Friday, September 14, 2012

4 Things You Don’t Know About Getting Financial Assistance from The Salvation Army

Recently, I left my cozy grantwriting cave, er, office at Tulsa Area Command and ventured over to our social services hub, the Center of Hope, in downtown Tulsa. I spent the morning shadowing a few different staff members as they went about their duties in the programs that we offer at the Center of Hope.  I spent the most time with the ladies who manage the day-to-day operations of the Emergency Financial Assistance program (EFA), Cathy and Heather. Cathy is a nearly 10 year Salvation Army veteran; she started working at the Center of Hope in 2003 and has been doing EFA for the past 5 years; she considers it her life work to assist families in need.

I was interested in learning about this program because I have a grant application that I’m putting together for a new funder- one that I know through my research is interested in social and community projects and has already given money to other local organizations similar to ours. And, as I was to learn, the EFA program is impressive in that it exemplifies what the Salvation Army does best: serves those in need, without discrimination.

1. Doesn’t matter who you are. The Emergency Financial Assistance program is open to everyone in need- regardless of home owner status or income. If you have a need, you can apply for assistance.

2. Helps with immediate needs. Most commonly, this looks like utility bills that are past due and/or in danger of being disconnected. You can bring your bill (along with a few other required items) and our case managers, like Cathy and Heather, will call the utility company on your behalf! (The woman pictured above didn't want us to use her name, but she was happy that we were able to help her with her untility bill!)

3. Helps where others can’t/won’t. Although there are other community-based utility assistance programs, and we actively partner with them to best serve applicants, often they are limited to utility accounts that are past due. The EFA program is unique in that we can also appeal for accounts that have already been shut off, help with deposits for starting new services, and addressing old, closed past due accounts (a common barrier for homeless families).

4. Assist with other emergency needs besides utility bills!
In addition to utility assistance, EFA staff can assist with travel assistance (great to refer to panhandlers to) and special circumstances, such as home or apartment fires. For example, the day that I was there, Cathy was also working on several applications from families that had lost everything in recent apartment fires.

5. Funding comes from the public, so funds can vary by season. Because of standing partnerships with area utility companies such as American Electric Power (AEP) and their “Light A Life” program, Oklahoma Natural Gas (ONG) and “Share the Warmth” more funds are available in the fall/winter months, than the spring/summer months. This can be challenging for clients who have high summer bills.

Interested in helping contribute to the EFA fund? Use our “Donate Now” button here on the blog, or Text Tulsa EFA to 85944 to make a one-time $10 donation.Also, you can contact your utility company to participate in their giving program. We really appreciate their partnership and they love to hear from their customers about those programs.
Need help with a bill or other circumstance?

Call the Center of Hope at 918-582-7201 and ask about scheduling an intake for the Emergency Financial Assistance Program.


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