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With the winter season upon us, a solid plan is necessary to best help those in need. My staff and I have been actively involved in this years planning process within our office as well as in the community. The Fort Wayne area has seen a substantial increase in those families needing assistance to make it through the difficult cold weather months.

For the third year in a row, Wayne Township has partnered with CANI (Community Action of Northeast Indiana, Inc.) to help enroll our clients who are also eligible for LIHEAP (Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program) dollars. This partnership helps Wayne Township clients because they can enroll at our office while seeking other assistance, and it benefits CANI by reducing the number of applicants at their enrollment sites to those only needing LIHEAP assistance. The program targets low-income households that are below 125% of the federal poverty guidelines with their heating bills during the winter months.

Recent reports that funding for LIHEAP in the Fort Wayne area were exhausted were accurate. The program got a boost of an additional four million dollars for the State of Indiana as I wrote this article. Unfortunately, the local additional funding will only translate into about one additional week of assistance through the program. It seems as though this years funding is being depleted in record time, but with cost per unit of energy up and the extremely cold temperatures it couldn't have lasted nearly as long as in the past. When the last LIHEAP dollars are gone, residents can look to Catholic Charities Gift of Warmth (422-5625), and the Township Offices.

We have again expanded the standard income guidelines for Wayne Township assistance of 100% to 125% from November 1 through April 2, to echo those of LIHEAP. This will allow us to help many citizens who wouldn't ordinarily be eligible for Township aid that are severely affected during emergency conditions. These expanded guidelines primarily help seniors on a fixed income and the working indigent. Although this would appear to cost the taxpaying residents of Wayne Township more, it actually saves them by allowing those working at or near minimum wage to maintain their employment and receive a small amount of assistance to make up the difference increased winter conditions bring.

In October, Wayne Township once again held a Community Partnership Summit to address the critical problems of citizens living in poverty. This meeting was successful in establishing excellent communication of this year's problems among many social service providers. The focus of this years' summit centered around utility, and prescription drug assistance. I appreciate the collaborative efforts of all the participating agencies. We have seen a dramatic increase in the number of people seeking aid in this community over the last three years. Without the spirit of cooperation we would be unable to maximize the effectiveness of our resources.

You can be a valuable part of our plan; if you or someone you know may be in need of community resources, apply for assistance before a problem becomes a crisis. "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."


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