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Experiment in Self-Reliance assistance programs in Winston Salem area.

Low income and working poor households can turn to Experiment in Self-Reliance for support. The non-profit partners with their clients and local charities in an effort to end the cycle of poverty, unemployment and homelessness in the community. A number of services are administered in an effort to work towards this goal, and they include Self-Sufficiency program, referrals to financial support and public aid, education and more.

The non-profit helps thousands of individuals, families, and seniors across Winston-Salem and Forsyth County. The process involves case management, goal setting, and follow up to address the crisis and hardship. If and when needed, very low income families who are working may qualify for emergency financial aid for needs such as rent, food, or energy bills.

Note that almost all of the programs from ESR are for households that are considered working poor or that are facing a one time hardship. Clients need to be on the path to self-sufficiency. They do not support community members who have a sole source of income being disability, unemployment, or from some other source of government benefits. The staff focus on those who are willing and able to end the cycle of low income and poverty.

Financial help for bills combined with free case management services

Self-Sufficiency from case managers is intended to help people increase their standard of living, escape poverty and increase their overall economic self-reliance. ESR will also focus on money saving techniques. Case plans are created in an effort to do this, and the ongoing support and services will last for up to 24 months if needed. Clients of Experiment in Self-Reliance will work with staff in an effort to improve their overall development of life skills in an effort to improve self-sufficiency, and find free tips to save money on all household expenses.

In some cases, residents of Forsyth County may also receive financial assistance. This is generally offered by referrals to other non-profits, and may be in the form of cash grants or competitively priced loans to pay for expenses such as housing costs (rent or utility bills), tuition and books for improving education, or maybe even childcare expenses.




The goal is to provide relief to parents so they can attend classes or take higher paying employment. Other aid may be housing services, transportation and more. A very limited amount of emergency financial assistance is also available from ESR in some circumstances. This is focused on preventing clients from becoming evicted or homeless.

A team is available for people to call upon. The staff on those teams are involved in offering self-sufficiency to those that are enrolled and they are available to meet with caseworkers. This will allow clients to get the support they need. The structured program has been documented to be helpful in assisting low income clients in improving their income and job prospects.

ESR Housing Services provides short term, transitional housing for the working poor that are recently evicted or homeless. The clients need to have some source of income. Case managers work with clients to transition them into permanent, affordable housing and apartments. They can learn about programs to pay a security deposit or first months rent on a new home, including information on loan programs. They also work with other parents such as Point in Time Homeless County, Veterans Stand-Down, Homeless Connect and others.

Information and Referral is available. The agency has details on assistance programs and government benefits available in Forsyth County and across the state. Receive information on income levels, addresses to apply for benefits such as SSDI disability or food stamps, and more. Some of the largest programs in the area include low income energy bill assistance (LIHEAP), SNAP food stamps, and section 8 housing vouchers. Or find how to get section 8 vouchers in North Carolina near you.

People from the community, regardless of their income, can get information about many of the non-profit agencies and charities in the greater Forsyth County and Winston-Salem region. Get details on the services they provide as well as the requirements for receiving emergency services. This can include job training, resources that can help with transportation, and emergency services. There are also many partner agencies such as JobLink Career Center at Forsyth Technical Community College, the Crisis Control Ministry as well as the Goodwill and the Career connections and Prosperity Center.





Experiment in Self-Reliance provides referrals to assistance programs that are beyond the scope of ESR to provide, such as emergency funds to pay electricity bills, water expenses, food, and transportation. Some of the other referrals may be Transportation, low cost or free Child Care in North Carolina, Permanent Supportive Housing, Budgeting and Financial Education, and referrals to Social and Economic Literacy Training.

Help is available for veterans as well. This will be case management  and information on government and VA benefits. Work with a case manager on creating a listing of short-term objectives and establishing long-term goals as well. There will be support provided to the veteran in Forsyth County on their way to economic self-sufficiency.

Saving, investing, and money management from SELF community action

NC Saves can help with asset building and saving money. The program from ESR is for participants who need to save money for school, home ownership, or starting a business. It is usually combined with  case management services, including basic economic literacy training as well as budget counseling. The NC Saves program emphasizes asset building, savings, and wealth accumulation. It will also even offer provides participants with the tools to help them become economically self-sufficient as well as financially stable.

Savings accounts will be open by clients. They can select any bank they want. Participants of NC Saves will determine a goal for their account and they also need to determine how they will use the money. There will often be government grants that can match a portion of the clients total savings. Some suggested uses of the money include paying ahead on current bills, buying a car or reliable transportation, paying off old credit card or medical debts, saving for holiday gift purchases, or creating an emergency fund.

Other budgeting assistance can be part of NC Saves as well. Whether it is using technology or apps such as Honey to save money, smart phone apps, or just understanding unit pricing, the Forsyth County community action agency tries to help. More on budgeting to save money.

Another similar service is the IDA, or New Century Individual Development Account (IDA) Program. This is focused on helping residents of Forsyth County North Carolina become first-time homeowners. This program combines education as well as asset building to teach participants how to manage their money wisely, how to find and purchase that home, and how to search for and obtain an affordable mortgage for buying a home.

Among other things, the IDA program helps families and individuals become more financially stable by helping them save money and build assets. It also offers first-time homebuyer's training, economic literacy and other support every step of the way. It can break the cycle of generational poverty.

Experiment in Self-Reliance runs the VITA, Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program as well. Highly trained staff, which are mostly IRS trained volunteers, help Forsyth County residents prepare basic tax returns. Ensure you get deductions from the Education Credit, Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), and Child Tax Credits. These federal and state government tax returns are even processed electronically by the agency. There are a number of sites that will offer this service in the December to May timeframe.





Staff managers from SELF Reliance also arrange free income tax help for the elderly. Or they refer clients to free IRS or government resources or even software from say the IRS or Turbotax. Most low to middle income families can get help, and find free income tax preparation help.

Phone number for Experiment in Self-Reliance in Winston Salem

The main location is at 1550 University Court in Winston-Salem, NC 27101. Call (336) 722-9400 for more information or intake.


By Jon McNamara











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