Tuesday, March 6, 2018, marked a stellar day for the Hinds County Human Resource Agency (HCHRA), which hosted a massive community outreach event called Project SOAR – a Services, Opportunities, Assistance and Resources Fair – held at New Horizon Event Center in Jackson, Mississippi. Approximately 400 people attended the fair and received a wealth of information on education, finance, health, safety, social and legal services from dozens of speakers and exhibitors. Through the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), HCHRA provided energy assistance to 172 Hinds County residents, on the spot.
HCHRA, the only community action agency in Hinds County, Mississippi, administers LIHEAP for the entire county. LIHEAP is a federal grant that offers assistance to help low-income families pay their energy bills for heating or cooling their homes, and offers additional help in cases of energy crisis, such as utility shutoffs for households in immediate danger of being without heating or cooling. “One of HCHRA’s primary goals for Project SOAR was to promote awareness about LIHEAP and to make it available to anyone in need who met the qualifications for the program,” said Kenn Cockrell, president and CEO of HCHRA. “The assistance provided through LIHEAP creates some relief from the financial strain low-income families experience and helps to create greater stability in the home. Receiving payment assistance on energy bills, means that families will have more income available to address other household responsibilities.”
Typically, anyone interested in receiving LIHEAP services would have to schedule an appointment to meet with a case manager to apply for assistance. According to HCHRA, the need is so great, appointments are now being scheduled three to six weeks out. During Project SOAR, no appointment was needed. HCHRA had 20 case managers onsite to meet with clients one-on-one to determine eligibility and provide immediate relief.
Over the years, HCHRA has organized various events in the communities it serves. Project SOAR, however, was the agency’s largest community outreach event to date. In addition to providing direct services, HCHRA invited a diverse group of corporate and community partners to conduct informative talks and offer valuable resources. Health screenings were provided by volunteers from the University of Mississippi Medical Center. BankPlus, a corporate partner, conducted a community forum on financial management. Sam Buchanan, executive director of the Mississippi Center for Legal Services Corporation, conducted a forum and set up an exhibitor booth to offer free civil legal assistance on foreclosures, school loans, deeds and trusts to eligible attendees. Some of the other forums provided information on voter registration, child safety, disease management and support for families and individuals living with mental illness. HCHRA had staff on hand to provide information about Head Start, its preschool education program which serves children ages 0 to 5 and offers a variety of health and social support services for its students and their families. They also provided attendees with information on their senior programs, home delivered meals, adult education, rental assistance, transportation, and emergency services programs. AARP served as an exhibitor and shared information on the AARP Foundation’s Fresh Savings, a healthy-food incentive program which also has a nutrition education component. Erin Smith of the AARP Foundation stated, “This is a wonderful event. We thank the agency for letting us be a part of the fair.”
“Project SOAR was a community resource fair created to address many of the barriers households in poverty face: from day-to-day crises to long-term need for jobs and education. The agency plans to make it an annual event,” said Cockrell.
If you are in need of assistance but you were unable to attend Project SOAR, call HCHRA at (601) 962-5935 to schedule an appointment with a case manager to discuss opportunities. You can also visit www.hchra.org to learn more about HCHRA and its programs and services.