Beyond Basic Assistance teaches self sufficiency

| September 19, 2013

Getting help in our community by Denise Porter-Ross Leathers

Both Oprah Winfrey and Maya Angelou often refer to the quote, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you KNOW better, DO better.” That expression describes well the Beyond Basic Assistance program that the Fort Wayne Urban League has offered for the past three years. Based on Maslow’s Theory of Needs, this interactive workshop teaches self sufficiency concepts to low to moderate income residents in Fort Wayne-Allen County that are facing a housing crisis or similar problems.
In our community, there are thousands of families in crisis each and every year, and over 100 of them seek some type of assistance from the Urban League each month. Some families utilize the League’s long established programs for children and youth, including the Thurgood Marshall Leadership Academy, but the adult programs are also expanding as these families struggle to keep a roof over their heads. As clients receive information on housing and job opportunities, they are also “learning to fish” instead of searching for the next “fish giveaway.” In the next few weeks we will examine this program and others as we focus on Getting Help in Our Community.

Many local people are just on one paycheck away from a financial crisis that could lead them into homelessness, hunger and health problems that could take years to reverse. Some folks have been gainfully employed all of their lives, but are now facing unemployment for the first time and are not sure of what and/or how to gain access to assistance programs. Others may be working, but still finding it difficult to make ends meet. A few people are new to our community and don’t know where to go for anything. But if you’ve never faced such problems, or you didn’t think that it could happen to YOU, it is good to know that the Urban League and partner organizations are there to help you navigate though the difficulties of dealing with assistance resources in the Fort Wayne community.

Remember, for many of the years as you worked, some of your tax dollars and donations helped to fund some of our municipal or non-profit organizations, so there should be no shame to turn to them when you or someone you know needs a little temporary help to get though a raining day. The information is presented in the Beyond Basic Assistance workshops includes realistic examples to help break the dependency cycle for people who have never been self sufficient while giving persons who have never been unemployed before a safe and confidential place to learn about various programs in our community.

The workshop format is simple but powerful. Beginning with a lively discussion about the difference between NEEDS and WANTS, the focus turns abruptly to The High Cost of Being Poor. This helps clients start to understand the importance of making better choices to break the cycle of poverty in their own lives. Because housing and related costs make up the largest segment of their expenses, they begin to unravel the mystery of budgeting.

Other topics that peak their interests include food and nutrition, utilities, and emergency preparation for their household. At that point, most clients become eager to get more information to help them find a path to a better life. EMPLOYMENT and EDUCATION opportunities are discussed, as well as programs for their children. Often families with limited income have neglected their personal health and hygiene, so the workshop discusses topics of health and medical issues, including HIV and AIDs awareness, substance abuse, mental health/wellness and violence in the community.

Special information is also included for persons who have been incarcerated, veterans and military families, senior citizens and special needs populations. Some of the challenges that the participants have faced may have roots in the legal system so there is information about public safety and criminal justice resources. Finally, the workshop begins to discuss FINANCIAL LITERACY because the clients are now far more receptive of their responsibility to continue to learn more so that they can make better choices for their families now and in the future.

The success of the Beyond Basic Assistance format, in spite of a limited budget, has made it necessary for the Fort Wayne Urban League to partner with other non profit organizations to make certain that any resident that wants to attend can do so at a time and location that is convenient for them. The League depends on funding from membership drives and special events to provide programs like Beyond Basic Assistance.

If you think that you are someone you know could benefit from this type of workshop, please share your story and support with us.

On Saturday, Sept. 21, The League will host its annual Urban Run/Walk event, at 2135 South Hanna, to give people in the Greater Fort Wayne area the opportunity to see the many great things that are done in our Community. For more information about the event, call the Urban League at (260) 745-3100.

In the next few weeks we will continue to look at the various topics and organizations that are helping others Getting Help in Our Community.


Category: Health, Local

About the Author ()

Denise Porter-Ross Leathers has worked with faith-based and community initiatives in Fort Wayne for over 25 years. After 10 years on the staff of the Mayor for the City of Fort Wayne, Denise now works with Fort Wayne Urban League and other non-profit organizations teaching self- sufficiency programs.

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