*Unless otherwise noted, client names are fictitious; however, their stories are real
Senior Services (Livingston County)
An official from the City of Pontiac called the Livingston County MCCA office, stating that they had received a phone call from the water company. The water company said there was a senior living in Pontiac who has not had water service since April 2010, and they were trying to find some assistance for this senior.
MCCA Community Services Case Worker, Teri McWethy, talked to Rose Hjerpe, the Senior Advocate in the Pontiac office, who suggested they investigate the situation. Rose and Teri visited the senior, and found the water had been disconnected the month after her son that lived with her had passed away. The living conditions were not good, and there was a very strong odor in the house. The senior had social security income of approximately $1049.00 a month and paying $650.00 in rent. It was also found that she may need some assistance with her gas and electric bills.
Teri made some phone calls and found the Township Supervisor would pay her water bill so the water could be turned back on. The Salvation Army paid the Nicor Gas bill so the gas would not be turned off. Commonwealth Edison stated that her electric bill was only $6.00. Rose and Teri discussed the electric bill and decided that they would ensure that she applied for the LIHEAP program in the Fall.
Inquiries were made about the availability of housing at Pontiac Towers and, at the time of publishing, we are awaiting a reply. The Pontiac Towers rents apartments based on income. Rose contacted Peace Meal to arrange for meals to be delivered to her, since she did not have very much food in the house. They also filled out the required paperwork for Medicaid and food stamps.
About a week later Public Health informed us that there was a portable air conditioning unit to be donated to a senior in need. We had been having very warm weather and Public Health was concerned about this senior because she could not open any of her windows. The A/C unit was picked up and taken to her house, where it was found that the storm windows had been installed incorrectly and her windows would not open. Rose and Teri managed to get the portable A/C unit installed and working. The machine temperature showed her living room was approximately 90 degrees.
Rose and Teri will continue to check up on her.
Business Essentials - Heartland Community College
“I have to tell you something that you already know, but I must reiterate, and that is that you all make such a wonderful difference in so many people’s lives. I have got to share with you what happened yesterday.
Ronnye Walker came to my office to tell me that she passed ENG 095 and will be able to get into BE in the fall. It was one of those moments when you wish you had a video camera so that you could catch the pure joy and satisfaction in her face and demeanor.
I tell you this because your scholarship made it possible for this young woman to go back to school. She owed HCC money for a class that she registered for, but never attended. Your wonderful MCCA scholarship allowed her to pay her debt, and take the required ENG 095 class. That barrier removed, she came back to school, successfully completed her course, which gave her incredible self confidence, which motivated her to come back and apply for the BE program which was her ultimate goal.
Thank you so much for all that you do for the people in our community. You truly do make a difference.”
Coordinator of Essentials Programs
Heartland Community College
Sandy sent a follow up email when we requested permission to use Ronnye’s name:
“Ronnye said that she gives MCCA permission to use her name. She said that MCCA’s generosity through the scholarship is the only way the she could have gone back to school.
She just called me with her grade and she got an A. I don’t know if you are familiar with our ENG 095 class, but it is extremely difficult, and the final portfolio of a students work is not only graded by their teacher, but others in the college as well. I believe it is either four or five other instructors grades that play into a student’s final grade.
I am so happy for her.
Thank you all for making this possible for her.”
Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
MCCA’s senior services advocate was recently visiting a senior in Livingston County to complete a LIHEAP application. The first thing the advocate noticed was a gas smell. She asked him if there was a pilot light out on his stove he said that they were lit. She told him that she thought he may have a gas leak and advised him to call Nicor; he said he would call them. Later that afternoon he phoned the advocate to check on his circuit breaker application. She asked him if he called Nicor, he said that he had and that they had discovered a significant gas leak under his mobile home. A contractor was called to come out and fix the pipes. He told me he could not smell the gas and that since his line had been fixed his home did smell different.
We provide outreach visits through senior services, and there have been various times throughout the years that that this has happened with gas leaks. This particular gas bill was very high for the space he was heating, at well over $200.00 The LIHEAP assistance was very important but his health was far more important. By detecting the leak and bringing it to his attention, his health was no longer in danger.
Chasity Mast, single mom to three children and former public housing resident, worked with MCCA’s down payment assistance program and Bloomington Housing Authority’s self sufficiency program to buy her first home. See what advice Chasity has for you!
ARRA (American Recovery & Reinvestment Act)
CSBG – Veterans Dental/Vision Care Program
L.R., 54 year old female veteran, came looking for assistance as she was in excruciating pain due to tooth decay. She was concerned that the decay damage was widespread throughout her mouth. She was not eligible for dental care under her veteran’s benefits and could not afford dental treatment because her income was close to the 150% poverty level.
She was able to get a dental assessment, dental cleaning, and treatment for two teeth that had substantial decay.
Within a week, this veteran had received treatment, was free of pain, and was very grateful for the financial/dental help she received.
T.C., a 71 year old male veteran, had 35 year old upper dentures, but had never had lower dentures. He was not eligible for dental care under his veteran’s benefits and could not afford dental treatment because his income was close to the 100% poverty level.
He had inquired about getting lower dentures but was told he would need new upper dentures that would match his lower dentures. He was referred for a dental assessment, spent a day at Affordable Dentures in Peoria, and came home with new dentures. He called to express his excitement and gratitude that he had a full set of teeth for the first time in over 35 years.
S.T., a 74 year old male veteran, who is legally deaf, had severe tooth decay and had loss numerous teeth. He was only able to eat soft foods. He was not eligible for dental care under his veteran’s benefits and could not afford dental treatment because his income was at the 125% poverty level.
This veteran is currently in treatment after his dental assessment. He has already had 4 teeth pulled and still has to have 5 other teeth pulled. After this is done, S.T. will be receiving dentures. S.T. said his daughter is going to take him out for a steak dinner once he has his dentures. He is very appreciative and says he will come to Mid Central Community Action to show off his “new teeth.”
J.C., a 52 year old male veteran, came to MCCA seeking assistance for severe tooth decay that was causing mouth infections and pain. He was not eligible for dental care under his veteran’s benefits and could not afford dental treatment because his income was close to 50% of the poverty level.
After being referred for a dental assessment, J.C.’s treatment plan consisted of the extraction of 22 teeth and then to receive dentures. S.T. has not completed his treatment, but he is very excited about not having the tooth decay that has affected his health and that he will have dentures so that he can eat properly. He has expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to get the help he needed.
(Please note, funds are exhausted for this program. More funds MAY become available in early 2010)
March 2009 – Second Chance Renters/Life Skills
On the first day of teaching Life Skills classes at Home Sweet Home Ministries, one of the participants was a young girl with a 2 month old baby. She had been at the mission for a few months and was trying to get things together, save some money, and rent an apartment of her own. She seemed to be a very bright girl and had a lot of aspiration. After speaking with her, the class facilitator discovered that there might be some difficulty in finding her an apartment, because of her past credit problems.
The facilitator continued to work with her through Life Skills classes and then through Second Chance Renter classes, and she received her certification in both courses within 3 months. Through the program, she was given assistance to locate and contact landlords, and to look at some apartments. Unfortunately, money was tight, and she needed to find someone that would work with her despite her credit history.
After looking at several apartments and finding none that she felt were clean and safe enough for her and her baby, she was about to give up hope. Then, out of the blue, the facilitator received a phone call from a landlord that he had contacted a week or so before. The landlord was asking if there was an individual that had completed the Second Chance Renter classes and needed an apartment. The young girl looked at the apartment, had saved just enough money for the first month’s rent and deposit, and was ready to move in within a day or two. She was grateful to have a safe, clean apartment to live in with her daughter, and the landlord was grateful because he did not have to spend money on advertising the apartment.
This young mother and her daughter have been living in the apartment now for three months. She has been able to secure a job and day care for her daughter, based upon referrals made to other agencies by MCCA staff.
Beth had been trying to work on herself and improve her situation before getting involved with Mid Central Community Action, Inc. MCCA gave her an opportunity to succeed through the Business Essentials program offered through Heartland Community College. She feels that her involvement with MCCA was “an eye opener” because it allowed her to see what MCCA offers to help people. Beth was surprised that MCCA does more than just help low income people.
Beth feels that if she had not completed the Business Essentials program, she would be working a lower salary job at a grocery store or restaurant. She would not be on the path to a career that she would like to stay with for a long time. She knew that she always wanted to help someone, and the Business Essentials program helped her see how she could help others, especially through her internship with MCCA.
Although there is not a job opportunity for Beth at MCCA right now due to lack of grant money, she feels she has gained a lot from her experience as an intern. She has come away with two business references she never had before, new friendships, and valuable business experience. She has enjoyed her time as a MCCA intern.
The program was difficult on her children because it was very time consuming. But it has led to some important dialogue between her and her 13-year-old son about the importance of higher education beyond high school and has strengthened their relationship.
Since the completion of the Business Essentials Program, Beth has been able to provide a better situation for her children. She is more confident in her ability to provide for their future. She has taught her older son a valuable lesson – he now understands the concept of money and that people can work their way out of any situation they are faced with.
January 2009 – Senior Services
Recently, Rosalie – our Senior Services Advocate – visited a senior’s home in Livingston County to help her complete a Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) application. The client, Jane, had mentioned in conversation that she has two infected teeth that must be pulled. The infected teeth were causing her intense pain and her dentist would only give her pain killers and antibiotics.
She said the dentist required payment of $500 up front before he would pull the teeth and would not work out a payment plan with her. Rosalie suggested that Jane should contact another dentist, but she refused.
Rosalie completed a GAP application for Jane; these are special funds through the East Central Illinois Area Agency on Aging (ECIAAA) that can be used for health or safety purposes when no other help is available. She asked Jane to call her Township office to see if they could offer some assistance. Rosalie let her know that she would also ask the Salvation Army for help. A day or so later, Rosalie received a phone call from the Township Supervisor. Jane had called her and left her Rosalie’s phone number. Rosalie explained the situation to the Supervisor, who then said that she was willing to pay the full cost of the extractions.
Jane had the teeth removed and is very grateful and feeling much better.
Since September 2008, the Family Services Coordinator has been working with Natalie, whose adult son was injured in an accident a couple years ago. He is now seriously disabled. Natalie started falling behind in her rent payments about the time that her son came to live with her. He had been living in a nursing home/rehabilitation center and his social security check continued going to that facility the first month that he was living with his mother.
Natalie had to apply for food stamps to help cover part of their food expenses since her son’s medical condition requires a special diet. She found that her utility costs increased significantly because of the in-home care needs, and she found it increasingly difficult to maintain her job and be a full time caregiver too. Her son then had to be re-hospitalized for several weeks, and was transferred to a hospital in another community. Natalie had to travel back and forth and use her own social security income for travel and food expenses. She started going to her bank and to pay-day loan companies to try to get financial assistance during those difficult months.
Natalie applied for LIHEAP, but because she and her son both receive social security income (SSI) their household was over-income for regular LIHEAP services. LIHEAP staff helped her apply for the Ameren IP Crisis Assistance Funds, and she was able to receive help from that program.
Staff at LIFE Center for Independent Living helped Natalie access a program through Department of Rehabilitation Services so she can be paid for part of the time that she cares for her son. It also pays another part-time in-home caregiver to assist with his care. The Family Services Coordinator referred her to local food pantries and to programs where she can get food at reduced costs. MCCA was also able to help with some of her rent arrearage. The Family Services Coordinator also referred her to a not-for-profit money management counseling service to see if they can provide intervention with the pay-day loan companies who have started to make harassing phone calls.
Natalie was extremely grateful for the assistance MCCA provided.
Community Services Retreat
On December 3rd the Community Services staff met for a winter retreat at the Humiston Woods Nature Center in rural Livingston County. They spent a busy day on a variety of agency issues in this beautiful woodland setting. At this retreat, staff spent time writing and sharing success stories from different departments. Here are some of the stories that were shared.
A Livingston county LIHEAP client had one of her utilities disconnected and contacted MCCA for help. She had social security cards in both her maiden and married last names, and believed she was a customer on the utility bill. When we contacted the utility company we found she was not listed under either name, even though she was now the head of household. We helped her get her name on the accounts so that she could qualify for the assistance which then led to her utilities being reconnected.
A McLean County LIHEAP client had both his gas and electric disconnected. His roommate had died and he was trying to pay all his bill with only limited SSI income. A couple from a local church brought him in and was helping him with paperwork and some expenses. We took his application and explained how LIHEAP worked. Within a week MCCA had assisted in getting both utilities reconnected. It was the first time he had applied for energy assistance and he was very happy to get help. The couple who brought him in wrote our agency a nice letter to thank us for helping him so quickly.
The Pontiac office of Mid Central Community Action was contacted by a woman who was homeless, living on SSI limited income and who had a Junior High aged child with her. They were staying at a local motel at a cost of $250 a week and she could not afford to continue to stay there. She needed assistance to find a place to live and to get her daughter enrolled in school. We contacted the school and helped get her daughter enrolled. The school was also able to provide her with school supplies. We helped her find a downtown apartment for $250 a month including utilities and used CSBG funds to help her get moved in. She is now able to make ends meet and both she and her daughter are doing fine.
A client who is hearing impaired contacted MCCA through our web site to find out about assistance with gas and electric bills. She had never applied for energy assistance and did not know how to proceed. She found it difficult to get to our office so we offered to complete her application by mail. The application for assistance has been completed and she now understands how the program works and will most likely be eligible to reapply for the summer program.
A woman with four children applied for rent assistance just before the Thanksgiving Holiday. Bloomington Housing Authority was threatening termination of her lease because she was two months behind on her rent payments, plus she had unpaid maintenance fees from her previous BHA apartment. Due to a major car accident in September she was behind on rent payments. Her vehicle was hit by a semi on I-55, near Joliet. She was not badly injured but she was shaken up and badly bruised. She was off work for a few days following the accident, reducing her paycheck. She had to pay towing and damage fees of more than $600. This lady has a strong work history and has worked at the same company for more than two years. She said she has always tried to instill a strong work ethic in her children. Even though she works full time and has subsidized rent, her budget is very tight. Since she had to pay the accident related fees she had no money to cover the rent. We were able to provide her with the rent arrears and also information about applying for LIHEAP assistance, accessing food, coats and Christmas gifts through local holiday services, and how to apply for the Angel Food program, which can help stretch her budget. She became tearful, and offered grateful thanks to MCCA for giving her hope for the holiday season.
A Livingston County senior from South Streator heard about our weatherization program from the senior advocate who completed her LIHEAP application. She then applied for weatherization assistance. The inspector went to do the assessment and immediately found a major issue with the water heater. The CO reading was above 1400 and it should not have been above 50. It was leaking carbon monoxide. The fire department was called and the plumbers who had installed the water heater. Later our weatherization department was able to complete the assessment and the work to weatherize the home. The senior was very grateful for all the help that MCCA had provided through our Senior Services, LIHEAP and weatherization programs.
A single, middle aged woman with physical and emotional disabilities applied for rent assistance to help her move to a new apartment. She’s well educated, with a strong work history, but now receives both SSI and SSDI. She explained that she needed to move because the apartment building where she had been living for six years had changed hands, and the new property management company sent out a lease agreement with items that concerned her because they seemed discriminatory against people with disabilities. She said she had attempted to contact them to discuss these concerns, but was never able to reach the people in charge. She’d found an apartment that was wheelchair accessible and needed help with first month’s rent. She was over-income for any crisis related services other than our DHS Homeless Prevention funds. She could not apply for LIHEAP assistance (being over-income) but I did help her complete application forms for two different types of emergency funds for utility assistance provided by the LIHEAP department. The case worker continued to act as liaison between the customer and the LIHEAP department for the next two months, and the customer was finally approved for $600 in emergency utility assistance to be applied to her Ameren IP service. She was very grateful and appreciated us all working together to find ways to help her.
Every two or three months, for almost a year, a single mother of five called requesting rent assistance. Crisis Services has a 24-month waiting period before customers can return for help with a new crisis, and this customer had previously received assistance. These guidelines were explained to the client, who would get very upset every time she was told she was not yet eligible for more funding. The case worker found that this client has 5 teenage sons and only receives a small amount of food stamps. She works, and a substantial portion of her income was paying for groceries. This single mother was connected with other resources which allow her to stretch her food dollars. She still has to pay for them, but it’s much less than she would pay at the grocery store. She was not aware of these resources and was very pleased to learn about them. There have been no more crisis calls from this client since last summer, so even though we weren’t able to provide additional rent assistance, she was empowered to take better control over her budget.
A single woman came to our office on Sept. 3 requesting assistance with her mortgage, which she could no longer afford to pay. Increases in food costs, utilities and an interest rate of 12% was taking all of her monthly income.
One of our HUD certified counselors discussed options with her regarding the mortgage. The homeowner was informed that day by the lender there were no options available, and that they needed their money by the end of the week. After the counselor made several unsuccessful attempts to contact the lender, the homeowner contacted the counselor stating the lender had called her. Fortunately, they were able to do a loan modification, lowering the interest rate by 3 points for the life of the loan. Taxes and insurance would be included and lowering the monthly payment by $200.00.
In 1993 the loan she was approved for was with a 6.25 fixed rate. In three months she was convinced to take out a home equity line of credit. She would have extra cash, as her loan amount on the initial loan was for $50,000; her home was valued at $89,000.
The homeowner can now afford her monthly payment, and expressed gratitude to our housing counselors and to the person that referred her to our office.
Any homeowner who is at risk of losing their home should contact our office. One may feel there is no chance of saving their home; however, our office does offer hope. Our counselors can be contacted at (309) 829-0691.
IACAA Family of Distinction
(Story reprinted with kind permission of Latanza Harris)
Earlier this year, Latanza Harris and her family were nominated for an Illinois Community Action Association Family of Distinction award. Latanza truly exemplifies the success that each of the Illinois Association of Community Action Agencies strives for its Transitional Housing participants.
Latanza successfully completed the Transitional Housing Program at Mid Central Community Action, Inc. on January 31, 2008. With a successful full-time job where she willingly works overtime to supplement her income, she was able to move her family into a three bedroom, three bath
condo that includes a family room and attached garage.
Latanza relies on her extended family and church community for additional personal and family support. Latanza is the mother of one daughter and four sons. Her adult daughter has a son who Latanza watches often. Latanza’s sons range in age from 17 to 20. Latanza’s oldest son is finishing his first year of college on a football scholarship. Her other three sons are attending high school and work part time. In addition, during the summer of 2007, Latanza agreed to accept custody of a friend’s 18 year old son who was having difficulty educationally and interpersonally with poor peer choices. Latanza and her children ensured that this child became an integral part of the family. Latanza has been a strong supporter of this child and helped him integrate into the community.
Latanza entered our Transitional Housing Program in the summer of 2005. At that time, she and her four sons were living in her mother’s home because they had no other place to live. Her husband had two months left on a prison term in California. This situation defined Latanza’s homelessness. In Latanza’s words, “I sought help from Mid Central Community Action (MCCA) because of my desperation of not having a place to live. We were living with my mother. I was and am very close to my mother and this arrangement was causing discourse between us. This was a
relationship I did not want to lose.”
Like many of the families we serve, Latanza’s road to self-sufficiency was not easy nor without its pitfalls. Through case management, that included referrals to such places as DHS, food banks, the LIHEAP program, budgeting, and advocacy for Latanza’s sons’ educational placement, Latanza began her journey to become self-sufficient.
In August 2006, Latanza reported to MCCA staff that her husband, who had recently been released from prison and had returned to the community, was using drugs. Latanza was making progress until September 2006 when she relapsed from a past drug problem, began using crack, and lost her job. At that time, Latanza turned to her pastor, to her MCCA support system, to her mother, and to her children for help. The next two and a half months were very tumultuous for the Harris family. During this time, she received help from many sources: her two oldest sons went to work and assumed some of Latanza’s financial and family responsibilities; her mother also helped with these responsibilities; Latanza’s mother and daughter sheltered her periodically; MCCA provided support, counseling and referrals while urging her to enter drug treatment; and her church family, which included her pastor and a former retired deacon and his wife, supported, counseled, and sheltered Latanza and her children. Ultimately, after pursuing the possibility of residential treatment, Latanza chose to attend Celebrate Recovery at her
church. She personally felt this would be the most meaningful and lasting treatment for her.
By late 2006, Latanza was well on her way to recovery. She was assuming her parental, occupational, and financial responsibilities. By March 2007, she had secured the job she presently has and was displaying a confident and determined demeanor. This continued and led MCCA to accept Latanza’s request to extend her Transitional Housing contract until the beginning of 2008 in order to provide Latanza the time to continue stabilizing her financial condition so she would be able to actualize her successful completion of the program and reinforce her transition into selfsufficiency. What helped define Latanza’s success was her ability to rise from the brink of failure. She used her inner-strength and determination to change her, and her family’s circumstances. During the past year, Latanza accepted the help and support from numerous programs offered at Mid Central Community Action, Inc.; reached out to her church community for direction, support, and personal, family, and spiritual nurturance; worked with school administration and teachers to advocate for her children’s success; and strengthened her relationship with her extended family. Latanza is very humble and acknowledges the help she received as she states, “being able to establish relationships with the various programs at Mid Central Community Action, coupled with the help of my family and church, helped me hang in there when I relapsed. Everyone was encouraging, but firm with me.”
On March 24th, MCCA was notified that Latanza was chosen as one of the families to be recognized at the Illinois Association of Community Action Agencies annual awards dinner on May 4th. At that time a video of Latanza, her family, and her support systems will be presented.
Latanza Harris’ success story is a testament to the goals of the IACAA – the importance of Community Action agencies to provide transitional housing and involved case management in partnership with families while believing in the potential of individuals to set attainable goals, slowly work toward those goals, and ultimately to actualize their goals.
Congratulations, Latanza! We are proud of you, your family, and your accomplishments!
On the Friday morning after the flood we found there was still one senior who could not return home due to water damage; she did not have anyplace to go. The American Red Cross (ARC) was preparing to move to their recovery command center and everyone was anxious to get this woman into a better situation. She said she was ill, possibly flu but seemed more likely to be stressed and later we determined she hadn’t been taking her medication. When she got to the motel she was able to call the pharmacy to deliver some to her.
This senior is 84 years old and had no family in the area, only two older sisters in Indiana. Friends and neighbors had been assisting her. We decided she needed to be in a motel as her home had water on the first floor and it might be some time before she could return.
We completed a GAP application and arranged for her to stay at the Comfort Inn. The police took her to the motel, and in talking to her she told us she did have a car which was parked at Ace Hardware, out of the flood area. We arranged for neighbors to get her car out to the motel. They also brought her cat to her, which greatly relieved some of her worry. The cat had been staying in the cold home for days. We spoke to the ARC center who said that the regular food delivery would begin on Saturday.
Even though she didn’t want much to eat, we took her some soup Friday evening, and also breakfast on Saturday. We called her landlord, who said he would start working on her home on Saturday to see what needed to be done before she could move back in. She was comfortable and
safe and we continued to stay in touch with her until she could move into more permanent housing.