Where can I get help with food and utilities in my area, Alpharetta, GA?
By Esther from GA
There are food pantrys in almost every area. However, where I live you can only get food at a pantry once every six months. You also have to get a voucher from someplace like social services(food stamps) or Salvation Army. In areas that don't have a food pantry the Salvation Army usually has a food pantry set up and are real good at helping people with food. However, you do have to fill out a questionaire that includes info. about income. No matter where you ask for help remember not to wear a bunch or jewelry and good clothes(I mean like you would be dressed for work.) Also some churches will give people some groceries. Most counties have a county welfare office that helps with things like utility bills, but is a one time only deal, about once a year, and they do expect to be paid back. Some communities also have some form of community action group that helps people with utilities. It is hard for others to give advice on this, because we don't know about your community. Look in the phone book and also call your area Department of Social Services. Are you on food stamps? If people qualify income wise for food stamps that would be no problem, but I have never heard of a program that helps with utilties on a permanent basis.
Call your local Department of Social Services to see if you are eligible for food coupons and, if you ask, they will direct you to food banks and other charities in your area. Also, call your local utility company(s) and see if they have discount programs you might be eligible for. I am eligible for a 30% discount because am disabled and seniors are also given the same discount.
Esther, there's a national Information and Referral hotline that has dispatch call centers in every county across the US. If you dial 211, they should know which way to direct you. A friend of mine was able to get help from our local homeless shelter, although that was toward back rent. Wherever you go, be prepared to show proof of income, and one or two might want to know how you spend your money. (The Veterans' Affairs is like that.) The rules are a little different for each organization. Any area that has a Catholic Charities office is usually good. They have food pantries you may be able to use monthly, and may be able to help you annually in relatively small amounts... usually $100-$200 towards a single bill.
That's about the method the Salvation Army uses, too. The Veterans' Affairs office can usually provide a lot more help. If you or someone in your household is a veteran and can prove it (with a DD214,) contact the office for your county. Their rules are strict - you not only need income proof for the month prior to the one for which you need help, they want to know where you spent it. They have been very generous with us a couple of years running, though.
If you fall within income guidelines - I believe it's either 150% or maybe 200% of the poverty line for your size household, there are a variety of more permanent utility programs you should be able to qualify for. My elderly hubby and I have been on the Percentage of Income Payment Plan (PIPP) program for both gas and electric for years, and it's helped immensely. The current program is very similar to the "level billing" program. Each month you pay the same amount. There are two major differences, though: first, the amount you pay is literally a percentage of your monthly income... 10%, to be exact. Also, with the new PIPP Plus program, for each month you pay your PIPP amount in full and on time, the utility credits your account extra toward any arrearage. They credit us more than we pay every month, which is a huge help! If you have no arrearage, any amount over your PIPP amount is forgiven. Since we had built up quite an arrearage and will be paying on that for a long time yet, I don't know what would happen if there were no arrearage.
We have a place called the Pine Belt Agency. Not sure if it is in other states, but you could try to look it up. They provide assistance with various things, and if they can't, they can usually find out who does.
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