CCSC's Flex Room Expands Help for Clients in Crisis
Imagine you are a cancer survivor whose medical bills are causing financial stress. You need immediate help with food, but you also need help navigating the Medicaid system to receive follow-up medical care you can afford. If you turn to Christian Community Service Center and its supporters for help, you have chosen the right place.
CCSC’s Emergency Service program offers those in need food, clothing, hygiene products, rent and utility bill assistance, and limited emergency dental and medical vouchers. But it also offers them a wealth of knowledge about CCSC’s Workforce Development programs, Houston’s social services, and referrals to its many community partners. One of the most hands-on ways CCSC does this is by hosting partners on-site in its Flex Room, a space specifically designed to give CCSC visitors immediate access to the services its partners provide.
“We are humble enough and focused enough to know that CCSC cannot provide services for every possible human need,” Program Director Karen Holloman said. “Instead, we stay knowledgeable about other nonprofits with complementary offerings like healthcare, legal aid, and access to public assistance.
“Having partners onsite to offer those complementary services gives our clients an in-the-moment connection to those agencies,” Holloman added. “It’s a win-win-win that saves our clients time and travel expenses, provides partners direct access to new clients who need their services, and undergirds the work of CCSC.”
For Touria E. having Maria Garcia, a Certified Health Worker, on-site at CCSC to explain the requirements for obtaining a Harris Health Gold Card made a huge difference in her plan of action following colon cancer. “I felt comfortable with CCSC and with Maria. Maria explained everything so well,” Touria said. “She gave me a lot of time and attention. It helped.”
Striving to holistically help clients requires knowledge, but it also takes time, patience, attention to detail and respect.
“We take the time to talk to our clients, to get their stories, to find out their unmet needs so we can fill those needs,” Emergency Services-Central Program Manager Lydia Bias said. “When our partners are on-site, we are a one-stop shop for Medicaid, SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) and housing help.”
After visiting a CCSC interviewer, Iveth A. received food and clothing for her children from CCSC and signed up for additional summer food assistance with an agency partner. The mother of three was relieved to have found help for her family. “This has been great. Perfect. I’m very happy,” Iveth said. “We got the help, the clothes and food that we needed. It helps a lot and we are very thankful for y’all.”
Often clients are in such dire circumstances that they cannot think past their current emergency.
“Clients are stuck in crisis and bureaucracy,” volunteer interviewer Marcia Cooper said. “We listen and think ahead for them. We look at what they need now from us but also what they are going to need in the future to get them to a better place. Then we refer them.”
Another way that CCSC connects its clients with community partners is by inviting nonprofit agencies to share their resources at our Emergency Services-Southwest campus, especially during Food Fair events. At Food Fairs, partners can potentially reach 200-300 families to disseminate information on low-cost mammograms and other health screenings. Last year, The Ladies for Literacy Guild - Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation sent a Curiosity Cruiser to a Food Fair and gave away free books for children to build their home libraries and increase literacy.
Emergency Services Assistant Manager Rebekah Rivera has been interviewing Houstonians in need at CCSC since 2001 and believes that CCSC’s interview process is the key to helping clients in the most comprehensive way possible.
“What’s most important to our clients is knowing we are a faith-based organization and that we respect their dignity. This makes them feel safe to share their entire story. We aren’t just filling out forms, we are actively listening, which leads to questions and a greater understanding of their whole situation,” Rivera explained.
“People in crisis only see their immediate needs. It’s difficult for them to focus on the greater context, the bigger picture the way we can. They don’t know all the resources that are out there like we do,” Rivera added. “Having that knowledge and having community partners on-site helps us to help our clients more holistically. And that’s the goal.”
“This has been great. Perfect. I’m very happy. We got the help, the clothes and food that we needed. It helps a lot, and we are very thankful for y’all.”- Iveth A., Emergency Services-Central client