Where to find help with food, rent, heat emergencies

Got a food, rent or heat emergency that you can’t handle on your own? Reaching out to the right places for help may bring you some relief. Here’s a list of where to look:

  • Municipal (town) welfare or human services offices – many towns have some form of emergency help for residents, such as food pantries and one-time utility bill payments. They may even be able to buy you a warm jacket or blanket if you need one.
  • In New Jersey, dial 211. This service is mostly useless, but occasionally they are able to direct you to a resource that can provide some help. In post-Sandy times, there resource list is much better than usual.
  • Houses of worship – call or stop by a church, synagogue or mosque. Don’t be put off if they try to brush you off. You have the right to plead the case for why you need help and every one of these institutions has the ability to help community members, even those who don’t belong to their congregation. If you come away with even a small monetary donation, it’s better than nothing, and you may get more.
  • Employees in the offices of state and federal elected officials – state assemblypersons, state senators and federal congressmen and senators – often learn about relief resources that become available long before the general public does, so call them. Each elected official employs staff whose single job function is to help constituents. If they know of help, they’ll gladly share it with you.
  • The Center for Food Action in New Jersey at certain points in the year, may be able to help beyond offering you an emergency supply of food. During the right time in their funding cycle, they have the means to pay your rent if you’ve fallen behind, or help you catch up on your utility bill. You need to prove with an eviction or shut-off notice that your need is urgent, and you will also need to prove that you can continue paying on your own after they help bring you current. They can always offer you emergency food, so ask for this if you need it. At school time, they also have supplies for students.
  • County Social Services offices provide catch-up rent or mortgage payments, temporary housing for displaced persons and the long-term relief of foodstamps. It can take a long time to be approved for these services so apply early and look around for other help while you wait for an eligibility review.
  • Sandy victims can apply through disasterassistance.gov for help. This will get you into the FEMA system and you’ll learn about other resources that are available for storm-related losses and help programs – including loss of income.
  • If you have a landline phone, electric or gas service, the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities can help you negotiate a payment plan with your phone or utility company, or get your services turned back on. There isn’t any help for internet services or cellular phones, though.

Most of all, keep the faith and remember to breathe. Best of luck … let us know how you make out.

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