As the severe recession of 2008 was unfolding, the Oishei Foundation began to see signs that the effect of the economic downturn was impacting communities not always thought of as “in need” including many suburban areas. Our response was to form the Mobile Safety-Net Team to provide support in communities and work to convene critical stakeholders to prioritize needs and find solutions.
One of the critical issues was connecting residents to services that could help them and their families. In many communities, transportation can be a barrier and there is often no centralized place to learn about and take advantage of available services in one place.
The Mobile Safety-Net Team, working with community coalitions formed to collaboratively address growing community needs, created what are now known as “Hubs” to provide an accessible, consistent place to connect with service providers.
Our Hubs are currently operating in Cheektowaga, Lackawanna, The Town of Tonawanda and North Tonawanda bringing together a comprehensive set of service offerings in a convenient, community-oriented location. While specific service offerings vary between Hub locations and specific providers rotate at individual locations, most Hubs offer services related to healthcare, housing, veteran’s services, legal services, mental health, education, financial literacy, SNAP/WIC benefits, and low-cost utility programs.
Organizing all the logistics including provider registration, marketing, set-up, and management takes significant coordination and has been handled collaboratively between the Mobile Safety-Net Team and local community coalitions. Catholic Charities has been a partner and will soon take a larger role in planning and overseeing the Hubs, bringing both their knowledge of the social service sector and some of their service offerings to the events. A more hands-on role will also give Catholic Charities the ability to reach more people and connect them with the services that they offer.
According to Natalie Cook, Community Impact Coordinator at The Mobile Safety-Net Team, “Having a variety of services available in one place allows us to better and more comprehensively meet resident’s needs. It also gives us the opportunity to refer them easily to complementary services that may be a table or two over at a Hub event, making it easy for everyone. We have also learned that pairing the Hubs with local food pantries gives us a chance to serve more people and assist residents who may not have been aware of resources that might help them.”
Each Hub operates a little differently based on the needs of the community, the locations, partners and the ability of those organizing to manage the many details necessary to host the Hubs regularly. The addition of Catholic Charities will add another layer of support, both to the Hubs organizers and to those seeking assistance.