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Crisis helpline in Pierce County.

A helpline operates across Pierce County Washington. The service provides referrals to a wide variety of programs across the county and city of Tacoma. There is support for low to moderate income families as well as anyone facing an emergency. Over the years the center has provided guidance to thousands of families. Residents that call upon the service learn about everything from one time financial aid to educational support for their children.

There are agencies across Pierce County that work to prevent hunger. Many of them take part in USDA programs, such as surplus commodities or food stamps. Or the non-profits may operate pantries or even soup kitchens.

The staff at the Pierce County crisis helpline can direct individuals to where they can get help in obtaining a healthy diet. Whether it is a food pantry that can be accessed on an emergency basis or distribution centers that provide more long term support in the form of non-perishable groceries, there are many options in the region. Unfortunately most of the pantries depend strongly on on the donations of product and/or money from the community, so the scope of what they do is limited.

Pierce County crisis helpline can provide linkage to food programs for children as well as senior citizens in the area. Options include summer snacks and meals for students out of food to Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP). There are also other resources available, such as SNAP food stamps too.

When it comes to helping seniors or children, there is even more of a focus to providing the individual with up to two-thirds of the daily nutritional requirements as set by the USDA and other experts. The helpline staff in Pierce County also encourages clients to develop healthy eating habits and also introduces them to new foods.

Senior Nutrition Program (SNP) will offer nutritious meals to persons over 60 years of age. These will also meet one-third of USDA daily nutritional requirements. Participants of SNP enjoy access to free meals on weekdays at congregate sites, such as Aging Centers, where other activities are available. Home-delivered meals from many local non-profits, such as churches, are for the homebound and also allow for personal visitation with staff.




Head Start is for children under the age of 6. The family needs to have a very low income or be living in poverty. The goal of this federal funded program is to ensure children are fully prepared when it is time for them to start public school in Pierce County.

Classes run by partners of the helpline provides income qualified children with pre-school education that meets nationally as well as state of Washington recognized standards. There are other benefits from Head Start as well. They include free healthy, nutritious meals and snacks; medical check-ups, and the service is even for children with disabilities. Parents also need to take part in Head Start as they are the child's primary caregiver, and their support is critical to educational development.

No matter what school or agency is involved in administering Head Start, the staff that are part of it will be screened and trained. There are many loving, nurturing teachers who want the child to be successful. So they are pat of the Pierce County crisis helpline team.

Specialists from Pierce County crisis helpline offer referrals to utility bill programs too. One key offering, Weatherization, is available to help low income homeowners use less energy while increasing the comfort of their homes. A focus is on less efficient or older homes in Tacoma or other cities in the county as new homes are usually already efficient.

Based on the results of a home inspection that will be completed, the most cost effective weatherization measures will be implemented for each home. This can range from HVAC system tune up/ repair, installation of new heating unit, insulation of attics or floors, or providing an new, efficient hot water tanks. Those are just some examples of what is available in Pierce County and there are no guarantees from any agency as to what may or may not be done.

Many people calling the helpline request cash grants from the Low-Income Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP. This was created as a resource that provides either emergency or one time per year financial assistance to low- income households. It is for those that meet certain income guidelines or for homeowners or tenants that spend a disproportionate amount of household income for home energy bills.





All LIHEAP funds are subject to availability. The money is also usually offered on a first come and served basis, with priority for seniors and the disabled in Pierce County. The team at the crisis helpline can direct families to intake sites in the region.

Additional Emergency Assistance is for a variety of needs. While each and every non-profit organization will offer their own solutions, some of the crisis programs in the county may be as follows. The aid is intended to help people that are facing a short term emergency that was not created by them or by someone living beyond their means. So the support from local agencies will help the client regain financial stability.

  • Referrals may be given to agencies that offer a one- time payment of a past due utility bill or critical rent payment to stop homelessness.
  • Patients that need affordable medical care can learn about community clinics or hospitals that run sliding fee scale services from the Pierce County crisis helpline.
  • Prescription drug medication vouchers can be obtained for individuals with no insurance that provided for prescription drug coverage. Typically individuals with Medicare Part D plans also get support.
  • Basic needs can often be found in the county, such as clothing or goods from thrift stores.

In addition to a helpline affiliated agency providing the household with the monetary support they need, there will also be a Financial Education component. This will make the applicant go through some type of budgeting session with a counselor. They will address employment and general financial literacy matters.

The helpline in Pierce County can be reached at (253) 272-4263 or 572-4357. Referrals can be provided to the resources above as well as many other services.

By Jon McNamara

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