Monday mornings are busy for the Catholic Charities regional office in Ardmore. A sign on the door reads “Call at 8:30 a.m. on Monday morning for financial assistance.” Catholic Charities’ emergency assistance program provides up to $200 in rent or utility assistance to people who qualify.
“The phones begin ringing off the hook at 8:30,” Ardmore Office Coordinator Gerald Johnson said. “I am a one-person office for the community. Occasionally, I have some temporary help, but on a regular basis it’s just me. I help as many people as my budget allows, but typically I only have resources to help five or six people a week.”
In May 2016, Katherine phoned Catholic Charities in hopes that this time she might receive financial assistance. She had called the office on and off since March. At age 57, she moved to the Ardmore area with her teenage daughter after a divorce. She tried time and again to get an apartment, but because of lingering debt she was repeatedly denied.
“Every time we would go to an apartment complex with a check for the deposit, Katherine would be turned away because of her credit score or a debt issue,” Johnson said. “There was always an obstacle keeping her from getting an apartment. I knew I had to do whatever I could to get Katherine and her daughter a place to live. She was sleeping in her car. Her daughter was staying with friends.”
With Catholic Charities’ help, they finally found an apartment complex she could call home. Partnering with the First United Methodist Church, Catholic Charities provided assistance for a security deposit.
Then, Katherine entered Catholic Charities’ long-term case management program called Family H.O.P.E., which stands for “help, organize, prioritize, empower.” In this program, case managers work to help clients to determine and achieve specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-sensitive goals.
“Many times people in need of emergency assistance become Family H.O.P.E. clients,” Senior Director of Social Services Damon Britton said. “When people need emergency financial assistance, it’s usually a result of a bigger difficulty that needs to be addressed. We typically find that when we can get clients to understand budgeting, they no longer need our services.”
Once enrolled in the H.O.P.E. program, Katherine worked on life skills and goal-setting with Johnson. After a month in the program, she informed Johnson that she was diagnosed with cancer.
“I feel like once I overcame one obstacle, I would run into another,” Katherine said. “I had a job, I was learning budgeting skills, I was working on accomplishing my goals and then the cancer hit. My employer allowed me to cut back my hours at work because I didn’t have the stamina to work full time, but that impacted my income. I wasn’t seeing success in my application for federal benefits and I felt like I was at a dead end.”
Johnson said, “Katherine realized she needed more than just financial help. She needed support and motivation from someone who believed in her. So, I listened to the struggles she was facing and encouraged her not to give up.”
“In March she came to her meeting really happy,” Johnson said. “She let me know her cancer was in remission. Because of case management, Katherine is more confident in her abilities to support her daughter and provide a future for their family.”