Sometimes it’s losing a job; sometimes it’s a sickness or injury, car problems, or a death in the family that puts someone in a position where they can’t quite make ends meet that month. They end up calling different agencies all around town in desperation to try to find help.
That’s why Shayla Givens focused on creating the central Help Line as one of her top priorities when she joined The Haven as the Pathways Fund Coordinator in September last year. “With the Help Line, we work with callers to figure out the right resource that will get them the help they need to get back on their feet.”
Pathways is an emergency assistance program funded by the City of Charlottesville, and now administered by The Haven. If a resident of the City of Charlottesville has a source of income but has experienced an unexpected financial setback, he or she could be eligible for one-time financial assistance to overcome the setback.
“A lot of times, we end up helping out with a security deposit because we know how expensive this town is. From January through March this year, over 80% of the assistance we gave went towards helping people with rental expenses. In each case, we had a good indication that they would be able to make it on their own after that,” explains Shayla. “But there are a lot of callers that aren’t eligible for Pathways. Now we can easily connect them with other resources that might be able to help, too.”
The obvious benefit for people in the community who need help is having just one number to call. But the benefit for the key Help Line partners—The Haven, Alliance of Interfaith Ministries (AIM) and Love INC—is that by sharing responsibility for answering the Help Line on different days of the week, each agency actually ends up spending less time answering separate calls from people who are not a fit for their assistance programs.
But the need is so great, the monthly funds are usually gone before each month is even half over. “I dread those weeks, answering call after call and having to tell people that there is no money left. Sometimes, I can troubleshoot the problem, like helping the client figure out how to get their prescriptions for a lower cost so that they will be able to make rent and take their medication. But a lot of times, all I can do is let them know I’ve been there.”
Shayla has now begun a process to tie in budget counseling, offered by Piedmont Housing Alliance, as a component of assistance for some clients. “Some of these problems could be avoided if more people had the opportunity to learn how to plan and budget.”