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REAL Services community action assistance programs.

REAL Services serves as the community action agency for the counties of Elkhart, St. Joseph, Fulton, Kosciusko, and Marshall. The agency provides several assistance programs and resources to low income families and senior citizens. They include funds for paying heating bills, housing, food, transportation and more.

There is an application process in place for all of their programs. A key criteria is the income level, number of family members, and whether the applicant is working towards self-sufficiency or not. While resources are limited, if Real Services can’t help then they may provide referrals to the less fortunate and working poor.

REAL Services helps low-income households save money on heating bills, reduce fuel consumption and expenses through the Home Weatherization program. The resource provides the household with free weatherization measures for homes at no cost such as safety and health inspection on the furnace, boiler, water heater, extra insulation in attics and side walls. Please call for more information, and the number to dial is 574-284-7113 or 800-552-2916.

Those caring for a disabled or senior member can look into the Caregiver Connection Center. This connects informal caregivers in the region to a comprehensive network of resources. The programs available are necessary so they can provide care for elderly community members. This is accomplished through services such as case management, caregiver education, and direct resources. Those care takers are provided with access to a range of support such as information, resources and services. This assistance is offered by trained geriatric case manager.

Local caregivers in counties such as Elkhart Indiana need to attend training sessions to receive this required education on addressing their specific needs. These workshops are provided by a BSN employed by Memorial Home Health Care and other supporting Alzheimer's Services staff. Training participants may receive transportation, free home modifications, and respite care attention.

Rent, housing, and food is part of the federal Emergency Food and Shelter Program. Annual grants and allotments from the government provide food and/or shelter assistance to low-income families during a crisis situation.

All help is paid for and funded by the federal government and is active in all counties, such as St. Joseph and Elkhart, in which the community action agency operates. In some cases the assistance provided may come in the form of a grant, and that may be offered even for paying security deposits. The program requires the partnership with other local charities, churches, and non-profits to maximize and target limited resources.




During the Indiana winter months, low-income and working poor families struggle with paying their electric and heating expenses. The REAL Services understands that these residents need help and for that reason offers the LIHEAP Energy Assistance Program. Funded by the State, program provides assistance to eligible residents of Elkhart, Kosciusko, Fulton,  Marshall and St. Joseph. Other nearby cities can be covered too. Eligible clients are those within 150% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines.

In order to determine eligibility for any type of cash grant, interested clients need to submit application and provide information on household-size, income, and utility cost and fuel type. Persons with a disconnect notice or a crisis must call after October 1st to set up an appointment for an interview to determine eligibility. Energy Assistance is a one-time credit issued by the government that cannot be used for paying deposit, reconnect or old bills.

A number of case management services are offered to the unemployed and working poor through the Family Development Program. Staff and social workers from REAL offer Case Management which is provided to eligible enrolled clients whose aim is to become self-sufficient. Information in the following areas is available:
-Get referrals for assistance including government benefits
-Register for career guidance and job seeking skills as well as vocation training
-Finance/budgeting credit repair
-Housing/home ownership, mortgage help and home care/management
-Parenting and child care resources

The phone number for case management is 574-284-7130 or 800-552-2916.

Free Meals on Wheels is for homebound and disabled persons in St. Joseph County who cannot prepare or afford adequate food for themselves. These individuals, and their spouses, are qualified clients for the Meals on Wheels program. The program offers nutritious meals to eligible applicants with the help of volunteers from local charities and churches whose help is critical to keep it running. For more information, call 256-1649.

SHIP Counseling (Medicare/Medicaid Assistance) - Indiana Department of Insurance provides, in partnership with REAL, runs this free counseling program which is addressing a number of health insurance issues. The program is called the SHIP (State Health Insurance Assistance Program). Counselors that are part of SHIP meet with individuals and clients at the REAL Services office in South Bend or provide help by telephone. Call 1-800-552-7928 to set an appointment.





In partnership with the Indiana Legal Services, the REAL Services provide free legal aid and representations to income eligible clients. Qualified applicants are low-income older adults residing in, Kosciusko, LaPorte, Elkhart and St. Joseph Counties. Legal services include:

  • outreach services
  • representation in civil cases
  • education of the law, including foreclosures
  • eviction prevention and foreclosure assistance-
  • law reform

Food assistance from the Nutrition Program is designed to provide low cost nutritious groceries and meals to senior residents of Elkhart, Marshall, nearby towns, Kosciusko, and St. Joseph Counties. Additionally, recreational activities and informational services are available to enrolled elderly clients.

The goal of the non-profit sponsored program is to promote better health among older adults through improved health and nutrition. Eligible clients are seniors and persons 60 years of age or older, or those whose spouse is 60 or older. An entry form needs to be completed upon arrival at the nutrition site. Real Services has dozens of nutrition sites or pantries in Elkhart, Marshall, LaPorte, Kosciusko and St Joseph counties.

The nutrition program is funded by private and public partners such as the United States Department of Agriculture and others, like Older Americans Department. The program also highly appreciates contributions of funds from participants. Meals do not have fixed price but suggested value gratefully accepted for each meal is $a few dollars

Self - Sufficiency offers qualified clients the help of the Family Development Consultant/Case Manager. This person from the agency is willing to assist families with achieving stability. This is done by identifying goals and developing an action plan to meet those goals, and this is the part of the services. The areas of family growth and focus are Low income Housing, Energy, Income, Support Systems, Adult Education, Employment, Transportation assistance, Health, free Nutrition and Substance Abuse. For more information call the following.

  • St. Joseph County - Phone: 574-284-7128
  • Elkhart County - Phone: 574-295-6596
  • Kosciusko County office can be reached at 574-269-6043
  • Marshall County – call 574-936-6043

Vouchers for groceries are part of the Senior Farmers Market Program. It provides assistance to seniors over 60 for purchasing locally grown fresh produce, fruits, and healthy items. The program is funded by the United State Department of Agriculture.

GCM - Geriatric Care Management was designed to provide help concerning care for aging parents, grandparents and family members. Additionally, the services that are part of Geriatric Care Manager can assist in many other problems that may arise when caring for an aging family member.

The goal of the program from Real Services Inc. is ensuring that older people get the assistance they need to live a safe, enriched life. Each enrolled person has different and unique needs which affect the level of care they need. The level of care depends on health, abilities, and even finances of enrolled applicant.




Transportation assistance for eligible low-income older adults is available. They can get free rides to doctors, dentists, grocery shopping, Medicaid and Social Security Offices and other necessary appointments.

ADRC is also known as Aging and Disability Resource Center. The Real Services locations is a place that offers community resources, referrals and social services for elderly and the disabled. The ADRC can help both the elderly and disabled in the region, such as Elkhart County.

It provides information and resources to people who need help over the short and long term. It can also refer you to a variety of local, state of Indiana or national programs and services. The main goal of the Aging & Disability Resource Center is to offer referrals and counsel to support those in need.

REAL Services is located at 1151 S. Michigan Street, South Bend, IN 46634-1835. Call (574) 233-8205 for information or referrals to other intake sites.


By Jon McNamara

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