LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A long-term increase in the number of people served by a Louisville ministry has led it to try a new approach to helping others.
Eastern Area Community Ministries Director Carrie Gerard told The Courier-Journal (http://cjky.it/1cGI0Rx) that the agency is preparing to start the Helping Hands Partnership. She says the program will depend on volunteers who mentor people needing long-term help in an effort to try to get families out of poverty.
"We are going to invite them into the process, which we've never really done before," Gerard said.
For 30 years, the ministry focused on helping people to respond to crises. She said the agency has served up to 300 families each month and has had to turn some away, so wanted to try a new model of assistance.
Family advocate Rebekah Davis will lead the effort and will meet with clients to help them find the root cause of their financial problems, whether it's income, expenses or health-related.
She says Davis will work with clients to come up with a long-term plan for them to become self-sufficient and clients will work with a mentor to ensure success.
Davis said this is a way to identify "what is keeping that door closed; why are they struggling." She said the same families are continually coming back, and it's like "they're stuck in a vicious cycle."
"Some clients have said, 'If only I could get childcare or pay this one bill I could go back to school.' "
Judy Grider, 56, who has multiple sclerosis and had to stop working, said she doesn't know how she could manage without services offered by the ministries.
"You're living on your own and you don't know if you're going to be able to pay your rent this month," Grider said. "You just have to say one prayer after another."
Lisa Smith, vice chairwoman of the ministries board, said, "This program is taking a different approach, not only helping people who walk in the door, but helping them so they don't have to walk into the door in the future."
The program is funded through a combination of grant money from the Gheens Foundation and funds from the city's budget.
Bridges to Tomorrow manager Angie Ditsler said this model is becoming more popular because "unlike the traditional 'case management' model often found in service delivery, coaching is an empowerment model whereby the individual being coached identifies their own path to success."
Eastern Area Community Ministries will still offer a Dare to Care food pantry and provide emergency funding for utility bills, but long-term assistance will be limited unless people are part of the Helping Hands Partnership.
"We will always provide some emergency services to families, but because there are such limited resources there may be times where we have to say these particular resources are no longer available," Gerard said.
Information from: The Courier-Journal, http://www.courier-journal.com