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LOW INCOME ASSISTANCE PROGRAMS

C-SCDC offers a hand up to Fort Smith residents. 

By Thomas Saccente // Times Record // tsaccente@swtimes.com

Crawford-Sebastian Community Development Council Inc. in Fort Smith has numerous programs to help low-income residents overcome a variety of challenges.

C-SCDC Executive Director Marc Baker said most residents are familiar with one of the nonprofit organization’s programs: the River Valley Regional Food Bank Bank

According to the C-SCDC website, the food bank distributes grocery products to more than 190 not-for-profit organizations in eight counties. 

However, the organization has more to offer than just that. Baker said if someone is in need of food from a pantry supplied by C-SCDC, that person is most likely in need of some of the other C-SCDC programs.

“I just want to get the word out that, for these needs, we’re the people to come to,” Baker said. “I mean, if you need the help.”

Other programs include the following:

Energy Assistance

For low-income households struggling to pay their utility bills, the C-SCDC Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (Li-HEAP) may be able to help.

Carol Jenkins, the Li-HEAP coordinator, said the program helps households during the winter, as well as the summer if funds are available. Summer assistance is currently taking place. The program is geared to income guidelines. If a household meets the income guidelines, its members can receive assistance.

The program also contains two separate programs: Regular Assistance and Crisis Assistance.

“On the Regular, they just meet the income guidelines, and we pay a certain benefit amount to the utility company on their behalf,” Jenkins said. “On Crisis, we cover up to $500 on their shut off, so if their shut off’s $389.98, we pay $389.98. We don’t go over $500. If we have to go over $500 to help them alleviate, we will see if the utility company will work with us on it.”

“They just don’t get shut off money,” Jenkins said. “They just get the regular amount.”

Child Care 

Another program overseen by Jenkins is the Child Care Food Program. Jenkins is the CCFP director, and said the program sponsors day-care homes and centers that are licensed by the state. 

The program makes sure all the meals these facilities serve to children are USDA approved. The C-SCDC website states if the facilities serve USDA approved meals and snacks, the facilities will receive money to reimburse them for much of their costs.

“They have to have the requirements of milk, a grain and a fruit or vegetable at breakfast,” Jenkins said. “The lunch is a milk, a grain, meat, a vegetable and a fruit, and then the snack is just two of the two items. We try to tell them don’t do milk because it raises their costs because they don’t get reimbursed that much.”

The CCFP currently sponsors 17 day-care homes and 11 day-care centers across multiple counties in Arkansas, according to Jenkins.

Jenkins said, in addition to other responsibilities, the program visits the facilities once every two to three months to observe a meal in order to ensure the institutions are actually delivering on their end of the arrangement.

Jenkins said the program is important because the reimbursements help the day-care homes and centers run their businesses more efficiently by reducing their out-of-pocket expenses.

Home Ownership

A more diverse program offered by C-SCDC is its Home Ownership and Asset Development program.

One aspect of it is its Mutual Self Help Housing Program, which the C-SCDC website states helps families and individuals work together to build new homes. Clients save on contractor costs by providing sweat equity. Clients move into their homes with an average of $10,000 to $20,000 equity.

“So with the self-help program, (clients) come in, they get to pick everything that they want to have in their house,” Administrative Assistant Becky Denton said. “They pick out plans, and then they spend time in it working on that program, and they help paint walls, they do caulking, they keep the site cleaned up while it’s under construction, they help with insulation, all kinds of things. ...”

The homes can be built in Franklin, Crawford and Sebastian counties with the exception of Fort Smith and Barling, the website states.

Karen Phillips, the director of Home Ownership and Asset Development, said the program also offers some housing counseling programs and classes.

“We don’t just put someone into a house,” Phillips said. “We want to make sure that they can stay there long term, so sustainability, and making sure they ... have a house they can afford and still be able to pay for child care and groceries and all of those very important things.”

Other services offered by Home Ownership and Asset Development, according to the C-SCDC website, include down payment and closing cost assistance and owner occupied housing rehab. Baker said the program also completed construction on Stonebrook Park in Van Buren, a subdivision of rental homes, in March. Phase II of the project, the building of duplexes, will begin after August, contingent on funding approval.

Homelessness Emergency Grant

Those suffering from homelessness can apply for assistance through the C-SCDC Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) program. The C-SCDC website states the grant provides financial assistance and services to help those experiencing homelessness be quickly rehoused and stabilized.

“Potential assistance includes short-term rental assistance, housing relocation and stabilization services such as budgeting classes, utility payment assistance, assistance in job searches and case management,” the website states.

The rapid rehousing assistance part of the program is available for those who are homeless under the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s definition of the word, the website states. Those who meet the criteria, along with the minimum requirements, are eligible.

The website states the other part of the program is called homelessness prevention, which provides temporary financial assistance, as well as housing relocation and stabilization services, to those facing eviction and who would be homeless without this assistance. However, the tenant must have been served with a legal eviction notice.

The ESG program is available to residents in Crawford, Sebastian, Polk, Logan, Franklin and Scott counties, the website states. Clients must meet the income requirement of 30 percent area median income.

Dental Clinic

Located at 3428 Armour St., the C-SCDC Community Dental Clinic is dedicated to helping low-income residents of Sebastian and Crawford counties who cannot afford to go to the dentist, the website states. Lisa Woodard, the clinic office manager, said the program currently provides tooth extraction clinics and a few filling clinics. The program will restart its denture clinics again on Monday after being unavailable beginning in April.

″... Our doctor was on sabbatical for a little bit, taking a vacation, and so now we’re getting ready to start back up,” Woodard said.

All the doctors at the clinic are volunteers, Woodard said, and many of them take vacation time in the summer.

The clinic also currently conducts what it calls its “Tooth Fairy Program.” Registered Dental Assistant Jessica Weindel said she goes out to preschools and elementary schools, and teaches students how to brush their teeth. She also brings them tooth brushes, reads them stories about brushing their teeth and asks them questions.

Woodard said the dental clinic will start its hygiene department at the beginning of next year. Cleanings will be carried out by hygiene students from the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith.

On the subject of saving low-income residents money through energy efficiency, C-SCDC offers a Weatherization Assistance Program. Debbie Biggs, the weatherization director, said the program has certified energy auditors who go out and thoroughly go through a client’s home, collecting data on everything in and about it. When they return, they run that data through software, which calculates energy efficiency measures to install in that home.

“It creates a report, and basically it tells us what to do,” Biggs said.

The C-SCDC website states the program provides, among other improvements, weather stripping of doors and windows; caulking and sealing of cracks and holes; insulating of attics, walls and floors; installing of storm windows, energy-saving light bulbs, and smoke and carbon monoxide detectors; repairing and retrofitting of furnaces, and replacing energy-wasting refrigerators and electric water heaters.

Biggs said the year-round program typically weatherizes around 150 units a program year across 10 counties. The website states this includes Benton, Carroll, Crawford, Franklin, Johnson, Logan, Madison, Scott, Sebastian and Washington counties.

“Quarterly, we send out surveys, and we have had reports from people,” Biggs said. “I would say, on average, that we cut heating and cooling costs 30 to 50 percent for these people, but we have had some people say that it’s been like 60 percent. It just depends on the home, how inefficient it was. ...”

For more information about these programs, visit the C-SCDC website or contact the organization at (479) 785-2303.