Friday, February 1, 2013

EFA program popular as ever

EFA interview room
I just don’t know how they do it. I was at the Center of Hope this week with a Tulsa World reporter and photographer. They were covering our Emergency Financial Assistance (EFA) program because for the fourth year in a row the 211 social services line has referred more people to EFA than any other program. EFA helps prevent homelessness by helping people pay their utility bills and sometimes other bills. Case manager Cathy Kumm coordinates the program and clerk Heather Houston assists.
EFA Case Manager Cathy Kumm

People who need assistance call the Center of Hope and make an appointment for EFA. After checking applicants’ paperwork, Cathy and Heather call the utility companies and negotiate. They often get part of the bill reduced, then tell applicants about other agencies which can help with the rest of the bill.That means Cathy and Heather listen to the applicants’ sad stories, four days a week, a couple of hours a day.  You can read more detail about the process here.

I’ve listened to some sad stories myself and I don’t know how Cathy and Heather do it. Today I heard the story of a 69-year-old widow who was conned by a man her age who wanted to be her boyfriend.  She left her cozy apartment and moved into his house with him.

EFA Clerk Heather Houston
When she became sick with breast cancer and had to have a radical mastectomy, he lost interest, moved out, took her car and shut off the electricity in his house. She ended up with overwhelming bills. Thankfully, she has a good support network of longtime friends who found her a vehicle and bring her food. I imagine that’s not the worst story told during EFA interviews, but it left me feeling drained. It’s a tough job that they do and I hope they know how appreciated they are.  


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