in regard to the wise use of credit. Additionally, HCMMC provides valuable information in regard to differentiating between a credible lending bank and one that may engage in predatory lending.
Low Income Energy Assistance offers emergency funds to individuals and families who are having difficulty paying their heating or energy bills. Staff members from WCA are available to assist with filling out applications for assistance and government grants. They will also make referrals to appropriate programs, such as the $1 Energy Program or any loan programs offered by non-profit agencies.
The Supported Employment/Work Ready Program provides help to the under and unemployed. It coordinates education, skills training, and job placement services to TANF recipients who meet federal government requirements and are referred to the program by the Westmoreland County Assistance Office.
This job program primarily serves adults who struggle with substantial barriers that interfere with their full engagement in work activities. Participation for some clients will often be long term. It is reassuring to know that there is no upper limit in regard to how long each individual remains part of the program.
Case managers that are part of Work Ready believe that a gradual engagement plan is most effective in guiding clients toward gaining unsubsidized employment paying at minimum several dollars per hour. Some jobs may also have other benefits. All of this will help lead to independence and financial self-sufficiency.
VITA - Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program is a state of Pennsylvania as well as nationwide income tax preparation service for low-to-moderate income residents who are unable to prepare their own returns. There is also support for senior citizens.
Various organizations sponsor volunteers who prepare and electronically file basic returns at no charge. Special emphasis from Westmoreland Community Action is placed on ensuring that clients receive all government income tax credits to which they are entitled. Examples include the Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, and Credit for the Elderly or the Disabled.
Head Start is a nationally sponsored preschool program that promotes the educational and medical well-being of low-income children and their families. Priority is placed on ensuring that children under the age of 6 are well-prepared to begin school through educational, health, and nutritional programs.
In addition, the students parents are encouraged to be involved in their children’s education by volunteering in classrooms and participating in meetings with other families. Additionally, Head Start is a good source for information for parents as it will help them on the guidance in regard to child development, effective discipline, health, and nutrition. This is a fully inclusive program in Pennsylvania, accepting of all cultures and of children who have disabilities.
Early Head Start is a similar resource. It supports the medical, health, physical, and developmental needs of infants as well as pregnant women. There is also assistance for families and children under the age three. Children can receive Weekly Home-Based Services, Parenting Education and Support, Referrals to Community Resources and more.
The location of Westmoreland Community Action is at 226 South Maple Ave., Greensburg, Pennsylvania 15601, dial 724-834-1260.
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