Resource guide outlines sources of assistance

A few hours in a poverty simulation motivated people of faith to do something.

This week, they have made public a 60-plus page community resource guide.

And before this project, the Ecumenical Poverty Task Force jumped in to make sure the Central Missouri Food Bank’s Food 4 Kids summer feeding program continued when it was in jeopardy of not continuing in 2011.

“I wanted to actually make a difference,” said task force member Katie Epema.

“Faith without good works is a dead faith,” said Kelly Smith, another task force member.

With the completion of the resource guide, the task force will roll into the Jefferson City Congregations United. Many of the members were attending both meetings and the two organizations share a similar purpose, said Heidi Lucas.

“It’s still about giving voice to people in poverty,” Smith said. “We’re driven by our faith, the Gospels, and the teachings of Christ to care for the poor.”

The first step for the task force was to identify needs. When the need of a resource guide came up, Epema already had a start with the contacts she had made for her own clients through the Parents As Teachers program.

She later found out the list she started with was developed by Heidi Lucas, who also served on the task force to enhance the resource guide.

“We did not want to duplicate what’s already out there,” Epema said.

Working for federally funded social services, Heidi Lucas said their funds are earmarked for specific issues.

“They could have the saddest story in the whole world, but we can do nothing for them,” Lucas said.

Those are the gaps where faith group are most needed.

The summer food program and the resource guide are such examples.

“There’s a lot to celebrate, but there’s always work to do,” Smith said.

Both Lucas and Epema moved to Jefferson City in recent years and quickly found the need for such a resource guide to better serve their clients. Lucas is a community organizer with the Central Missouri Community Action office and Epema is a Parents As Teachers educator.

A few such guides were out of date and limited in the scope of information.

Epema built her guide by making lots of phone calls and knocking on doors. But her focus was on services for young children, not families in poverty.

This guide covers the needs of all ages.

For families in poverty, where parents may be working multiple jobs or have many stresses in their lives, the quick reference should help.

“Our goal is to leave people better than when you find them,” Smith said.

The River City Habitat for Humanity office frequently receives calls from people in crisis, said Smith, who is executive director.

“Our stance is we don’t turn them away without a resource or another place to go,” she said.

A bound copy of the new resource guide will be close at hand in the Habitat office.

Collaborators hope that other organizations, particularly churches, will find this guide a ready reference.

The compilers hope that in addition to providing easyaccess to available services, the guide might also shine a light on what services are not offered but should be.

For example, many residents would benefit from a one-time rental assistance program to help cover the significant cost for deposit and first month’s rent, Heidi Lucas said.

The information is not exclusive. The PDF is posted on the Habitat website.

They hope individuals will download, print or repost the document wherever it can be of help.

Smith said they expect to make updates several times each year, too.

“It’s good enough for now, but it will never be finished,” Smith said.

Web link:

www.rivercityhabitat.org/documents/2013-Resource-Guide.pdf

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