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Annual Catholic Appeal ensures Casa San Francisco reaches those in need

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MILTON – Casa San Francisco’s Basic Needs staff doesn’t want its clients to come back.

But don’t think the workers at the Catholic Charities agency are cold-hearted. What they want is a holistic approach that leaves each client better equipped to cope with life, so they do not have to return.

“We address what it is that causes you to be in this situation,” said Alan Southard, Sussex Services manager for Catholic Charities. “We’re trying to fix not only a [momentary] problem but the person.”

Casa San Francisco concentrates on three areas – housing, income issues, and wellness – so it can help each person develop a holistic approach to individual challenges while providing basic needs. That range includes homeless prevention and finding new housing, energy assistance, food programs, counseling and addiction services.

Jennifer Parsons (right) helps a Casa San Francisco resident with bedding during a recent visit to the center. (Bud Keegan Images)

The Annual Catholic Appeal helps Catholic Charities provide those services not only in Sussex County, but also New Castle and Kent counties in Delaware and Somerset County in Maryland.

Theme for this year’s Appeal is “Disciples of Christ, Witnesses to Faith.” Catholic Charities’ Basic Needs program helps Catholics in the pew to be Christ-like in reaching out to those who are in need even if they are not able to provide that assistance in person.

This year’s goal of $4,681,500 will help fund Catholic Charities, one of more than 35 ministries and agencies supported by the Appeal. Catholics will be asked to pledge or donate to the 2018 Annual Catholic Appeal at Mass the weekend of April 14-15.

Casa San Francisco provides on-site Basic Needs programs such as homeless prevention and rapid rehousing services, food assistance, and case management, which helps people one-on-one to develop financial management skills. It also provides thrift services through the Catholic Charities’ Thrift Store in Wilmington.

In fiscal year 2017, Casa San Francisco helped 61 households with homeless prevention or rapid rehousing with assistance totaling more than $35,000; worked with 1,414 households on case management; and had 4,728 household visits for the food cooperative while helping 535 households with emergency food, with assistance for both totaling more than $207,000.

Sussex is one of four counties where Catholic Charities provides those direct services. The others are New Castle and Kent counties in Delaware and in Somerset County, Md. Overall last year, Catholic Charities helped 660 households with homeless prevention or rapid rehousing, with more than $417,000 in assistance; provided case management services to almost 9,000 households; and had 6,108 household visits to the food pantry and 2,089 to emergency food pantries with assistance totaling almost $317,500.

Casa San Francisco staff can also refer people to Catholic Charities counseling and addiction services, weatherization and Energy Assistance programs, and other services that, combined with basic needs, help to meet the client’s needs.

Southard cited as one example people on fixed incomes who, because of weather conditions, see a sharp rise in utility bills. “They have to choose between food, medicine or heat.” While they might come for emergency food assistance, Casa San Francisco staff may refer them to the weatherization or Energy Assistance programs in addition to meeting the immediate crisis.

“There’s so many ways we can help,” said Jennifer Parsons, Basic Needs manager for Sussex County. “It’s one-stop shopping.”

For example, she might help a client in the Rapid Rehousing Program find a place to live but then realize they do not have adequate home furnishing. She can provide a voucher to the Catholic Charities Thrift Store in Wilmington, which can also help with delivery. “We make sure they get what they need. We can’t just house them and drop them. I help them any way I can.”

As Parsons works with people on housing issues or provides case management services such as budgeting and banking services, she may discover they are eligible for other programs such as Social Security supplemental and disability income, SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) assistance, and the emergency food pantry and food cooperative operated by Catholic Charities.

Desiree Downs, food program supervisor, also looks to see if Catholic Charities can assist her clients in other ways. Should a person come requesting emergency food assistance, she may learn what led the person to come to Casa San Francisco; if she thinks another Catholic Charities’ program can offer assistance, she will refer them.

The food cooperative has more than 500 households registered, with between 350 and 430 participating each month. Between 40 and 60 people come to the emergency pantry each month.

Downs also oversees a senior nutrition program through Delaware Food Bank and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The cooperative, which has income guidelines, provides food valued at $45 monthly to members who pay a $5 monthly membership. Downs provides the food at 10 sites in Sussex County and at the Kent County Catholic Charities office in Camden.

The emergency pantry, which is only at Casa San Francisco, provides a bag of mostly non-perishable groceries for three meals a day over a three-day period.

All the services provided by Casa San Francisco to its clients keeps Parsons coming back to work. “To me, it’s about helping others.”

“Catholic Charities is so giving; we can help people in so many ways.”

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