City to support life-saving programs for residents SanTan Sun News

City to support life-saving programs for residents

July 10th, 2018 | by alexander
City to support life-saving programs for residents
Community
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By COLLEEN SPARKS

Managing Editor

The city of Chandler is spending more than $1 million to help programs that can save lives and offer support to the most vulnerable residents.

The City Council last month approved nearly $1.2 million for 47 human services programs assisting Chandler residents.

The majority of the programs have been receiving financial support from the city for a while, but some will receive the aid for the first time, said Leah Powell, Neighborhood Resources director for the City of Chandler.

“Some of them are very far-reaching,” Powell said. “Some of these programs make a difference of life or death when you look at basic needs like food and shelter. It helps to extend the lifespan of someone to get housing.”

The programs help homeless people and those who recently lived without a permanent home, as well as residents struggling to buy food and household items, senior citizens who need support to remain in their homes, athletes with disabilities and many other residents.

Chandler has reserved $110,000 out of the almost $1.2 million to support private nonprofit organization Community Bridges’s homeless and justice navigation services.

Powell said the money will pay for two Community Bridges staff members to work with homeless people or those who recently have become homeless to help them get housing as quickly as possible.

That work may involve helping the person or family get birth certificates or other identification to find housing and connecting them with health services.

They also will work with homeless people who are repeat offenders to try to ensure that they do not end up in court and get them “back where they need to be in life,” Powell said.

Chandler for the first time also will support Midwest Food Bank, which is in Gilbert but offers food boxes to people in need around the Phoenix area.

The $10,000 from the city will assist people in Chandler. Midwest Food Bank is unusual because it provides not only food, but also paper towels and other household items to people in need, Powell said.

A program that is not new but has a new applicant for Chandler funding this year is Operation Back to School Chandler, an outreach effort supported by about 50 partner organizations.

The city will provide $10,000 to Chandler Men of Action to support Operation Back to School Chandler, an annual event where students in the city are given backpacks with socks, uniforms, underwear and school supplies.

Chandler Men of Action aims to offer hope and opportunities to African-American youths. More than 3,000 students receive full backpacks at each Operation Back to School Chandler event, Powell said.

“It is a great partnership,” she said. “This will help provide some of the funding for supplies. The Chandler Men of Action was a partner, but no one applied for funding to grow it” previously, Powell added.

Another new source of funding Chandler will offer is $20,000 to Mesa United Way to support the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program.

While Chandler has had a VITA program for many years, the city decided it would be more efficient for a nonprofit organization to operate it, Powell said. Mesa United Way has “run one of the best VITA programs out there,” she said.

Chandler will provide money to Mesa United Way to run the VITA services in Chandler locations. The partnership with Mesa United Way will allow the VITA offerings to expand the number of locations and number of volunteers who offer the free tax-filing to low and moderate-income families, Powell said.

Mesa United Way is happy about Chandler’s contribution.

“We at Mesa United Way are very excited about this new opportunity to grow the VITA program in the East Valley,” said Don Jensen, director, financial stability with Mesa United Way.

“MUW took over the management of the Mesa VITA program in 2009 and have grown it from approximately 1,000 returns to over 6,000 this past year. This is an important next step in furthering this coordination of the two major VITA programs so that we can better serve all residents of the East Valley.”

He noted, “We have been cooperating with the Chandler VITA program for several years, and have provided training for the new Chandler VITA volunteers this past year.”

The VITA program offers free tax preparation to many individuals and families who cannot afford a paid preparer, Jensen said.

“The VITA program provides a safe, reliable way for these people to stay compliant with the IRS and, very importantly, to get the refunds that they deserve,” he said. “So this important program brings funds directly into the community to the people who need it the most.”

The city also wiill for the first time offer $5,000 to the NotMYKid Suicide Prevention Program called Suicide Safer Chandler. NotMYKid is a local nonprofit organization that aims to help youths gain confidence and knowledge to make positive life choices. The $5,000 will support a suicide prevention education initiative for students, parents and schools’ faculty.

The city will continue providing money to many other organizations including ICAN, which is a free youth center in the East Valley that provides programs for youths, families and the community; as well as American Service Animal Society, Desert Sounds Performing Arts and the East Valley Jewish Community Center.

This year the City of Chandler received 56 applications for programs to be funded, Powell said. Chandler’s Housing and Human Services Commission, an 11-member group appointed by Mayor Jay Tibshraeny and the City Council, reviewed the applications.

Other experts in police, fire and other topics also studied the applications. The experts and commission recommended to the City Council which programs they thought the city should provide money to aid.

“They really take a look at the impact on the community,” Powell said. “When you have so many different agencies applying for funding; you get everything from a true grass roots all-volunteer (organization) to professional organizations with grant writers on staff. We always wish we could give more. It is such a tough decision.”

The cash for the programs comes from various sources, including the city’s general revenue, as well as a sales tax increase in 1994 and donations residents can choose to make when they pay their water bills.

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