Love In the Name of Christ of Nacogdoches is one of nearly 140 Love INC offices nationwide. The National office is very supportive of our ministries and helps with policy guidelines, resources, and other tools we use on a daily basis. One of the things that we do is report to both the National Office and our local Board members on a quarterly basis. We just finished the second quarter at the end of June and in preparation of the reports we noticed some very interesting things. We also evaluate our ministries and try to make effective changes when needed.
In September of last year we restructured our Rental Assistance program which offered one time rental assistance in the past. Over the last several years we noticed a trend where landlords and apartment management allowed families to move in without verifying that the tenants would be able to pay rent in the future. We decided to focus on rental assistance where clients would be evaluated for our more comprehensive Fresh Start program. The criteria is much more specific in that approved applicants must provide a rental history of no less than 90 days in the same residence, and employment history of no less than 6 months all prior to beginning the program. There are other criteria that will apply as well. Applications are evaluated on a case by case basis.
The Fresh Start program may or may not include rent and/or utility assistance for clients. It includes but is not limited to case management, mentoring, counseling, financial advising, and financial assistance. The amount of financial and/or other assistance provided varied depending on client participation, current household needs, and funding availability.
Over nine months has passed since we made this change, and we have noticed differences in our reported statistics. Last year we had 234 requests for one time rental assistance, and were able to help 73 of those. In previous years we spent up to $40,000 just on rent and served folks who made little to no progress in solving their rental crisis. This year, the number has decreased to 45 requests, where we have assisted 10 client families so far this year with rent in the Fresh Start program. To date in 2019, in contrast to the typical $40,000, we have spent less than $10,000 on rent and utility assistance. Last year we had 3 clients in our Fresh Start program. This year, we have had 28 clients apply for the Fresh Start program. We have served those clients with a variety of different Fresh Start services.
One family has successfully completed the program already this year which is a great improvement and three families are currently enrolled and doing well within the plan. Six families have dropped out due to non- compliance. Fourteen clients completed the pre-screening but did not qualify due to housing or employment issues. It is notable to share with you that your Nacogdoches Area United Way (NAUW) has supported the Love INC Fresh start for several years. The funds we apply for through their process supported this program. Over the years we have learned a great deal about teaching self-sufficiency to our clients due to the compliance process NAUW has in place for their partners to follow. Your NAUW organization is a tremendous asset to this community and takes very serious how your donations are allocated to programs such as Love INC. I cannot stress to you enough to support your Nacogdoches Area United Way. Love INC does a great job as we work very hard to serve folks in need in our community; however, we do not do this alone. Especially the partners of NAUW and many others serve together to be good servants to those less fortunate in our community.
In addition to helping families work toward self-sufficiency, the Fresh Start program has the opportunity to help the staff and volunteers live out our mission statement to mobilize local churches to transform lives and communities in the Name of Christ. As loving people of God build a relationship with those who are in need, the better God’s people can share the Gospel and demonstrate that peace only comes from knowing Jesus. The Fresh Start program needs mentors from the Nacogdoches community. Each Fresh start client has at least one and sometimes several mentors. We have Sunday school classes who adopt a Fresh Start client and follow them through the process. The client will be served by their mentor through the case manager of Love INC. We do have processes in place to avoid dependency or in some cases to avoid a co-dependency situation for our wonderful volunteers. It can be difficult to keep boundaries in check as so many of our clients are so starved for someone to care. But Fresh Start gives a unique opportunity to show the love of Christ and make a difference in someone’s life.
The Love INC staff spends much time verifying, validating and ensuring that all requests made by people in need are legitimate.
Other validated requests are for new or gently used items:
■ Pots and Pans
■ Love seats
■ Full size Mattresses and Box Springs
■ Queen size Mattresses and Box Springs
■ Dining Chairs
Patti Goodrum is executive director of Love INC.