Rental and utility assistance available every twenty-four months, for those who qualify.
our counselors assisted over 12,000 individuals.
Counseling the Poor and Needy - Monday - Friday, 10am - 2pm, by phone only
Being a Social Services counselor isn’t getting any easier. Walk by the entrance to Social Services any day and you’ll see a long line of people waiting outside, most looking anxious and forlorn. While all those waiting don't get to see counselors, our volunteers do all they can. They first seek to determine if this is a new client or if we’ve helped before, since we can only give rental and utility assistance every twenty-four months. Even this can be a challenge. Many people have been struggling for so long, seeking out any agency or group they can for help, that it’s hard to remember where they’ve already received help. If it’s a couple and they are with new partners, that can add confusion. If they appear qualified for assistance, we need to build a picture of their income and expenses. The counselor wants to be firm but compassionate. Every case is different. It’s important to not make early judgments. If the person has seen us before, we’ll find them on our computerized database. If not, they will be entered into the database before they leave. Having a history on-line has dramatically streamlined the job of our counselors.
Much of the data collection is focused on determining what income the person is receiving, both active (unemployment, child support, etc.) and passive (Oregon Health Program, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, etc.), then establishing what expenses they are facing and how they are meeting them. It’s also important to determine how many people are in the household. The counselor often recommends other sources of assistance, or ways that expenses can be scaled back to improve the individual’s budgeting. Counselors try to do some problem solving, but only so many people can be seen each day. Sometimes a little prying is needed, like when the person has significant expenses but has only reported a fraction of the income needed to meet these expenses. The entire process is geared to determine what level of assistance is legitimately required, how the individual can help themselves, and how we should assist.
In the past our counselors most often dealt with people who were down and out and had been for some time. Now they also see many more people who have recently fallen on hard times, people who have never had to ask for help before. They are often our next door neighbors or friends. Some of these applicants are so bothered by having to ask for help that they break down and cry during the interview. Many people who are asking for help are just victims of a bad economy…families where both breadwinners have lost their jobs or young people out of school with no job openings to pursue.
Today we just have far more needy people competing for far fewer relief dollars.