For many struggling to make ends meet, help may only be a phone call away, but that phone call is one that many are too embarrassed to make.
Help Line, a telephone service that connects local people in need with agencies that can assist them and provides after-hours crisis services, has uploaded “Negotiating the Networks” guide to its website. It provides contact information for agencies and charities area residents can turn to in a crisis, for medical help or to provide basic needs assistance. Help Line Director Tom Foley said he hopes the guide will aid individuals too embarrassed to call for help. “What we found is that a lot of people don’t really want to call us for help, so we thought, if it was available online somehow, they’d be more likely to go and look for help,” Foley said. “I think sometimes it’s tough for people who have been the people who have been donating to these organizations for years, and all of a sudden they’re on the other side of the table. It’s a tough thing to you,” he added. Foley said he understands the feelings of such individuals, but that a sense of pride should keep a person from seeking the help he or she needs. He said he tried to make this clear in the guide. “Social services is a little bit like insurance,” Foley said. “You’ve been paying into it all these years, and sometimes you have to go in and take a little out.” Help Line was established after the Agnes Flood of 1972 to provide a central resource for disaster victims, but has transitioned into providing after-hours crisis services for most Wyoming Valley social service agencies. Help Line staff handled approximately 95,000 calls during its 2009 operating year; approximately 261 calls per day, according to its website. Foley said the tide hasn’t abated this year. He had been working on the guide for several weeks, he said, but the federal government’s failure to extend unemployment benefits to 2 million jobless Americans spurred him to finish the project. Foley encourages those having trouble keeping up with bills to seek help early. For those struggling to pay utility bills, for example, he said utilities can set up payment plans, and local winter heat programs can help residents make it through the winter. Once utilities have been cut off, though, a customer’s options become much more limited.