Take Charge Thursday: Heating Assistance

Those chilly temperatures certainly have many of people in Michiana turning up the heat.

That's why this week’s Take Charge Thursday is all about helping those get the assistance they need to pay their heating bills this winter.

There are several agencies that can point you in the right direction to different programs offered to suit your needs.

Real Services helps thousands of people in five counties every year with federal funds.

The program helps families at or below 150 percent of the poverty guideline. For a household of four that's an income of 35 thousand dollars.

One large lump sum is paid towards a family's heating bill for five months.

Last year Real Services helped out more than 10 thousand families in the five county area, six thousand of them were in St. Joseph County.

At Stone Soup Community they are gearing up to help people out with their heating assistance program.

They are one of three agencies that take applications for a program called Team Heat.

It's a local program sponsored by an anonymous donor. Every month 50 dollars is matched when a person pays 50 dollars for their heating bill. The family is also required to take a financial literacy class.

It can help people that nearly make the cut for federal assistance yet still need help.

“If they wasn't around I would be in a lot of trouble because at that time I didn't have enough money to pay my utilities to buy food and the house note and stuff like that,” says Pat Rencher, who qualified for Team Heat yet not federal assistance. “So when it came into play, I paid a certain amount and they paid a certain amount. It carried me through the winter.”

Last year more than two hundred families were helped out with the Team Heat program. It’s a minority compared to the number of people who receive assistance with Real Services. However Team Heat is designed to help families eventually become self-sufficient with budgeting classes.

“I would say Team Heat helps those that qualify for federal assistance that are so far below the poverty level that they need that other piece to go with the puzzle and then that Team Heat is also there to help fill in the gap for those that don't qualify for the federal program too,” says Dawn Chapla from United Way of St. Joseph County. “It's another program in the community that helps people that are still in need of help.”
Families that apply for Team Heat must apply for assistance from Real Services first before they can be considered.

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