In mid-March, we made the decision to close our offices to the public as we followed guidelines and best practices around Covid-19. Here we are, many months later, having found a way to continue our programs and services as if things were almost normal. Gratitude goes to the staff and leadership, for getting creative and for finding ways to stay connected to the people we serve. We have moved much of our work to cloud based platforms and many of our staff work some remote days. Flexibility has been key. Appointments are conducted over the phone and online, though some programs have started to work directly with clients. The New Hope program is now providing direct services to some participants, and Head Start welcomed children back to a hybrid schedule as the school year began in late August. Along the way we’ve launched new programs to meet the growing needs in our communities because of the pandemic. Our hands have not been idle. Thanks go out to our community partners, who have been so generous in their support. We have tried not to miss a beat as we continue to provide essential services at this time.
News from Southwestern Community Services
We are now scheduling phone appointments for Fuel and Electric Assistance. Please encourage folks to give us a call either to the Keene or Claremont offices, and the team will make sure that an appointment is scheduled. The Fuel Assistance Program provides a fuel benefit and the Electric Assistance Program provides a discount off future electric bills. In addition to the regular Fuel Assistance benefit, this year there is also a supplemental benefit of $200 due to CARES Act funding. The program opens on December 1, but we are trying to get as many applications completed as possible prior to this date. We have taken over 2000 applications so far! Applications for the program are taken through April of 2021.
SCS launched a brand new website! Everything has been updated and improved, the site is now easier to navigate, and is fully functional via mobile devices and tablets. Find us at www.scshelps.org or on our Facebook page.
Throughout the past six months or so, the Weatherization Program has completed weatherization work within 21 homes. This totals $242,768.28 in energy efficiency measures and payments to local contractors! Households served included residents of Keene, Claremont, Richmond, Newport, Winchester, Stoddard, Swanzey, Springfield, Washington, Chesterfield, and Charlestown. The program also worked closely with the Earl M. Bourdon Center in Claremont to complete extensive weatherization work there, and is working with Keene Housing on an ongoing basis, regarding some weatherization efforts as well. The Energy Conservation Department at SCS is supported by the Office of Strategic Initiatives, LIHEAP, and the NH Utilities. We look forward to ongoing projects to complete as many weatherization jobs as possible in 2021!
New Initiatives started in the past few months include: the Housing Relief Program which is designed to help people financially impacted due to Covid-19 (SCS has provided over 1.3 million dollars in assistance to date), the Summer Foods Lunch Program (with over 7000 free lunches provided to families), and a five week Head Start Summer Session at the centers in Keene, Claremont, and Swanzey.
The Housing Stabilization Department secured three additional facilities to act as shelter decompression sites. These efforts allow us to continue serving shelter guests, but do so in a way that offers more distancing and spacing out of individuals. This was made possible by the Bureau of Housing Supports, Housing Action New Hampshire, Monadnock United Way, several other stakeholders and funders, as well as through the hard work and dedication of program staff. While this involved a tremendous amount of effort (working with landlords, completing city inspections, etc.), it was well worth it to ensure the ongoing safety of shelter guests and staff. Housing Stabilization plans to maintain these decompression sites for the foreseeable future. Appropriate spacing in a community setting relieves tension amongst individuals already in a high stress situation, encourages health and safety in general, and allows space for cleaning and sanitizing efforts. It is our hope that we can continue to use these decompression sites on an ongoing basis.
WIC services continue to be delivered remotely, for all WIC households. Thousands of families are helped by WIC. Benefits can be loaded onto eWIC cards remotely. Please call the WIC main clinic number 603.719.4234 for information or to enroll.