Empowerment Workshop draws full house

The Community Access and Empowerment Workshop, held Friday at the the Albany Housing Authority, drew a large crowd. Speakers and session leaders offered information on a variety of topics and resources of interest to low-and moderate-income residents. Photo Courtesy of Albany Herald.

The Community Access and Empowerment Workshop, held Friday at the the Albany Housing Authority, drew a large crowd. Speakers and session leaders offered information on a variety of topics and resources of interest to low-and moderate-income residents. Photo Courtesy of Albany Herald.

By Cindi Cox – Albany Herald

A workshop designed to help government housing residents become more familiar with community resources and opportunities drew a full house Friday.

The three-hour workshop was held at the Albany Housing Authority on Pine Avenue. Presentations covered a wide assortment of topics, from budgeting and financial management to job training, services for seniors and ways to improve utility costs.

The idea for the workshop was initiated by District 6 Dougherty County Commissioner Anthony Jones, Melody Pierce of Work Force Georgia and Berneta Haynes of the Georgia Watch group. Pierce served as the hostess of the event, introducing several of the speakers and various agency representatives who gave short summaries of the services they provide.

In addition to local attendees, a large group of Cairo residents attended the event with Cairo Housing Authority Director John Marria, who said the goal of the event was to inform attendees of the many work force development, educational and financial opportunities available to them from federal, state and local sources.

“The workshop was designed to inform and empower those with low to moderate incomes,” said Jones.

The workshop also was designed to help attendees manage their finances by learning how to evaluate expenses and income to set a personal budget, to avoid and manage medical bills by participating in programs to help lower energy bills and to help those who are unemployed or underemployed earn stipends while acquiring new skills to help enter or re-enter the work force.

Pierce said the agencies invited to participate were selected because they offer a broad spectrum of services.

Gwen Covin, community services manager for the Community Action Council, said financial assistance for utility bills is available.

“Not everyone can afford the high cost of heating their homes through the winter months,” said Covin. “We offer energy assistance during peak periods, both summer and winter. We can assist more people in the wintertime.”

Nov. 1 is the starting time for those over 65 or the homebound to get funding in the winter months, according to Covin.

“Those who meet the income requirements could get a reduction of up to $350 on their winter utility bills,” she said. “Seniors can call in this month to receive assistance. The program also is open to the general public. They can call in starting in November and get the same credit up to $350 on their winter utility bills starting in December.”

Covin said the CAC gets “a lot of calls” from the general public, but no one will get served until all of the seniors and the homebound are funded first.

“Our agency also partners with Albany Utilities to provided emergency services through the Hope Program,” Covin said.

Covin said the CAC began taking applications last Monday for assistance paying winter utility bills.

“Funds will be available in emergency situations only. The emergency must be vital to the household,” she said.

The CAC also has funding to help the homeless get into affordable housing and to help those facing eviction due to non-payment of rent with funds to remain in their homes.

The housing program for the homeless currently has no funds, she said. However, when funding is available, the program helps qualified applicants with housing deposits and up to three months of rent.

Meanwhile, the CAC works to help those who are in housing stay there.

“If you are facing a court-ordered eviction, our goal is to help you stay where you are,” said Covin.

Other presentations focused heavily on education and job readiness for youths as well as vocational rehabilitation and services for displaced, unemployed or underemployed adults. Some of those presenters included vocational rehabilitation, Turner Job Corps, Youth Apprenticeship programs through the Dougherty County School System, certificate programs through Albany Tech, and several work and training programs through WorkSource Southwest Georgia.

Jones said keeping youth in school and on the right academic or vocational track is important.

“These programs will help them to stay focused and keep them moving forward,” he said.

Representatives from Turner Job Corps said students can choose from 14 different career paths and can get training in jobs that are in high demand throughout Southwest Georgia.

Melody Pierce, executive director of WorkSource Southwest Georgia, said that agency helps students get a GED, moves them through job training, or supports them to finish their education by attending college or a technical school.

“In addition to offering GED classes, we offer job readiness training and workshops,” Pierce said. “We want to offer training that will help our students to become effective employees. We offer resume writing, budgeting, dress for success and other classes along with work experience, skill training, and help finding and retaining jobs.”

Vocational Rehabilitation services offer programs and incentives for adults, including dislocated workers, those who have never worked, those with limited job experience, those who have been terminated, those who are returning to work after many years of unemployment or for homemakers wanting to enter or re-enter the work force. Services include occupational training; help identifying skills, interests, strengths and abilities; guidance and counseling; transportation; child care assistance; college or technical education help with medical management; job placement, and followup.

Several who attended the event came to Albany from the Cairo Housing Authority.

Pierce said she was pleased with Friday’s event and hopes to see ongoing community empowerment workshops with expanded audiences. She noted she’d like to see the workshops continue, perhaps as a pilot program that eventually could become available for the entire Southwest Georgia region.

Copyright © 2017 Albany Herald

Source: Albany Herald