LUMBERTON — A one-stop shop to assist Hurricane Matthew victims in their recovery efforts will be open and fully operational by July 10 in Lumberton.
The Robeson County Outreach Center will be located at 301 N. Water St., Dawn Gavasci, a program manager for the Robeson County Department of Social Services, told DSS directors Tuesday. The center will offer services and referrals to hurricane victims needing assistance with such issues as housing, construction, rental assistance and mental disorders, such as depression. North Carolina Emergency Management staff, counselors and case managers with Robeson County’s long-term disaster recovery committee, and disaster case managers with Lutheran Family Services will be among those working out of the center.
Gavasci, who has been working to relocate families left homeless by Hurricane Matthew, told the directors that out of 46 families still being housed in hotels statewide, 31 are in Robeson County. Seventeen of those families are from First Baptist Homes and will soon be out of hotels and returning to their newly renovated homes. The other 14 are homeowners and more difficult to help.
“We’re trying to find ways to help these people,” said Gavasci. “If they are already paying mortgages they can’t also afford to pay rent.”
Board members also were updated by Sandra Cox, a DSS program manager, concerning energy assistance programs available to eligible Robeson County residents. Cox said an effort is being made to get the word out in the community that these programs are available.
“We want to make sure everyone is aware that these programs exist,” Cox said. “I don’t know why, but people just aren’t coming in and using these programs. We haven’t used all of our yearly allotments on these programs for the past several years.”
According to Cox, the Crisis Intervention Program runs from July 1 to June 30, and provides financial help to households that are in a heating or cooling-related emergency. To be eligible for assistance under this program, a household must meet an income test, be in a heating or cooling-related emergency, and include a U.S. citizen or an eligible alien.
“There is a maximum of $600 that a household can receive each year,” Cox said. “Also, if there is an American Indian 18 or older in the household the funds must be applied for at the Lumbee tribal office.”
Although it is still too early in the year to apply for funds from the North Carolina Low Income Energy Assistance Program, this is another program that needs to be brought to the attention of county residents, Cox told the DSS directors. Applications will be accepted Dec. 1 through Dec. 31 from households with a member who is receiving services through the Division of Aging and Adult Services or includes a member age 60 and older. Funds will be distributed throughout December or until the funds are exhausted. Applications will be accepted from all households from Jan. 1 through March 31, or until funds are exhausted.
To be eligible for assistance, the household meet an income test; the household must be responsible for its heating bills; the household can’t have resources over $2,250; and the household must include a U.S. citizen or an eligible alien.
In other business, the DSS board presented outgoing member Alfred Bryant a plaque in recognition of his years of service on the board. Bryant served six years, the maximum number allowed.
Bob Shiles can be reached at 910-4165.