At the Help Empower Local People (H.E.L.P.) Center, St. Vincent’s operates 7 buildings all within 1 block of the center, making it central to its overall operations. The location of the former library to its campus allows easy access to its Thrift store, two emergency shelters, transitional housing, Harger House, and warehouse. In all, 19 agencies provide 25 programs in the former library building.
It’s essentially no cost to the city. Because St. Vincent de Paul is paying utilities and maintenance, the city no longer has to.
Jeff Conroy, Executive Director of St. Vincent de Paul said, “It really has become that “one-stop” place. People know to come here if they are in need.”
Conroy explained that when they opened in 2009, the economy hadn’t hit bottom yet. Once it did, some state agencies that had been working with the homeless had their funding cut and left the center. Many non-profits have come in to fill the gap. Conroy also recognizes the support provided by grants.
One recent grant provided funds to keep people from becoming homeless. “This grant alone kept 1,200 people from losing their homes or apartments,” said Conroy. The grant works like this: if a tenant receives an eviction notice because he is three months behind on rent, because he cannot pay a utility bill (which is often a requirement of a lease), or if he cannot meet this month’s rent, St. Vincent de Paul will work with the tenant to manage expenses.
Often, if one member of a couple loses his or her job, expenses that used to be affordable begin to pile up. Soon, even the rent or lease payment is overwhelming. “We’ll work with the landlord,” said Conroy, adding, “We pay back the debt and help tenants with a finance plan.”
To qualify for this specific grant program, tenants must agree to attend education programs to help them better understand personal finances and money management. Conroy said that once these folks are tapped into St. Vincent de Paul, they usually discover other benefits and programs for which they already qualify.
As Conroy emphasizes, “The 10-Year plan is to end Homelessness,” adding, “We’re a step ahead if we can keep it from happening.”
The H.E.L.P. Center is located at 201 E. Harrison Avenue.