United Way funding helps family turn utilities on

A single mother of three began having financial trouble after her long-time place of employment shut its doors unexpectedly last year. She struggled to find a job, finally settling on a part-time position until she could find something more permanent. Her inconsistent hours made it difficult to pay bills, especially once she’d gotten behind. She turned to the Social Services program at the Salvation Army, which receives United Way funding, for help. She only requested help with her gas bill, but after going over her pay stubs and budget, the caseworker determined that she would also be unable to pay her light bill. The woman said she planned to borrow money from family to cover that bill.

“The family was assisted with all of the gas bill with the exception of the deposit required to turn on the utility,” her Salvation Army caseworker said. “We also paid the electric bill so she would not have to worry about paying family members for past bills along with the current bills.”

The Social Services program at Salvation Army helps families who have gotten behind on their rent or utilities get caught up to enable them to safely stay in their homes. Thanks in part to United Way funding, 343 households received utility assistance and 74 households received rent assistance last year. Salvation Army caseworkers also helped 1,044 households prepare a budget to alleviate financial trouble. The Salvation Army Social Services program receives United Way funding as part of United Way’s focus on financial stability. United Way fights for the health, education and financial stability of every person in our community. Twenty-nine percent of United Way allocated dollars goes to programs making a difference in the area of financial stability.

“Funding provided by the Bartlesville Regional United Way allows The Salvation Army to further leverage our ability to assist Washington and Osage county families in need,” Veronica Gomez of the Salvation Army said. “The UW allows us to provide more assistance to at-risk families so they can remain in a habitable home. If a family becomes homeless, it will cost an average of $5,000 to get back in a home versus a few hundred to remain in the home. Together, we prevent families from becoming homeless, which is more cost effective for the community. The UW is a vital part of our social services dynamic; without them, we would not be as effective.”

Many Washington County families struggle to make ends meet. According to the 2015 Community Profile commissioned by the Bartlesville Regional United Way, a family of three in Washington County needs to make $32,527 ($15.40 an hour) to be self-sufficient, which means meeting needs such as food, clothing and shelter while not receiving any government or private assistance. Thirty-four percent of the families in Washington County and 40 percent of families in Nowata County make less than the self-sufficiency wage, according to the United Way study.

“By providing help for those struggling families, United Way is helping them build a stronger financial future,” Marketing Manager Abigail Singrey said. “Once they get behind on bills, it can be very hard to catch up, so programs like the Social Services at Salvation Army are crucial to ensure that families can stay housed and have basic necessities like water and power.”