When an individual or family is struggling, it can be because of a variety of reasons. A lack of a job or budgeting skills may be a problem. Or the family may need counseling or an after-school program. To help with issues such as these, Catholic Charities Atlanta provides supportive services that help clients overcome barriers and improve their lives in the long term.
“We really want to help people become self-sufficient,” said Stephanie Ungashick, senior director of mission advancement for the nonprofit organization.
To help clients meet this goal, Catholic Charities Atlanta offers services such as employment programs, after-school programs, financial and housing services, ESL classes, parenting classes, veterans services and refugee resettlement services.
Several types of counseling are also offered, including sessions to address mental health or marriage issues. Children’s play therapy is also available through a certified counselor who specializes in this area and is bilingual.
Clients usually receive ongoing case management, Ungashick said. They often receive help from the organization in several different ways, and services are offered for free or on a sliding scale.
Almost 12,500 clients were served last year, and the vast majority – 92% – have low incomes. They often are uninsured or underinsured, so they may be unable to afford some of the services offered, such as counseling, in a traditional for-profit setting.
The local organization falls under the umbrella of Catholic Charities USA, which turns 66 years old this year. Local organizations provide help in their communities, and Georgia has two local Catholic Charities chapters – one in Atlanta and one in Savannah.
The Atlanta organization serves clients from a little above Macon up to the Georgia-Tennessee border, with most living in the metro Atlanta area, Ungashick said.
“We are all our own separate entities, and we all offer different services according to the need,” she explained.
Catholic Charities Atlanta partners with other nonprofit organizations in Atlanta to ensure that clients get the help they need. For example, if a client is currently hungry, they may be referred to a soup kitchen to help address the immediate need and may continue to receive services at Catholic Charities Atlanta to help them become self-sufficient. In turn, other nonprofits will also refer their clients to Catholic Charities Atlanta when appropriate.
The organization has a particularly good success rate with their refugee resettlement department. The refugees who are helped are here legally, having fled their countries. Some have lived in a refugee camp for years. They’re met at the airport, usually with an interpreter, Ungashick said. Catholic Charities Atlanta helps them to get settled into an apartment, enroll their children in school and find a job.
“Ninety-four percent of our clients in this program are economically sufficient after six months,” she said.
Other measures of success include the fact that 91% of elementary students in the organization’s after-school programs improve their reading skills. In addition, clients who receive financial counseling increase their credit score by an average of 52 points in six to eight months.
Catholic Charities Atlanta receives the majority of its funding from individual and corporate fundraising and federal, private and archdiocesan grants. More than 80% of the money taken in directly impacts the clients served.
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