ASHLAND The Neighborhood in Ashland has become synonymous with helping those in need. This is, of course, a good thing because it gives people who are in need, or those who wish to help individuals in need, a central location or starting point to begin having those needs met. What many may not realize, however, is that The Neighborhood may be the location and the hub for services, but each organization under The Neighborhood roof is autonomous.  

“Neighbors Helping Neighbors is the non-profit which currently operates the building,” Neighborhood Executive Director Todd Young said. “And right now, every organization is here rent-free. It’s part of our budget to raise those funds, so they don’t have to worry about that. We also take care of all the HVAC systems and everything like that as well.”

An example of that, Young said, was when the AC unit went down at CAReS, it was the neighborhood who paid to have it replaced. But each individual organization did its own “build-out” and is responsible for their own utilities. The Neighborhood pays for utilities in the common areas, but each organization is responsible for them in their own areas.  

Each organization, whether it be The Community Kitchen, The Dressing Room or any of the other organizations at The Neighborhood, has its own board and operates independently. Naturally these organizations help each other any way they are able, but the resources and/or services are dispensed from each unique organization based upon their individual mission and guidelines. River Cities Harvest at The Neighborhood might share its resources with The Kitchen, but it distributes food to them and other organizations rather than to individuals on a person-by-person basis.

“I am trying to consolidate things as we go,” Young said. “I’ve been here going on five years, and for three of those years I ran The Kitchen as well.”

Young said Dr. Desmond Barrett, who is currently the director of The Kitchen, has been a Godsend because he now has more time to administer The Neighborhood. And a lot of what that entails, as he said, is trying to make the entire process of helping those in need work better.  

Being aware that each organization is a non-profit, and as a means to help decrease expenditures, he recently consolidated the phone system. Before, each entity operating in The Neighborhood was responsible for its own phone service. Young was able to bring those together under a single bill, thereby saving each organization money which they could put toward the resources and services they offer.

Another project Young has under way is to take advantage of solar power, which has the potential to save more money for each organization and yield the same benefits and potentially improve existing or new programs, resources and services.

“We had some community meetings a few years back, facilitated by The United Way, where we brought faith-based organizations, businesses and local governments all together to talk about the challenges we face as a community,” Young said. “During those discussions, two things rose to the front. Those two things were case management and transportation. And they got that right, because anywhere from 60 to 80% of the people we see walk to get here.”

The case management issue, Young said, needs to be improved as well in order to facilitate not only helping as many individuals as possible, but also to ensure services and resources aren’t unnecessarily duplicated.

“Ultimately, we are a betterment organization,” Young said. “This means that we just can’t simply leave you where you are, but we have to better your situation.” Young said he believes the system for helping those in need is less than effective on a national level, so it becomes of paramount importance to fix it on a local and community level. One key to doing this, he said, is to streamline the process and make it easier to calculate what is needed and what has already been provided among the various organizations across the spectrum.

Young said the approach to helping individuals in need should be solution-based problem solving, and that information and understanding needs to be applied on an individual basis.

“We look at it less like charity, and more like parity,” Young said. “You sit down as equals and discuss both the problems and the underlying problems.”  

Good record-keeping can be key to a lasting solution as well, Young said. One example he used was if the company/organization which subsidized an individual’s electric bill for several years wanted to know the justification for abnormally high bills.

Young said a dialogue with the individual might yield information that the individual was living in substandard housing with poor insulation. At that point, Young said, a better solution would be to attempt to secure better housing for that person rather than simply throw money at something that didn’t result in the betterment of the person and their family.

Betterment can be achieved, Young said, by organizations working together.

“The goal is to help people overcome their problems,” Young said. “And ultimately to help each person reclaim or achieve the best life possible.”

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