CHATHAM — The fundamental idea behind the Chatham Ecumenical Council Helping Prevent Homelessness (CECH) is simple: The best way to fight homelessness is to prevent it from happening. Now in its 28th year, the grassroots nonprofit focuses on helping families get through short-term financial crises so they can stay in their homes.
“Our concern this year is that we have not seen an uptick in applications for grants,” said Neill Taylor, who is co-president of CECH along with Diane Kennedy. With COVID-19 and its accompanying financial disaster, many local families are closer to the edge of financial problems than ever before, including some people who previously felt financially secure.
Each year, working with professional social workers from Lower Cape Outreach Council and the Homeless Prevention Council, CECH provides around $50,000 in grants to families, helping them survive unexpected expenses from medical emergencies to vehicle repairs. Thanks to careful financial stewardship over the years, the nonprofit has a rainy day fund that’s ready to be tapped.
“It can handle about three times what we see in a normal year,” Taylor said. CECH’s focus this year is on making those grants, and he worries that potential clients might “fail to ask, out of pride.”
In one recent case, CECH provided rent money for a disabled woman who is living with her elderly parents, keeping all three from being evicted. In another instance, the organization helped a grandmother raising her 7-year-old granddaughter after the child’s mother died, leaving her in a house with a reverse mortgage. More recently, CECH helped an elderly man suffering from a chronic respiratory ailment who had to choose between paying the rent and making a car repair.
“These one-time interventions are helping people keep their heads above water,” Taylor said. In the organization’s history, it has provided grants totaling more than $1.47 million.
CECH is a local charity, but assures clients’ confidentiality through strict protocols with Lower Cape Outreach or the Homeless Prevention Council. While most recipients live or work in Chatham, CECH helps people from nearby towns as well. To find out about receiving assistance, CECHomelessPrevention.org.
CECH always welcomes financial donations, and is currently in need of volunteer board members. “I’m the youngest one, and I’m 66,” Taylor said. To learn more, email firstname.lastname@example.org.