October 25, 2014
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Westbay, House of Hope receive United Way grants
Jennifer Rodrigues

Last week, United Way of Rhode Island awarded grants to both House of Hope CDC and Westbay Community Action, Inc. House of Hope received a grant for $97,500; Westbay Community Action was awarded two grants, one for $80,000 and a second for $74,200.

“Without this funding, we would not be able to assist our clients,” said Paul Salera, director of elder and family services at Westbay Community Action; his department received the $74,200 grant.

The Family Service Unit at Westbay Community Action provides medical prescriptions, medical care, shelter, food, rental assistance, heat and utility assistance, and much more to families in the community who need it. Salera explained that the grant money would be used to pay the salaries of two, full-time case managers on staff.

The second grant awarded to Westbay Community Action is an Early Childhood Education Grant, which will support the Westbay Children's Center. According to a press release from United Way, “the Center provides quality, dependable and affordable preschool, pre-kindergarten, kindergarten and school age programs for working parents and their children.”

The program currently supports 75 students and the $80,000 will help the program provide “a sliding-scale fee” to both low- and middle-income families and additional support.

House of Hope will use their grant to expand their services. Jean Johnson, executive director, said they aim to use the funds to hire a housing stabilization person and additional social worker, as well as expand hours for triage workers.

Johnson predicts additional triage hours will result in the hire of an additional worker; a triage worker is the first individual a person meets upon entering a shelter.

“We are thrilled,” said Johnson, who explained that the organization received the full amount they requested during the application process. “I read it three times to make sure [$97,500] was what it said.”

While House of Hope does receive funding from the state, Johnson said it is not enough and the organization depends on grants such as those from United Way to provide their services to homeless in the state.

“There is no way we would be able to do this without funding,” said Johnson.

Johnson added that expanding the staff to include an additional triage worker and social worker is vital. Currently, House of Hope has one triage worker and two social workers to manage almost 150 men and woman in various properties.

Like social workers at House of Hope, case managers are a vital piece of Westbay Community Action’s day-to-day operations. Salera explained that the two case managers assess 2,000 households each year and because United Way has provided grants for five-plus years, Westbay Community Action has been able to assess and help over 10,000 homes.

“[The grants] are vital to us to complete our goal, which is to make our clients economically self-sufficient,” said Salera.

Hiring a house stabilization person will help House of Hope achieve their goal of moving people from homelessness to independence.

Johnson explained that when an individual finally moves into their own home, they are often unable to handle the transition from dependence to independence and can end up homeless again. The utilization of a housing stabilization person will help House of Hope establish a system mirroring Critical Time Intervention (CTI).

CTI is a model from the mental health community that assists with the transition from living in a hospital to living independently.

“We found we do a lot of engagement … but many people have created a bond with House of Hope staff and there needs to be more of a transition period,” said Johnson, who added that making sure individuals are stable as they move out of the shelter system is “always what we have done.”

United Way of Rhode Island received more than 140 applications for grants and will be awarding a total of $3 million, split among 28 organizations representing 36 cities and towns in the state.


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