The Home Fund is about giving those in need a little help and hope to those who've fallen on hard times

The Home Fund is about giving those in need a little help and hope to those who've fallen on hard times

PENINSULA HOME FUND — Volunteer case managers are the powering force behind the helping ‘hand up’

EDITOR’S NOTE: For 27 years, Peninsula Daily News readers in Jefferson and Clallam counties have supported the “hand up, not a handout” Peninsula Home Fund.

Today, we feature another in a series of articles on how the fund operates and who benefits from our readers’ generosity.

You can donate to the Peninsula Home Fund for 2015 by clicking HERE. Thank you!

PORT TOWNSEND — “The Home Fund is about helping someone over a stumbling block and building up their broken-down spirit,” says Peninsula Home Fund case manager Jo Dwyer.

While some are elderly or disabled, many of those she sees have lost their jobs and are struggling to find work.

Many times, people are doing fine in lives — until something turns their world upside down.

Jo is one of several trained Home Fund volunteers who work in the Port Townsend office of OlyCAP — Olympic Community Action Programs.

Among its many responsibilities, OlyCAP — the No. 1 emergency-care agency on the Peninsula — manages the Peninsula Daily News’ Peninsula Home Fund, screening the applicants, carefully disbursing the funds and provides life-changing counseling and services to those who need a “hand up, not a handout.”

In addition to Port Townsend, OlyCAP has offices in Port Angeles and Forks.

Before she and her husband, John, moved to Jefferson County, they owned a commercial organic farm for 28 years in Texas.

Before joining OlyCAP and going through a training program on the Home Fund, she had been a food bank volunteer.

Not without my dog

One recent Home Fund client was a homeless man in his late 40s.

He came in hoping for a little respite from the cold.

He didn’t want to stay in a shelter — couldn’t actually — because his beloved dog, his closest friend, wasn’t allowed.

“He wouldn’t consider giving him up so he could stay inside a shelter at night,” says Jo.

“He came in asking if there was any way to help him get a tent and sleeping bag.”

Tapping the Home Fund, she found what he needed at the Goodwill store in Port Townsend.

Often, says Jo, those who live on a set income, such as Social Security, are able to stay within their budget “until one big extra needed expense comes in and throws their entire budget off, and then they end up getting deeper and deeper in the hole.”

One recent client was typical of the many who have just enough income to cover their meager monthly expenses.

She had budgeted her income to the dollar — so knew exactly how much she could spend and when on rent, utilities and groceries — and, says Jo, “she did well until she had to get these specialized prescription lenses that cost her $300.

“After she paid the bill, she didn’t have the money to pay her utilities.”

She came in to see if she could get help with paying her past due electric bill so her heat and lights wouldn’t be shut off.

“Again, the Home Fund was able to help, and the woman was so grateful,” says Jo, wishing the woman would have known the Home Fund could have helped pay for her glasses so she wouldn’t have had to endure the stress of past-due bills.

‘Such little things’

Jo says most who approach OlyCAP are “asking for such little things.”

Like the father who recently moved to the area with his daughter and was in the process of getting his business up and running.

“He needed a little help getting a few toiletries and school supplies for his daughter,” says Jo.

He was given a $50 voucher to use at a local store.

“What he asked for may seem small to some, but it was big to him,” she says.

Through a crisis

In 2014, the Home Fund helped 1,258 families — 3,951 individuals.

The Home Fund is not a welfare program.

Instances of help are designed to get an individual or family through a crisis.

In many instances, Peninsula Home Fund case managers at OlyCAP work with individuals or families to develop a plan to become financially stable — and avoid a recurrence of the emergency that prompted aid from the fund.

Grants are modest.

The average amount of help this year was $69.16 per person — with a limit of one grant from the fund within 12 months.

“It’s not only the monetary assistance the Home Fund provides, but the fact that we can help when there are no other options available to these people,” says Rich Ciccarone, chairman of OlyCAP’s board of directors and himself a Home Fund volunteer.

“Many times, our assistance is enough to get them through their immediate crisis.”

To apply for a 2015 grant from the Peninsula Home Fund — or to learn more about working as a Home Fund volunteer — phone OlyCAP at 360-452-4726 (Clallam County) or 360-385-2571 (Jefferson County).

Read past stories about the Home Fund at www.peninsuladailynews.com.

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