Help available for winter heating costs

Laura McPhee

With high fuel prices expected to drive home heating costs through the roof this winter, many Indiana families are in need of assistance to keep the heat on. Those who qualify based on income can receive between $100 and $300 to help pay high heating bills.

Indiana's Energy Assistance Program provides financial assistance to low-income households to maintain utility services during the winter heating season. During cold winter months, this program helps prevent utility companies from shutting off home heating service to low-income families. During hot summer months, the Energy Assistance Program provides limited funds for the purchase of fans, distributed at the local level.

Households with income at or below 125 percent of the poverty guidelines are eligible to receive benefits from this program. The Energy Assistance Program usually begins in November of each heating season and now ends on May 31, unless funds are depleted sooner. Benefits are provided on a first come, first serve basis. This is not an entitlement program.

To sign up for the Energy Assistance Program, or for information about weatherization assistance, housing services, emergency shelter and other community services and outreach programs, contact

Community Action of Greater Indianapolis, Inc. (CAGI)

2445 N. Meridian St.

Indianapolis, IN 46208

317-396-1800

Indiana Community Action Association (INCAA)

1845 W. 18th St.

Indianapolis, IN 46202-1015

317-638-4232 or 1-800-382-9895

Program needs volunteers

Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson launched Indy Homeless Connect last week, a new initiative aimed at connecting homeless residents with a myriad of supportive services and getting more citizens and businesses engaged in homelessness issues.

Modeled after a nationally renowned program in San Francisco, Indy Homeless Connect is an outgrowth of the city's Blueprint to End Homelessness that will bring together several core services for the homeless into one location.

These services include medical care, food, mental health counseling, vision care, legal advice and housing assistance, as well as non-essential, add-on services like free phone calls, massages, a book give-away and haircuts. This care and outreach will be provided with the direct help of many homeless service providers, additional corporate participation and hundreds of volunteers.

The inaugural Indy Homeless Connect event is set for Dec. 13 at the Indiana Convention Center from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Event planners expect to serve at least 750 homeless residents that day with the help of up to 700-plus volunteers and service providers.

"This past September, Indianapolis and communities across the country came together in an unprecedented fashion to aid the thousands of victims left homeless in the aftermath of Katrina," Peterson said. "After seeing the tremendous results of this relief effort, I am convinced that we as a community can and will do more to help the homeless and those in housing crisis within our own neighborhoods.

"Indy Homeless Connect is more than a single day of outreach and service," Peterson said. "It's about getting the Indianapolis community - from residents to corporations - to make a commitment to being part of the long-term solutions to homelessness."

To that end, the mayor announced that two local companies have stepped up to make the first corporate donations to the Indianapolis Housing Trust Fund, a public account dedicated to expanding affordable housing opportunities for low-income households.

Last week's announcement marks the kickoff of a large-scale, volunteer recruitment effort by event planners to sign up hundreds of volunteers and attract more corporate sponsorship. As part of this outreach effort, the Indy Homeless Connect Web site allows residents and businesses to access information on the event, sign up to volunteer, make donations to the Housing Trust Fund and contribute in-kind services or donations for the Dec. 13 Indy Connect event.

The Indy Homeless Connect initiative is being led by the Coalition for Homelessness Intervention and Prevention in collaboration with a number of local service providers and the City of Indianapolis. For more information, contact Justin Ohlemiller, 317-327-6709, or visit www.indyhomelessconnect.com.

Lilly helps Red Cross

Lilly Endowment Inc., a supporter of the American National Red Cross, announced a $1 million grant to the American Red Cross of Greater Indianapolis recently to support relief operations for catastrophic disasters throughout Indiana, such as the Southern Indiana tornado. This follows an earlier grant of $10 million to the American Red Cross to support relief efforts in the Gulf Coast area after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based, private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by three members of the Lilly family to support the causes of community development, education and religion.

"This un-seasonal Southern Indiana tornado reminds us that disasters are often unpredictable. With this generous grant from Lilly Endowment, the American Red Cross of Greater Indianapolis will create and administer a statewide relief fund that will be a resource for current and future catastrophic disaster operations," said John Lyter, chief executive officer of the Greater Indianapolis Red Cross.

Lyter continued, "This fund will enable Red Cross chapters throughout Indiana to be ready and respond immediately to events like floods and tornadoes that affect large numbers of people here in our communities."

To help those affected by this devastating tornado, the American Red Cross immediately opened emergency shelters in Warrick and Vanderburg counties and initiated mobile and fixed site feeding operations in coordination with the Salvation Army.

In the days and weeks that followed, the Red Cross deployed 228 trained disaster relief workers, including caseworkers, mental health/stress management counselors, logistics managers and operations workers; provided more than 7,000 meals and snacks or about 1,500 meals per day; provided shelter to five families and has made contact with all of the other families who have located to either temporary or immediate housing; met with more than 150 families to provide emergency assistance; and provided basic first aid for physical injuries and stress related trauma.

The American Red Cross is the only non-government organization with mandated responsibilities under the National Response Plan. As part of a network of more than 800 Red Cross chapters nationwide, the Greater Indianapolis Red Cross mobilizes its trained volunteers and employees to assist on large-scale disaster relief operations throughout Indiana and around the United States. Local workers lend their expertise and hone their skills in various disaster response functions as they collaborate with thousands of trained Red Cross disaster workers from around the country to provide care and comfort to those affected by major hurricanes, earthquakes, wildfires, floods, aviation and man-made disasters.

The Greater Indianapolis Red Cross also manages one of the busiest National Disaster Warehouses in the country and operates one of 15 National Response Centers throughout the country that answers calls from individuals in disaster-affected areas who need assistance. Learn more about the American Red Cross of Greater Indianapolis at www.indyredcross.org.

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