Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Beyond a Crisis: How Catholic Charities Addresses Deeper Issues for Families

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Our August fundraising letter just went out in the mail and it features the story of a familiar face for regular readers here – Becky, the resident of our Angel’s Watch Shelter who was featured on the Open Door earlier this summer. We’re so proud of Becky and glad that so many will see her story.

The letter focuses on dignity – on going beyond meeting the immediate need of shelter, food or clothing – or in Becky’s case, safety from an abusive husband. Catholic Charities’ staff dedicate much of their working time to helping clients like Becky move beyond the crisis with long-term skills. In Becky’s case that meant helping her enroll in classes.

Esther ran into a tough financial situation.
In another story we’d like to share, it meant teaching financial literacy through budget classes to help a family with very few resources learn to be smart with their spending (and saving).
When Esther lost her job, her life became a juggling act. Fortunately, she was a good juggler. A single mom with four children, she had always kept a careful eye on her family’s budget, and for a while she managed to stretch her unemployment check to meet their immediate needs.

But then she got a cut-off notice from her electric company. “I was strapped,” Esther said. “I had to make choices at that time of what to pay and what could wait.”

She started looking for help and was referred to Catholic Charities’ Montgomery County Family Center (MCFC), which provides families with emergency financial assistance and other resources to guide them out of crisis.

“There’s a big change in who we see needing help,” said Nhora Rosero, Family Support Specialist at the MCFC. “It used to be people with no education, people with no employment training. Now, it’s families who for some reason have fallen on a hard time and are struggling to get out of it.”

But providing financial aid isn’t enough – people who suddenly find themselves in a tight budget spot also need tools to help them recover and avoid similar problems in the future. So staff at our MCFC enlisted the help of volunteers to begin “Money Matters, ” a class funded by the Neighbors In Need Montgomery Fund housed at The Community Foundation for Montgomery County, an affiliate of The Community Foundation for the National Capital Region.

For Esther, the class offered a lot of practical advice. “I learned to pay myself first,” she said. “In other words, instead of only tucking away what I have left at the end of the month, I put a certain amount in savings right at the start. This way I know there will always be something there on another rainy day.”

She also learned how to budget for little things as well as big things. “Travel expenses were costing me a ton,” she said. “Now I make one trip to the store a week. I plan my family’s meals ahead. And I wait until I have a few errands before I go into town, to help save on gas or bus fare.”

Thanks to the class, Esther has set up a budget she can manage, and a savings account she can fall back on, as she continues her search for employment. “Once Catholic Charities helped me out of that crisis, it was a fresh start for me and my family.”

More Catholic Charities!
If you can help us provide our neighbors in need with this type of long-term assistance, please make a gift here.  

Money Matters is just one of many programs offered for families at Catholic Charities' Montgomery County Family Center. Get a full list here!