First-Time Grant Helps Fund Vital Positions Serving Homeport Residents
On any given day Homeport Service Coordinators Deqa Mahammed and Anna Riendeau are apprised of vital needs -- and fears -- of Homeport residents.
“I am the first person somebody talks to when they know they’ll go hungry in a couple of weeks, when they fear they might be in danger of losing their home, when they can’t take their children to the doctor because they don’t have medical insurance,” Mahammed said.
“We serve as a bridge for these residents, referring them to community resources, utilizing existing partnerships, and creating/providing programming to accommodate their needs, strengthen their communities, and ensure that they stay in their homes,” Mahammed said.
And that is why Homeport is very grateful to organizations supporting these critical positions -- most recently, the William J. and Dorothy K. O’Neill Foundation, based in Cleveland. The foundation in March gave Homeport a first-time gift of $20,000.
The O'Neill Foundation, founded in 1987 by Mrs. Dorothy K. O'Neill and her eldest son William J. O'Neill, Jr., is a private family foundation that partners with non-profits like Homeport.
“The O’Neill Foundation’s desire to improve the quality of lives for families and communities embodies Homeport’s mission to ‘create and preserve healthy, stable and affordable communities,’” said Debbie Catri, Homeport’s Director of Philanthropy Operations. “Service Coordination is a cornerstone to achieving that goal. But it doesn't happen without the support of organizations like The O’Neill Foundation.”
The need is growing.
In 2007, the initial year of Service Coordination, Homeport had 51 requests for services. In 2014, Homeport’s two full time Service Coordinators helped 623 residents a total of 2,617 times. The Service Coordinators split their time between 25 Homeport communities. They learn of needs from property management companies or directly from residents themselves.
Depending on the situation, Homeport’s Service Coordinators can link residents to a network of 50 agencies and organizations including Mid-Ohio Food Bank, Furniture Bank of Central Ohio, The Columbus Foundation, and IMPACT Community Action, to name a few. Residents can also be enrolled in Homeport's free Financial Fitness workshops.
“Sometimes I work with a resident who needs multiple services,” said Riendeau. “Recently I was speaking about a financial assistance program to a resident who needed rent and utility help. Then she started talking about wanting to go back to school as well as bettering her life and circumstances. At that point, I told her about an educational scholarship and our coaching program. I plan on following up with her about her goals.”