Throughout May, the spirit of Community Action will come alive in Central Missouri as Central Missouri Community Action (CMCA) joins Community Action Agencies across the country to celebrate National Community Action Month.
National Community Action Month highlights Community Action Agencies' work to establish economic security on the local level. CMCA utilizes a Transformational Plan to guide its service delivery. The Transformational Plan creates a multi-faceted approach that follows the continuum of human development by engaging the community to assure all people's basic needs are met, ensuring there are opportunities for lifelong learning, personal and community assets are plentiful and relationships exist across race and class lines.
In the area of basic needs, CMCA offers support to stabilize the immediate crisis of poverty. By offering assistance with housing, energy and serving as a resource for information and referral, Central Missourians struggling to make ends meet are better able to meet their basic needs.
CMCA provides information and referral, housing support, energy assistance and emergency services to assure those in need have their basic needs met. Comprehensive case management is offered to assure individuals and families have access to community resources to meet their basic needs.
Recent information reveals the number of people forced to turn to public assistance to meet their needs has reached record highs every month since December 2008. Experts also estimate that only one in three people eligible actually participate. This trend has proven true at CMCA, with nearly 10,000 people requesting assistance with their utility bills in the winter season, an increase of 525 families in the Central Missouri area.
"Many people are asking for help that have never had to before," Darin Preis, Executive Director of CMCA, said. "We've found that many of the people that are approaching us for the first time have come to us as a last resort. They are in extremely dire circumstances, running out of savings and running out of options."
As a result of this increased demand for services, CMCA has initiated projects to meet the increased need including the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP). This program was initiated through the Department of Social Services in partnership with County Commissions in Central Missouri to prevent eviction and secure housing for people that are facing homelessness. In 2010, CMCA services prevented eviction and secured housing for more than 100 individuals and families that would have otherwise been without housing.
One participant said, "my family and I now have a safe home of our very own. It did not come without a price, a price I would have never come up with on my own. Once my housing was stable, I became employed. Now, my children and I work, sleep and play better than we have for a long time."
In May, Central Missouri Community Action will be celebrating National Community Action Awareness Month and sharing the message of the change and hope programs like this have for individuals and families in Central Missouri.
On May 21, a culminating event will be held to bring together stakeholders, community members and participants. Riding Out Poverty will be held on the MKT and Katy Trails in Columbia. This event is in its third year and provides an opportunity for people throughout the eight county area to show their support for economic recovery. This year, CMCA has partnered with PedNet to include the event in the City of Columbia's Bike, Walk and Wheel Week. CMCA will utilize funds raised from Riding Out Poverty to support its mission and develop resources that transform communities into places where people can be free from living within the confines of financial crisis, to places that hold the endless potential of prosperity. Information can be found at www.ridingoutpoverty.org or by contacting Trina Almond at (573) 443-8706 (extention1071).