Resource and referral services are vital tools in reducing a community’s overall poverty rate. Connecting those in need with organizations that provide assistance not only enhances the capabilities of local residents, it also empowers them to become agents of their own development.
Since the dissolution of Help for Southwest Michigan, a volunteer-run advocacy center dedicated to helping community residents “utilize available resources to gain self-sufficiency”, there has not been an organization with a local presence to help residents of Harbor Country® connect to and benefit from the broad variety of services available in Berrien County.
In 2016, The Pokagon Fund requested proposals from nonprofits, government agencies, organizations and faith communities to partner with the fund in order to provide referral and case management services to residents of Harbor Country®. The central purpose of the request was to address the issue of access to services by funding a half-time case manager to provide resource and referral services to residents of Chikaming, New Buffalo and Three Oaks townships. The goal is to identify and assist residents to secure services for which they are eligible from existing service providers, and to move them out of crisis mode into greater stability and well-being.
The effort will be conducted on a pilot basis. The initial pilot period would be 12 months with the possibility of continued contracting for up to 24 months thereafter, depending on outcomes.
The Case Manager will be expected to:
- Actively identify all Harbor Country® residents who are eligible for services but are not receiving them.
- Establish client-friendly hours of operation in at least two locations which allow the case manager to meet privately with residents needing assistance.
- Conduct a variety of outreach activities and marketing in the targeted areas to identify people in need, and make them aware of the resource and referral services. Outreach activities should be done throughout the period of the pilot program and not just initially.
- Inform area churches, schools, businesses and social organizations (e.g., Rotary) about the pilot program.
- Identify all services available to Harbor Country® residents and create a tool listing names, locations, contact information, hours of operation, website and list of services available from each provider. Meet face to face with representatives of each service provider at least one during the pilot year.
- As a cluster of client needs becomes apparent, determine client-friendly ways to offer workshops or classes, taught in partnership with area nonprofits, government entities, faith-based groups or other organizations.
- Complete an assessment of each client’s needs beyond the stated, presenting request and create an individualized plan of action to move the family or individual out of crisis and on the path toward self-sufficiency.
- Determine the greatest need(s) to be addressed immediately and offer appropriate referrals to the client.
- Identify barriers to accessing available services including transportation, child care, gas for the car, etc. and explore solutions.
- Assist client in making the connection to the service provider through coaching, making the call on the client’s behalf or writing a letter of referral. Whenever possible, empower the client to advocate for him/herself and gain skills in obtaining assistance.
- Once all other possible financial sources are exhausted, provide any necessary tangible support to overcome barriers to accessing services such as a gas card.
- Follow-up with each client within one week of a referral to determine whether the connection was made with a service provider or further case management services are needed.
The goal of The Pokagon Fund is to have the Case Manager in place by November 2017.