Catholic Charities Completes National Survey
Monday, 02 June 2014 13:35

            Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Youngstown recently completed the 2013 Catholic Charities USA Annual Survey, which gathers information on services, collaborative efforts, social action initiatives, parish relationships, personnel, finances, and implementation of mission-related activities from Catholic Charities organizations across the United States. Five institutions in the Diocese of Youngstown participated in the survey: the Catholic Charities administrative office located in the diocesan chancery; Catholic Charities Housing Opportunities; Catholic Charities of Ashtabula County; Catholic Charities Serving Portage and Stark Counties; and Catholic Charities Regional Agency (serving Columbiana, Mahoning and Trumbull Counties).

            Catholic Charities served a total of 49,177 people in 2013. Sixty-seven percent (67%) of those served received some type of public assistance, including TANF, SSI, SNAP and Medicaid benefits. Seventy-one percent (71%) reported incomes below the federal poverty line, which was $23,550 for a family of four last year.

            The Catholic Charities agencies in the Diocese of Youngstown provided nearly $900,000 in direct assistance to clients in 2013, plus an additional $1.8 million in pass-through funds to clients from grants and contracts with government entities, as well as other direct assistance monies from both diocesan and local sources.

            Ninety-one percent (91%) of Catholic Charities total budget of $7.9 million is devoted to programs that meet basic human needs, strengthen families, build communities, and empower low-income people. Nine percent (9%) of Catholic Charities’ operating budget is used for administration, including fund raising for its various programs and services.

            The majority of those served at Catholic Charities agencies in the Diocese of Youngstown receive emergency assistance. In 2013, Catholic Charities provided help with food, utilities, prescriptions, clothing, housing, and other basic needs to 24,384 unduplicated clients, an increase of 17% over 2012. An additional 6,952 clients accessed First Step Pregnancy and Family Support programs, which provide specific material assistance and case management services to pregnant women and families with children ages 0-3.

            Over the past several years, Catholic Charities has seen a steady increase in the number of people receiving food assistance at its agencies.

            Mary Ellen Andersen, President & CEO of the Diocese of Youngstown Catholic Charities Corporation, the organization responsible for the oversight of social services across the Diocese of Youngstown, identifies one potential reason for the increase in need for food:

            “Toward the second half of 2013, we began to see an increasing number of families whose SNAP benefits had been cut. They were no longer able to make it through the entire month and needed us to help them get through the last week or two. Having food benefits cut by $10.00 per person means $40.00 for a family of four. That is quite a substantial amount when you think of what you can buy at the grocery store to keep your family going for a week,” Andersen explains.

            Catholic Charities has also responded to the increase in need for food by launching some new approaches to dealing with hunger and lack of adequate food resources. On-site food pantries in several of Catholic Charities’ locations make food readily available for client families who come to the agencies presenting a lack of food in their households. Catholic Charities has also initiated outreach efforts to provide information on smart grocery shopping, cooking, and nutrition, along with healthy recipes to give families ideas on how to stretch food resources and meet nutritional needs.

            In addition to providing outreach and information on issues concerning food and food insecurity, Catholic Charities also works with clients in the emergency assistance program to prepare a budget.

            Distinguishing ‘needs’ from ‘wants’ can be an enlightening process for clients. Andersen is careful to explain that the job of the case worker in preparing a budget with the client is to allow the client to establish priorities and necessities. When a client sees how much he or she spends a month on certain items or services, they are often surprised and willing to make cuts or to eliminate expenses altogether.

            “Our case workers are not there to judge clients on their spending habits. Their job is to objectively review monthly income and expenses so that the clients themselves have the information in front of them to make decisions. This budgeting process is intended to serve as a platform for a client’s progression toward self-sufficiency.”

            While Catholic Charities tends to be family-centered in its focus, given that the majority of those it serves are women with children, it also offers services to help older adults obtain basic needs and critical services. Last year, 2,548 older adults accessed Catholic Charities’ services. Sixty-four (64) people received guardianship services through Catholic Charities of Ashtabula County. Sixty-two (62) people with memory loss or dementia participated in adult day services offered in Louisville by Catholic Charities Serving Portage and Stark Counties. Catholic Charities Regional Agency’s senior support program, which helps older adults with such tasks as grocery shopping, banking, medical appointments, accessing community resources, friendly visitation, and assistance with Medicare forms, served 540 people in 2013. The Regional Agency’s Senior Center in East Liverpool served a total of 14,365 on-site and home-delivered meals to 276 older adults last year.

            Catholic Charities Housing Opportunities (CCHO) provided assistance to135 people last year. Ninety-nine (99) people received permanent housing at Eastwood Village, an apartment complex on Youngstown’s east side sponsored by Caritas Communities, a partnership between CCHO and Humility of Mary Housing, Inc. CCHO rented four homes to low-income families in the City of Youngstown, and provided 28 households with down payment assistance in 2013. The Catholic Charities social service agencies offered housing counseling to 756 people, an increase of 15% over last year. Catholic Charities Serving Portage and Stark Counties provided safe, affordable housing to 76 people residing in apartment units owned by the agency in downtown Ravenna.

            The lack of permanent housing options for low-income individuals and families continues to be a concern for Catholic Charities.

            “One of the most significant barriers to helping clients get on their feet is the overall lack of affordable, permanent housing in the counties of our diocese,” Andersen states.

            While they are waiting for permanent housing to become available, clients are forced to spend more nights in shelters—if they are not already filled to capacity—and more nights “couch surfing” with friends and family.

            “Catholic Charities has seen an increase in the number of homeless families who come to us for assistance in the past several months. Just recently we were able to find an apartment for a single mother with five children ranging in age from eight years to three months. We are also working with a couple and their three children who were living in their car before coming to us. We have made temporary arrangements for them, but they need permanent housing.”

            Catholic Charities Legal Immigration Services, accredited by the Bureau of Immigration Appeal (BIA) since 2006, provides family-based immigration assistance to those who wish to obtain legal status in the United States, either for themselves or for their relatives. In 2013, Catholic Charities Legal Immigration Services helped 120 people with citizenship applications, family visa petitions, removal proceedings, and legal representation.

            All of Catholic Charities’ programs throughout the Diocese of Youngstown were delivered by a staff of 62 full-time and 30 part-time employees serving ten locations. One hundred thirty-seven (137) volunteers contributed over 15,000 hours to Catholic Charities last year. An additional 43 people served on agency boards of directors.

            “In 2013, we were down two full-time and six part time employees from the previous year, yet up thirteen volunteers,” Andersen explains. “We are finding more opportunities for volunteers to engage in our work, enabling us to keep staff levels modest without compromising the effectiveness of our service delivery.”

            In addition to gathering data on finances, social service provision, and staffing, the Catholic Charities USA Annual Survey also collects information on Catholic Charities’ efforts to enhance Catholic identity, build and maintain parish relationships, and promote diversity.

            The Executive Director of Catholic Charities Services and Health Affairs, Brian R. Corbin, is charged with promoting Catholic Charities’ Catholic identity, both internally and externally. He devotes staff time and resources to provide an orientation for new employees on Catholic identity, as well as formation opportunities for staff on issues concerning Catholic identity and Catholic social teaching; displaying the Catholic identity of Catholic Charities in marketing to external audiences; and encouraging a standard of client interaction that reflects the sacredness of life and the dignity of the human person.

            Catholic Charities’ Catholic identity is also represented through its connections with diocesan parishes. In 2013, Catholic Charities engaged parishes by coordinating volunteer opportunities for parishes and parish groups; providing services at some parish sites; and making parish representation on local boards of directors a priority. Catholic Charities offers various educational and social opportunities throughout the year to engage pastors, parish staff members, and parishioners, and remains committed to strengthening connections with all Catholic institutions of the diocese.

            In its efforts to promote an inclusive workplace, Catholic Charities recruits diverse applicants for open employment positions and provides diversity training for staff on a regular basis. Catholic Charities also strives to ensure and improve cultural competence in social service provision by offering workshops on local cultures to help staff understand the dynamics of working with specific populations.

            A primary source of funding for Catholic Charities is the Annual Bishop’s Appeal for Catholic Charities and Church. Sixty-six percent (66%) of every dollar raised in this important diocesan fund raising campaign supports Catholic Charities’ programs and services in the six-county diocese.

            “We are always mindful and thankful of the sacrifices made by Catholics throughout the Diocese of Youngstown to support the work of Catholic Charities,” explains Corbin.

            “The funds we receive from the Bishop’s Appeal enable our agencies to leverage additional dollars from contracts and grants that require a local match. For example, a contribution of $100 to the Appeal can sometimes help us leverage an additional $200, making that $100 gift so much more valuable. We have been fortunate during this time of economic uncertainty that compassionate, caring people recognize their obligation to the poor and believe in the work we do at Catholic Charities” Corbin adds.

            For more information concerning the 2013 Catholic Charities USA Annual Survey, contact Rachel Hrbolich, Associate Director of Social Services for Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Youngstown, at 330-744-8451, ext. 328 ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ) or visit Catholic Charities’ website at