ESSENTIALS emergency referral program.
In an effort to help the working poor, ESSENTIALS provides referrals to emergency support and information on to long term assistance. While the exact form of financial aid will vary depending on the client's needs, income, and other factors, the non-profit will try to provide some form of support.
The short term assistance will be for basic needs, which can include free food from a pantry or clothing. Seasonal programs will include Christmas assistance or school supplies. Families in Lafayette Parish often need financial assistance, and this is the least common that will be provided. There may be some small dollar amounts for expenses such as rent or utilities, but this is not common. More likely will be staff from ESSENTIALS call center refer people to programs such as LIHEAP or food stamps.
The organization tries to help people that live in the area overcome a crisis. Volunteers from the United Way and ESSENTIALS work with full time staff to have the person complete an application and they conduct an interview. Based on the assessment of each family, they will try to solve the emergency.
The Food Pantry is an option. While it can't be relied upon for 100% of groceries, rather it is used to supplement a household’s nutrition needs. The center may have canned goods or non-perishable items. There may also be free fresh fruits, milk and frozen food items. This service relies on donated food as well as partners such as Feeding America. Staff from the food pantry can also refer people to government benefits. This may be Emergency Food Assistance or SNAP food stamps.
Other goods may be passed out too. This can include, but is not limited to, clothing from thrift stores or clothing banks. Other items include diapers, baby formula, personal care items, and household cleaning supplies when available. These items tend to not be as commonly available in Lafayette Parish, but people can inquire.
Emergency funds are offered for certain bills from several agencies in the parish. This can be for rent to prevent eviction, to keep the heat on or to stop an utility disconnection. Other aid from ESSENTIALS may be vouchers to pay for prescription medications or access to low income loans for other bills. The goal is to stop a crisis from getting worse. Volunteers from agencies that are part of the ESSENTIALS network, who are compassionate, understand that it’s difficult to think long term if the family is about to be evicted or is going hungry, so this is one reason while money is passed out.
Any type of financial aid is provided along with guidance. Staff work one on one with individuals and families to help them gain economic stability and reach Self Sufficiency. So ESSENTIALS will provide families the resources and referrals to counseling so that these groups can support their efforts towards financial literacy.
Plans are created as part of case management. This will touch upon finding employment, relationship building, obtaining affordable quality child care, managing budgets efficiently, and applying for state of Louisiana benefits. Everything done is using a strengths-based approach.
In addition to the programs above, there are basic needs offered as part of case management. This can be items such as clothing for work, furniture for a new home, and gas vouchers. There is also guidance in applying for Public Benefits for SSDI or food stamps. Other support may be literacy classes as well as legal aid and counseling.
Referrals to holiday and seasonal programs
There are a few, and these rely on donations and the larger community. The main ones are below. Please donate to ESSENTIAL partner agencies, or volunteer time, as it does make a difference to the less fortunate.
Christmas help is part of Adopt a Family. This will make the holidays brighter for individuals and low income families in need. Clients of the charity will get basic necessities, such as free gifts, clothing, or toys. There is aid only for individuals that have a very limited income and no other resources available to them.
Some of the items passed out are boots, coats, hats and gloves, as these are all in in high demand. Other Christmas goods may be clothing and household items. For many households and children from the larger Lafayette Parish area, these will be the only gifts they receive at Christmas.
Thanksgiving and school supplies are offered too. This will be for families that are low income, and they can be given a free, traditional Thanksgiving meal. Each family receives a basket with all the traditional fixings, such as a Turkey, and side items.
As noted, this is a referral service. Call 232-4357 for details on various social services in the region.