Forum spotlights poverty, social services

By JOHN SEASLY
Herald Staff Writer

Despite declining unemployment rates, the poverty rates in Dubois, Pike and Warrick counties are still a cause for concern, according to Joyce Fleck, executive director of Tri-Cap. To better understand the social services offered in these counties, which Tri-Cap serves, she helped to organize a forum Thursday for service providers, government officials and the public.

Statewide, the poverty rate increased to 16 percent in 2011, up from 15.3 percent in 2010, according to U.S. Census Bureau data released last Friday. The most recent county-specific data, for 2006 to 2010, shows Dubois County to have a poverty rate of 9.6 percent. Warrick County has a rate of 6.1 percent, and Pike County has a rate of 12.9 percent.

The forum, held at the Huntingburg Event Center, was an extension of the informal monthly meetings first organized by Fleck and other service providers about a year ago. They started meeting to coordinate their efforts and learn about each others’ programs.

“If we all learn something new from each other every month, how do we expect our clients to know all this stuff?” Fleck said.

Thursday’s forum was a larger version of those meetings, with about 55 people in attendance. Alan Johnson, dean of Vincennes University Jasper Campus, mediated a series of brief lectures about the area’s social services.

“We’re here to tell some stories,” he said. “Stories about people who have needs, and how the various agencies work to fill those needs.”

Area service providers discussed a range of programs, including Community Food Bank, housing initiatives and the service role of township trustees.

Dan Mundy, Jasper district president for the St. Vincent de Paul Society, Donna Oeding, administrative director of the Dubois County Health Department, and Tammy DeWitt, Tri-Cap housing and personal finance program manager, were among the event’s speakers.

In her talk, Fleck emphasized Tri-Cap’s function within the three counties.

“Our primary objective is to address the unmet service needs of the area,” she said.

She told the story of a mother who called Tri-Cap looking for help. She needed a job, child care and a vehicle; combined, those needs were hindering her efforts to achieve any one of them. Through Tri-Cap, Fleck provided the woman an inexpensive used vehicle. With the car, she was able to find a job, which qualified her for child care and allowed her to pay back the price of the car.

“This car was her new lease on life,” Fleck said.

Paul Alvey, associate pastor of Shiloh United Methodist Church in Jasper, attended the event with two church members. Their church has a fund to provide assistance for families in need, and they were interested in what other area programs are doing.

“We’re really excited about getting the different facets and aspects talking to each other,” Pastor Alvey said. “It was really informational.”

Anyone interested in learning more about area social services is asked to call Tri-Cap at 482-2233.

Contact John Seasly at jseasly@dcherald.com.




More on DuboisCountyHerald.com