A social ministry and a free medical clinic intend to use a $60,000 grant to help some of the neediest people in the District obtain cash assistance from the federal government so that they will have a monthly income of at least $368.
Bread for the City and Zacchaeus Medical Clinic jointly were awarded the grant by the Social Security Administration to conduct an outreach program aimed at senior citizens, and at disabled and blind people who are eligible for Supplemental Security Income.
"Our goal is to actually have people receiving benefits," said the Rev. Charles Parker, executive director of Bread for the City. "We're going to take it from the point where they never heard of the program right through to where they're receiving money."
The two agencies, which rely on churches and the United Black Fund for support, are recruiting volunteers willing to help "take the fear out of the process" of applying for the cash assistance, said Rene Wallace, executive director of the clinic.
The campaign will begin next month and continue for 17 months. By the time it is over, about 8,500 potential candidates for assistance will have been screened, 1,300 applications will have been filed and at least 1,000 people will have begun getting cash from the government, Parker said.
Volunteers are needed for day and evening shifts at the two agencies, located at 14th and N streets in Northwest Washington. Among the tasks volunteers will be assigned are helping people gather documents, showing them how to complete forms and accompanying them to the Social Security office.
"There's a tremendous need for this," said Parker. "People who live below poverty spend 70 percent of their income on housing . . . . That has a devastating impact on the amount of resources they have to buy food, clothing."
Bread for the City also has been awarded $50,000 from the federal Community Food and Nutrition program to sign people up for food stamps. Parker said he believes all of the people who come to Bread for the City for food are eligible for food stamps. However, only about a third of them use food stamps, Parker said. The food stamp outreach will be as comprehensive as the cash assistance campaign, Parker said. "We'll be walking people from square one all the way through the process."