Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

February 28, 2014

KAREN ALTERGOTT ROBERTS: Making life in Kokomo better for those in need

Help Family Service Association help others.

Kokomo Tribune

---- — If suffering children were a flood, if domestic violence were a tornado, if homeless­ness were a blizzard, the people of Kokomo would come together and help make things right. We are Kokomo. We have been through a lot and when a community need is known, we step up. I have lived in different communities in Indiana, and there is no place like Kokomo for a community spirit of giving and caring, serving and doing what needs to be done.

Although the desire to help is there, at times people may find themselves without the level of knowledge and tools needed to make an impact. They may find themselves in over their heads while being too close to a situation. Often, a trained professional could help. Where can one be found?

As a community, we know some children suffer. Some parents don’t know where to get help. Others are abusive. These tragedies, small and personal, are hard for us to see. Would we know what to do if we saw a serious problem in a child’s life? As a community, we know domestic violence takes lives, shatters homes, and leads to people fleeing for their safety. Would any one of us be able to help someone experiencing physical, emotional, financial or other forms of abuse from a spouse or roommate, or an intimate or an adult child? As a community, we know there are homeless people and we know that many are veterans — from Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq and other wars. Homelessness produces suffering, and when it becomes visible, we really don’t know what it is we are seeing or what to do about it.

Just like in a tornado’s wake, not everyone can be trusted with a chainsaw — not everyone has the ability to help a domestic violence victim find safety. A trained and experienced team of advocates might be necessary. The needs of victims of domestic abuse are met through the Domestic Violence Shelter, through Transitional Housing, and through crisis phone assistance to people in the community as well. Family Service Association provides the possibility of a safe place, advocacy, counsel, case management, and help in reorganizing life. FSA also helps through Non-Violent Conflict Management Training for men and women. FSA provided shelter to more than 90 adult victims of domestic abuse and their children in the last year. Providing 4,200 nights of shelter and 22,000 meals with reduced funds was challenging.

The problems of homeless people may also seem overwhelming. Addictions, untreated health or mental health issues may have devastated some adults’ abilities to keep themselves sheltered and warm in the storm of life. This can overwhelm the individual, and overwhelm the community helpers. Where can we start to meet the crisis of homelessness? Family Service Association has started putting help into action with an apartment building for homeless, disabled veterans. This “housing first model” of supportive housing is funded in part by government grants, loans to the agency and donations for furniture and items to equip each apartment. When the community realized we needed help, many individuals and organizations stepped up with donations.

FSA also helps children in many ways. Our programs, Healthy Families, Community Partners, and Nurture, help parents learn and do better for their young children. Last year, more than 300 young families received in-home services to help them parent their children to the best of their abilities. Prevent Child Abuse raises awareness and funds for protection of children. Gear Up and First Candle help parents keep their children safe.

These are just three of the underlying community needs that are addressed by Family Service Association. There are many other parts to Family Service Association — homemaking, attendant care, minority health, other health issues, counseling. Our work is often unseen. Work is done by trained and certified professionals. Community members who offer financial support to Family Service Association are doing something important for the flood of suffering children, the tornado of domestic violence and the blizzard of homelessness in our area. We are a nonprofit. We rely on the monetary support of many to continue to serve children, parents, families, veterans. If you care about these challenges, will you help us?

Donate to your favorite program at Family Service Association of Howard County Inc. You can go online at fsahc.org or call 765-457-9313 to learn more about how to help. Be part of the groundswell of community effort to make life in Kokomo better for all.

Karen Altergott Roberts, Ph.D., M.Div., is assistant executive director of Family Service Association of Howard County Inc. Contact her at revaltergott@gmail.com.