Tuesday, May 19, 2009

New Funding for Food

The numbers of people coming to our outreach center for assistance are not decreasing. We are continuing to serve record numbers with food and utility & rental assistance. Last month funding was released to Florida (and every state) to boost their Food Stamp budget during these difficult economic times. It is each state's responsibility to sign up the increasing ranks of individuals who are now eligible for food stamps-many for the first time.

We are ready to assist with this task. If you or someone you know are struggling to make ends meet and buy food for your family, come to our outreach center and find out if you are eligible for food stamps through our ACCESS computer connection with Department of Children and Families. Staff are available to assist you with the process if needed. Outreach Center hours are 9am-12noon, Monday - Saturday. Food stamps can provide some financial relief for families going through a tough time. For more information call 239-275-1141.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Feeling Grateful!

This week's post is dedicated to the Quinton B. & Beverly H. McNew Foundation in Fort Myers Florida for their generous support of our emergency assistance fund! This family foundation has supported our mission to provide a safety net for those most in need in the Fort Myers community by providing rent, utility, and medical assistance in order to move people from crisis into stability. 

The McNew Foundation has supported our program for two consecutive rounds of grant review and we feel very fortunate and very thankful. In the past the foundation's support allowed us to keep families' from eviction, families' utilities from being shut off, insurance premium paid for the seriously ill and much more. This support is really making a difference in people's lives and each dollar goes to our clients to get them through a crisis situation. Thank you McNew Foundation for your kindness. Thank you from Southwest Florida Outreach Ministry staff and from every client we serve because of you!

Remember to call 239-275-1141 or stop by the outreach center at 3309 S. Broadway for inquiries about assistance.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Increasing Access for Homeless & Disabled

Today the Director of Southwest Florida Outreach Ministry, Ted Stringer, completed SSI/SSDI Outreach, Access, & Recovery training or "SOAR" so we are officially ready to assist. The training specifically targets increasing access to benefits for homeless people. By providing people help with completing the complicated application process, they have a better chance at being eligible for benefits. Receiving SSI/SSDI benefits can be the bridge from crisis to stability through housing, treatment, and other supports. Our goal is always to move beyond helping people through crisis and into helping people build stability and happiness.

This year we have seen an increase in the numbers of homeless individuals and families requesting assistance from our food pantry and outreach center. As of April 26, 2009, we have documented serving 163  homeless individuals, 53 others at high risk of homelessness, and 4 chronic homeless.

We hope to increase access for the people who face additional barriers to service through SOAR and other programs. We also take referrals from partnering human service organizations for delivering food to disabled and homebound individuals when needed. For this purpose the Outreach Center and Food Pantry could really use a van for transporting the food deliveries! If you have a vehicle that you would like to donate or know of other opportunities, please call us at 239-275-1141! We would love to hear from you.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day Donations.

We would like to give everyone celebrating Earth Day today a place to donate clothing items that can be reused! Our clothing bank is used for people who are in need and also for providing business/work attire for job interviews. Items such as socks, shoes, and blankets can be especially useful for our clients who are homeless. We also accept used toys and household items. 

Simply drop off your items that you would like to donate for our "reuse" program at our Outreach Center located at 3309 South Broadway in Fort Myers, Florida. If you have any questions about whether you should bring in an item, give us a call at 239-275-1141. 

Thank you for your interest. We appreciate all the support that our donors provide to the people we serve. Every time generosity and kindness is provided to someone in need, an opportunity develops for that help to be paid forward. Earth Day is the perfect excuse to clean out your closet and give away your unneeded clothing so that it can be reused. Reuse, Reduce, & Recycle the Southwest Florida Outreach way! 

Thursday, April 16, 2009

SOARing to Better Access

In addition to providing direct assistance to individuals and families in need for things like rent, utilities, & medical prescriptions, we also strive to increase access to other services that may be useful. We realize that our emergency assistance is a safety net for people in crisis and only the beginning of a journey back to stabilization. Individuals need information about many different topics including job training, childcare, substance abuse treatment, etc. 

We at the Southwest Florida Outreach Ministry continue to broaden the scope of our services for community members. House of Hope Director, Ted Stringer, will be taking SOAR Training to further this mission. SOAR Training stands for SSI/SSDI Outreach, Access, & Recovery. SOAR is training to provide technical assistance and training to increase access to Social Security disability benefits for people who are homeless. SSI/SSDI benefits can increase a person's access to housing, treatment, and other supports. The application process is complicated, detailed, & can be difficult to navigate so having a helpful hand with completing the paperwork can be invaluable to actually qualifying for benefits.

SOAR training will allow us to help individuals determine their eligibility for disability benefits right at our outreach center when a person walks through our door instead of trying to send people to other destinations. This is especially important with clients dealing with homelessness who often face difficult barriers such as lack of transportation, mental health issues and more.

SOAR will help us provide more help to some of our neediest clients. Remember we are located at 3309 South Broadway in Fort Myers, Florida. Our operating hours are Monday-Saturday 9am-12noon. Call our office for more information.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Coordinating Assistance for Medical Need

Medical issues can be one of the biggest sources of stress and financial trouble for individuals and families. At Southwest Florida Outreach Ministry Outreach Center we encounter many individuals and families who are unable to get medically needed prescriptions. People will call us and ask for assistance with purchasing their prescription drugs because they need their money to pay the rent or buy food instead. Depending on the situation, we may offer a one time contribution to help them pay for the prescription or connect them with fantastic partners like Publix who have a list of commonly prescribed drugs they provide to customers with a prescription for FREE!

However, often the medicine our clients need are not on the "free" lists or are ongoing prescriptions that need a more long-term solution. In these cases we work to help people find other programs that can be of help. Several programs are available that offer free or reduced prescription drugs. Some have eligibility requirements and some do not. Clients may also be eligible for public assistance with medical insurance. We will help you work through the process by assisting with paperwork or applying on-line and ultimately find the best solution for each individual. Please call for assistance or for more information at 239-275-1141. And remember-our Food Pantry is now open six days a week from Monday-Saturday 9:00am-12noon. All are welcome!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Three Cheers for Volunteers!

We could not keep up with the recent skyrocketing of people in need and the numerous requests for assistance if it were not for the giving nature of our volunteers.  As a small non-profit organization we depend greatly on the help of those willing to donate their time to help us help others. We are indebted to the ten to twelve volunteers who show up on a regular basis each week at the food pantry and outreach center. It is not a glamorous job lifting boxes of food, filling bags of groceries, sorting through donated clothing, assisting with benefits paperwork, answering phone calls and other tasks as needed. 

It is not glamorous but it provides immeasurable service to people in need of a helping hand. It is not glamorous but it can make the difference to a person on a certain day, in a certain moment of need that changes a life for the better.  Thank you, THANK YOU, to all our volunteers for everything you do. We plan on bringing volunteer spotlights to our blog in the future to honor and show appreciation for our volunteers. Stay tuned to put faces on the Southwest Florida Outreach Ministry Food Pantry and Outreach Center of Fort Myers, Florida. Remember, we are now open SIX days a week from Monday-Saturday 9:00am - 12 noon. Welcome!