Community Services Division
WELCOME TO COMMUNITY ACTION !
The Human Services Department serves as the Community Action Agency for Winnebago and Boone Counties – one of the nearly 1,000 Community Action Agencies throughout the country working to create opportunities for people facing the challenges related to the effects of poverty. As the Community Services Division, we work to improve the conditions in which people live, support self-sufficiency, and help to form strong and healthy individuals, families, neighborhoods and communities.
Community Services offers programs in Housing, Community Health and Prevention, Energy and Emergency Services. Programs can change depending on community need, available funds and may be seasonal. See the menu on the left to learn more about these programs.
ARE YOU BEHIND ON YOUR ELECTRIC BILL BECAUSE OF A RECENT HARDSHIP? Beginning January 2, 2018, ComEd will again offer their Residential Hardship Program at our office which can provide up to $500 on the electric bills of eligible residents of Winnebago and Boone Counties who can document a recent hardship. Click on the Media Release and program info below to learn how to apply.
SAVE ON YOUR ENERGY BILLS! LIHEAP (Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program) can pay a one-time benefit (DVP) directly to your energy companies for you, or directly to eligible renters if all energy costs are included in your rent. You may also have the option of signing up for PIPP at your LIHEAP appointment – PIPP is a monthly budget plan where if you make your payments on time, it will forgive a portion of your past due balances. Click here for application information! (LIHEAP ends May 31 and will start up again in the fall) 2018 LIHEAP information
FREE TRAINING FOR IN-DEMAND JOBS! If you are income qualified and have a high school diploma or GED, you may be eligible to receive FREE TUITION for COLD FORMING or COMPUTER NUMERICAN CONROL (CNC) training – or for a training of your choice that meets our criteria. Click here for more information. Cold Forming Training
BASSET TRAINING AVAILABLE FOR ALCOHOL SELLERS/SERVERS! The Illinois Liquor Control Commission (ILCC) mandates that all sellers and servers of alcohol in Winnebago County be certified through the Beverage Alcohol Sellers and Servers Education and Training program (BASSET) to meet state licensing requirements. Area merchants and their employees can meet this requirement by participating in BASSET training through Community Action. Call Delicia Harris at 779-348-7573 for more information.
HUD’s CONTINUUM OF CARE PROGRAM , a community-wide commitment to ending homelessness, provides funding for efforts by nonprofit providers and governments to quickly re-house homeless residents to minimize trauma and dislocation; promote access to and effective utilization of mainstream programs; and optimize self-sufficiency among those experiencing homelessness. Our office serves as the Single Point of Entry (SPOE) where homeless living in a place not meant for human habitation in Winnebago and Boone Counties can be assessed and offered the best and quickest housing solution and related services appropriate for their needs. Our office also coordinates the application to HUD for CoC funding that enters our community plus administers the awarded grants. For more information on the community’s efforts and successes to end homelessness, go to Rock River Homeless Coalition
Community Action – in ACTION !
Rockford Wins Merits on Ending Homelessness
In 2015, Rockford became one of 75 cities that participated in Zero: 2016, a challenge to communities to end homelessness among veterans. Community Action led the local effort, forging partnerships with the U.S. Dept. of Veteran Affairs, Winnebago County Veterans Assistance Center, the Illinois Department of Employment Security, Rosecrance Ware Center, and the Carpenter’s Place, among others, to develop a systematic and aggressive approach to address this issue. This led to Rockford being named the first community to reach the goal of functional zero homeless veterans by the start of 2016. “Functional Zero” is reached when the number of homeless, whether sheltered or unsheltered, is no greater than the monthly housing placement rate for homeless.
“Ensuring every person has a safe, stable place to call home takes teamwork and dedication at every level,” said U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Julián Castro in 2015. “Rockford stepped up to this challenge and today has every reason to celebrate its achievement in effectively ending Veterans Homelessness.”
Since then, Rockford has continued to lead the country in its successful efforts in addressing Veteran homelessness, as well as Chronic and Youth homelessness, through the leadership efforts of Community Action. In 2017, Rockford was recognized as successfully ending Chronic homelessness by the U.S. Interagency on Homelessness and the Department of Housing and Urban Development – and again achieved functional zero in Veteran homelessness.
Because of these successes, our local Community Action has received national attention as implementing model homelessness reduction programming. Staff has been invited to speak across the country regarding its approach – including a conference call requested by Canadian agencies wanting to learn more. For more information, contact Angie Walker, Housing Advocate, at 779-348-7567 or Jennifer Jaeger, Community Services Director, at 779-348-7565.
Barber-Colman Project 100 Provided Needed Facelift Plus Job Skills for Ex-Offenders
In 2015, Community Action administered Project 100, a program that gave 19 hard-to-employee ex-offenders, two of whom were homeless, a chance to learn new skills and use them in removing years of debris and materials from the 100-year-old Barber-Colman factory complex on Rock Street in Rockford. The participants received certifications in asbestos removal, lead paint abatement, and gained new skills such as operating a skid loader and other deconstruction practices, and also recycled and repurposed found materials. The results were beyond the tangible product – hard work, responsibility, new learning, group support and the opportunity to create something of value led to the program’s success – for everyone involved.
An exciting opportunity is now in the works to further improve this area by transforming the Barber-Colman complex into Rock Valley College’s new manufacturing campus as well as space for industrial and commercial development.
Learn more about Project 100 here! https://vimeo.com/161833744
Community Action Loan Helps Rockford Roasting Brew Success
In 2017, Food Network magazine named Rockford Roasting Company as one of Food Star Alton Brown’s top 8 coffee shops in the U.S. The brew café has been roasting and serving high quality coffee since 2014 at their successful 206 N. Main location in downtown Rockford. “They’re genuinely educated about their profession and are using parts of the bean (cascara) that I’ve never heard of before for iced teas,” said Brown, who hosted an event at the Coronado in April and visited the shop while here.
Rockford Roasting was able to launch their business with a loan from Community Action/CSBG Small Business Loan Program. Geared to stimulate the economy and grow jobs, the CSBG SBL program offered market rate loans for business expansion and start-up which resulted in the hiring of low-income persons.
Successful Urban Garden Started with Community Action Funds
In 2013, Ken Yatte Moore was unemployed and rarely ate vegetables, but a community garden helped him change both. Today, Moore, now 40 pounds lighter, works full-time managing the Blackhawk Courts Farms and Garden. This Urban Agriculture Project is a half-acre urban farm nestled in the midst of a Rockford Housing Authority public housing site. Started in 2010 with “seed” money provided by the Community Action Community Gardens program, the program is now a partnership with Angelic Organics, Zion Outreach and the Rockford Housing Authority and provides summer jobs, learning experiences, healthy eating habits and sells freshly grown produce to the community. Receiving a National Award of Merit from the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials for Program Innovation in 2017, the program demonstrates a locally initiated and implemented solution that addresses community needs and opportunities with creativity, cooperation and innovation.
“I like that I am helping people while helping the environment. I am lessening the energy burden for the client and the world one house at a time…” Learn more about our Weatherization Specialist, Rukia Streeter, who was recently featured in the State of Poverty/National Association for State Community Services Program’s blog.
“It’s definitely such a valuable resource to us, so we do everything we can to keep it,” said Camp Winnebago Assistant Program Director Jessica Dobson…..(two kids) don’t know what the other kid is going through…there’s the added security of “I don’t need to worry about my friends making fun of me for not having food.”
“It was eye opening… Even though I work with people in poverty every day, this made it even clearer how much more complicated the road blocks can be – and more and more often out of the people’s control…” Michelle Lindstedt, Community Action Staff
Community Action helped coordinate a response to the needs of the residents involved in the Jackson Street Apartment Fire Belvidere fire.
“Cling to the people who want to see you make it and who really believe in you ” – Tony Frazier, a formerly homeless youth who found assistance through Community Action.