Tri-Cap sees increase of clients in needDecember 21, 2018
By CANDY NEAL
Tri-Cap’s offices have been busy, full of people who are seeking help.
“You can tell by the traffic. This is not the same agency as it was 10 years ago,” said Joyce Fleck, executive director of Tri-Cap. “There is more foot traffic, there’s more calls. It’s a very busy organization.”
The agency has seen a 17 percent increase in total number of households served from 2016 to 2017, and a 9 percent increase in the number of client households that derived their total income solely from employment. So Tri-Cap is getting more clients who work one or more jobs, but still meet income qualifications for services.
“People don’t come here because they think they are getting something free. Nobody wants to be in the area of needing our services,” Fleck said. “They are coming in here because they need help. And we take that pretty seriously, and try to help everyone that we can.”
Fleck thinks much of the increase is attributed more to people learning about Tri-Cap and its services from other people.
“I think there is just more people finding out about us,” she said. “I think they are finding out about us through their own circle of influences: a family member, a neighbor, a friend.”
She also believes the stigma that may have been attached to receiving assistance is starting to disappear. “I think the stigma of being a Tri-Cap client is lessening,” she said. “Maybe more people realize that more people need help than in the past. People are more comfortable coming here.”
Tri-Cap had a 23 percent increase in clients served that were homeowners, Fleck said, and a 30 percent increase in the total number of clients served that have either a two- or four-year college degree.
“We just do what we can with what we have,” she said. “And the waiting list gets longer.”
The longest waiting lists are for housing and for home weatherization, a program through which homes are improved to make them more efficient so that utility bill amounts decrease. “Housing costs are the most expensive cost in a family’s budget,” Fleck said. “We usually assist anywhere from 150 to 200 clients with emergency situations annually, depending on available funds. Our utility assistance program saw a huge increase in client numbers last year, totaling over 1,600.”
The agency received a $1,500 grant from the Dubois REC Round Up program, which will help clients in emergency situations.
“Tri-Cap is always needing emergency assistance funds to help additional clients who are temporarily in need, but historically would be over-income and, thus, could not qualify for free assistance,” Fleck said.
The Head Start program in Jasper has a waiting list of more than 30 children. “We don’t have any more space. And there’s not enough hours in the day in one room to put two classes,” Fleck said. “You have the adult-child ratio for the classroom. We follow Indiana Daycare Licensing standards. So we can’t put 40 kids in a classroom.” So people go on the waiting list with hopes of getting into the program.
The agency’s healthcare navigators assisted 68 percent more clients in 2017 than in 2016, and the numbers continue to increase.
“They sit down with anybody or any income level and help them find the best insurance option for their family or themselves,” Fleck said. “They are not affiliated with any hospital. They don’t get a commission. They are totally unbiased.”
Despite being busy and having waiting lists, Fleck encourages people to contact Tri-Cap if they need help. The agency has offices in Dubois, Pike and Warrick counties.
“We hope that people don’t disqualify themselves by assuming that we can’t help them,” Fleck said. “If in doubt, ask us. If you don’t qualify for the free service, we try to see what else we can help you with, whether it’s internal or external resources.” They also direct people to call 211 to find out about services available in the community.
Meanwhile, Tri-Cap continues to look for more funding, including assistance from the community.
“That’s why we do fundraising,” Fleck said. “Having so many people that need services motivates us to keep looking for more options, like affordable housing options.”
Contact Tri-Cap’s Jasper office at 812-482-2233; the agency also has a website, www.tri-cap.net.
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