Outreach to study ideas, data for self-sufficiency programs

Published 6:00 pm Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Thermal Belt Outreach Ministry has been a Polk County crisis aid organization for 25 years, helping low income residents with their basic life needs. We are often asked if we should be incorporating self-sufficiency programs to help break the multi-generational cycle of poverty. Ideas like job training, educational classes, and housing incentives could help those in poverty help themselves, say some advocates.

In order to consider new programming, the Outreach board wants to ensure all initiatives are based upon justified need and can be funded over the long term. So, as we begin to plan for the next 25 years, we are determined to listen to our clients and to collect quality data. As such, we are in the process of rolling out a client survey and implementing a new client database.

While these efforts will provide our community with more accurate data, we would like to go one step further and form a client advisory committee to directly involve those in need. Not only will we hear directly about what the problems are, but also what are potential solutions. We often have these discussions within the advocacy community, but we rarely have direct engagement with the client community outside of the intake interview.

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If low-income residents have the opportunity to be involved with planning programs and services, will they be more likely to participate in proposed solutions? If one is being asked to “pull themselves up by their bootstraps,” should they not have a say in the kind of boots they will wear? We hypothesize that an inclusive approach to planning for the next 25 years will lead to improved outcomes for our agency as a whole. Stay tuned.

Up next for Outreach is our 2016 school supply distribution on Saturday, August 6 from 11 a.m. –1 p.m. at Polk County High School. If you would like to help support this program, please contact Michelle Reedy at 828-894-2988. To donate or learn more about our mission and programs, please visit us online at www.tboutreach.org.