In the past year, Westport’s Department of Human Services has helped 200 new clients.
That makes at least 1200 households that need financial aid or referral information.
And more and more of them are “showing up in suits and ties,” says longtime director Barbara Butler.
These are the new faces of Westporters needing help. “They have reduced income, or they’re unemployed,” Butler explains.
“They can pay their mortgage or rent, but they can’t do anything extra — no car repairs or school expenses.”
Sometimes the aid is emotional.
“Even if we can’t do a lot, they appreciate they can talk to us,” Butler says. “They realize they’re not the only ones.”
Sometimes, she adds, clients need help accessing resources like food stamps, prescription drug assistance or children’s Husky health insurance.
Butler’s office also connects Westporters with services like the Woman’s Club Food Closet.
“We’ve seen retired captains of industry come in with Medicare Part D forms,” Butler notes. “They’ve never had to deal with this, or figure out choices.”
As the holidays approach, Butler’s focus turns to the “Families in Need” fund. Thanks to donations from individuals and organizations, Human Services pays up to about $400 or so per household, to cover emergency needs like rent, utility bills or food. Last year, the fund paid out approximately $30,000, to over 68 families.
“Westport is great,” Butler says. “No other town around supports social services like we do.”
And, in 2010, no town is immune to that need.
(Want to help? Checks made out to the “Families in Need” fund can be sent to: Department of Human Services, 110 Myrtle Ave., Westport, CT 06880. “The fund is almost rock-bottom now,” Butler says.)