Is your family hungry, cold, homeless?
RUMFORD- The Oxford County Domestic Violence Task Force recently held their monthly meeting at the police station here and invited Joan Churchill, Family Services Director for Community Concepts to present.
“Community Concepts distributes 17,000 newsletters throughout Oxford, Androscoggin and Franklin counties each month to educate the public on the programs we have available to them. It's unfortunate knowing what we provide and how few people take advantage of the services they are eligible for,” said Churchill.
Did you know that by contacting Community Concepts and applying for the Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP), you can find out about many other benefits like weatherization for your home, homes available to buy, rent or lease for less than you may think, a free cell phone and more?
According to a 2009 survey, Oxford county alone had a poverty rate of 14.4 percent and over the past year that number was sure to rise with a decrease in jobs and increase in population.
To give you a better idea of of how many families were receiving food assistance in Oxford county, alone, the number is staggering at over 5,000 households of a little over 22,000 in the county being listed as food insecure. This number doesn't account for the lack of warm clothing, heat for their homes or those who don't have a home at all, especially during the long winter months.
Data collected by the Maine State Housing Authority demonstrates an increase in homelessness of 69 percent from 1993 to 2000.
Sandra Witas of River Valley Healthy Communities Coalition has worked tirelessly to help educate area citizens how to better sustain themselves through gardening and food assistance programs. She noted, “The only problem with the data is that communities like the River Valley who experience job loss from high paying jobs, a large majority of these families do not qualify for benefits because they have too many assets. So, families that are food insecure aren't captured. Depending on the community, the numbers really could be higher.”
Churchill noted, “With new legislature in Augusta, the one thing we can do as a community who realizes the need for these programs is to let our voices be heard. Go to Augusta and tell them how important they are to us. Public assistance can't afford to be cut back, especially when times are getting tougher.”
Services provided through the agency consist of financial, employment, emergency and legal counseling; education, transportation and immigration services, as well as food, nutrition and disability assistance.
Community Concepts can help you take control of your personal or business situation. Through the many programs they have to offer; from budget counseling and loans for a new home or business to helping you feed and care for your family to filing tax returns, contact them to find out how they can help you.
For more information, call 1-800-866-5588 and the operator will direct you to the service provider that fits your needs.
The next task force meeting is scheduled for February 2 at the Norway town office from 9 to 11 a.m. with a presentation by Voices Committed to Change: Students Promoting Rights in Relationships through the Safe Voices Educator Program .