Five powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.
Matthews HELP Center’s goal is to help our neighbors survive financial crisis so they can ultimately reestablish financial stability and independence. Our objective for success is to provide short-term assistance (financial aid, food assistance, and financial coaching) that will prevent homelessness, stabilize the client’s life, and allow them to move toward self-sufficiency.
HELP stands for “Helping Ease Local Poverty”. Our customized crisis services are designed to assist and empower the working poor. This group, mostly working families, may not qualify for conventional assistance under government guidelines and is generally under served by other agencies. Our geographic service area, which surrounds our location in Matthews, NC, and spans parts of both Mecklenburg and Union counties, is home to approximately 200,000 people (53% are Charlotte residents). A large cross-section of clients benefit from our services within this localized and focused service area.
Since 1979, Matthews HELP Center has had very strong roots and a rich history of helping our local community. Over time, we have grown both in scope and volume, and today we have developed a proven service model supported by an array of programs and diverse funding sources. In the near-term, our agency will continue responding to the needs of our community through growth and refinement of our existing programs. Over the long-term, we must strategically assume an ever-larger role in the community in order to more effectively fulfill our mission and successfully serve those in need.
Matthews HELP Center recently revised our mission statement and reviewed all of our programs and services to ensure proper focus and mission alignment. This on-going refinement process is an important part of our strategic approach to preventing homelessness and establishing a sustainable future for our targeted clients. Our programs are primarily designed to stop the homelessness cycle before it starts. To do that, MHC must be flexible and agile enough to act preemptively -- before eviction occurs or utilities are disconnected, for example. This proactive strategy ultimately ensures that our services will have the greatest impact.
This strategy is implemented by providing short-term assistance to clients through our core services: financial crisis assistance, food pantry, and community referrals. While all of our clients are treated with exceptional warmth and respect, they are carefully screened by our social workers to ensure, as well, that funds are utilized efficiently and disbursed with integrity. Financial crisis assistance includes payment for basic needs such as rent, mortgage and utilities. Our food pantry helps meet the demand for people who need food during a crisis by providing one week’s worth of groceries to the household. Community referrals are given based on our database of resources that benefit clients’ needs that are beyond the scope of our service offerings.
Matthews HELP Center’s core services are augmented by other specifically targeted programs such as personal finance coaching, BounceBack Backpacks (weekend food for school children), clothing from our Thrift Shop, and Holiday Support initiatives.
Matthews HELP Center has a long history of helping those in need and enjoys an excellent reputation in the community. For FY 2014-15, our operating budget of $840,000 is supported by a paid staff of 10 and over 400 active weekly volunteers. Our volunteer support is truly an extraordinary resource, and many dedicated volunteers have been with us for many years!
Our organization is structured to be agile and respond quickly to changing needs. We are governed by a strong, connected board of directors, led by a seasoned executive director, and our dedicated staff includes professional social workers and other accomplished professionals.
Our program capabilities are supported by a sustainable funding model: Over 50% of MHC’s operating funds come from our own BackPorch Treasures (BPT) Thrift Shop. BPT is a popular local “institution” that receives exceptionally strong community support and participation. BPT sells donated items at very low prices, and it is a significant resource for low-income families in the area. The balance of our funding resources comes from community grants and partners, as well as individual donors. MHC currently receives no government or United Way funding.
MHC has an excellent client management system that maintains a detailed database of historical information on all client interviews and services that have been provided. This ensures that trends and progress for each client can be readily discerned, and that informed decisions are quickly made regarding appropriate course of action.
We regularly receive meaningful feedback from clients that is used to gauge the efficacy of our services; however, we do recognize the need for a more formal process to measure outcomes and results. In that regard, we are planning to develop an intern position that will conduct phone surveys and analyze client data. This information will help us better measure progress and success.
Matthews HELP Center has experienced dramatic growth driven by rising demand and population in our service area. In the past three years (FY09-10 to FY13-14), clients served have increased 36% (from 3181 to 4323), while food recipients are up 88% (from 2810 to 5271). We have effectively met this challenge with necessary increases in staff and by reviewing and refining our services, allowing us to continue meeting the basic human needs of our clients.
MHC focuses on ensuring that we are not just a “Band-Aid” fix, as we will work with a family for up to three years if needed to develop a sustainable solution. While our clients are always served in a warm and dignifying way, we have also taken steps to ensure that we are not fostering dependency and that clients are progressing toward self-sufficiency. Our social work philosophy is to only do that which clients cannot do for themselves. In that regard, we recently implemented “lifetime caps” which effectively set a dollar limit on total benefits that may be received. Other organizations, including Queens University, are embracing this concept as solid social work practice.
Looking forward, we are positioned to continue assuming a larger role in the community as we respond to increasing needs and strive to disburse our services with greater efficiency and effectiveness. The little “House with a Heart” from years past has grown into a full-service agency!