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Letter: Stimulus helping fight poverty

Posted by Gail Waterhouse  March 10, 2010 10:00 AM

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The following is a letter to the editor from the Community Action Agency of Somerville:

Governor Deval Patrick came to the Community Action Agency of Somerville (CAAS) last Thursday for a roundtable discussion on how economic stimulus funding is putting people back to work.  CAAS was proud to host the Governor.  We had stories to tell him.

Yvette came to this country three years ago with her husband and daughter.  Yvette’s husband Jean used to make a living driving a cab, and the family survived on that.  With the economy in recession, however, fewer people are paying for taxi service any more.  CAAS Case Manager Margela Olivier-Galette helped Yvette get a job bagging groceries for the Peapod delivery service, at the Stop & Shop in Allston.  Soon, Jean will start working there as a driver, too!

With funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, CAAS has been able to add all of the following programs to help people get or keep jobs:

•    Pre-employment Training: CAAS collaborates with the Somerville Center for Adult Learning Experiences (SCALE) to provide a job readiness program for low-income adults and assist them in finding work.

•    Housing Search/Fair Housing:  Many Somerville residents face discrimination in searching for housing because of their family status, receipt of government benefits, or national origin.  CAAS has hired an attorney who will be assisting individuals and families with finding and getting into housing fairly.

•    Community Organizing/Foreclosure Prevention: CAAS staff and volunteers are knocking at the doors of homeowners and tenants who live in buildings under or at risk of foreclosure and providing them with support, counseling and resources.

•    Medical-Legal Partnership:  place a lawyer in a neighborhood health clinic to train pediatricians to screen for housing and income support problems (including the choice to heat or eat, and the problem of asthma due to roaches and mold). 

•    Tax Preparation—operates a free Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) site, enabling Somerville residents to augment their incomes by obtaining Earned Income Tax Credits and other credits and refunds

•    Case Management:  For many families and individuals, housing is the most pressing need in a constellation of needs.  CAAS has instituted a case-management system to work long-term with clients on setting goals and achieving those goals over time.

•    Income Maximization:  CAAS has become home to a satellite of the Welfare Department and the Fuel Assistance program, so that our clients will be more easily and promptly serve with these forms of entitlement.

Stimulus funding allowed CAAS to hire seven people to provide this list of new programs.  CAAS will keep on using stimulus funding and support from the Somerville community to help Somerville residents make it on their own.  Thanks to Governor Patrick for visiting Somerville to see how CAAS is helping end poverty where we live.

Kimberly Smith-Cofield
Executive Director

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