St. Vincent de Paul Society helps those in need in Federal Way

Even though it’s six years on from the collapse of 2008, the number of those in need, and the intensity of their needs, are still increasing.

Here in Federal Way, one organization that helps those in crisis is the St. Vincent de Paul Society (SVDPS) at St. Theresa’s Church.

Two members of SVDPS, Joe and Virginia Roni, were on hand during the Federal Way City Council’s Jan. 21 meeting to share their stories of what they continue to see and experience in the community.

“Since 2009, the city of Federal Way has invested a total of $117,000 into the St. Vincent de Paul Society’s emergency human services program,” said Jay Bennett, Federal Way community services manager. “Those dollars are matched by St. Vincent de Paul, and have helped more than 3,200 Federal Way residents who (were) in the middle of a crisis situation during those four years. The assistance takes the form of emergency shelter for a few nights, food vouchers to a local grocery store, utility bill payment that’s kept a family’s heat, electricity or water on for another month. We should all be pleased that this partnership continues in 2014.”

Bennett said the Ronis were two of the people he first met as he settled into his position with the city in 2012.

“These two quickly became heroes of mine, as I listened to their stories,” Bennett added.

Virginia Roni said one aspect of SVDPS that sets it apart from other charities is what she called the “home visit.”

“The key difference between our charitable organization … and others, is that a pair of us comes to visit you, wherever you live, and tries to help you through the crisis,” she said. “You don’t need a babysitter, or need to take time off from work, to get our help. We call this approach to rendering crisis assistance the ‘home visit.’ It protects (client’s) privacy, increases (client’s) feelings of self worth, and shows (clients) that someone cares enough to come and visit (them).”

Roni told the story of a single mother who recently reached out to SVDPS. This woman had been working a full-time minimum wage job and had begun her training/education to become a medical coder, Roni said.

The woman was required to put in 200 hours of unpaid work to complete her certification for medical coding, Roni said. It was at that point that her current employer balked, leaving the woman without a job and with two teenage sons to clothe, feed and shelter.

This left the woman in a bind, because she was able to pay her rent using her last paycheck from the previous job, but was unable to pay her power bill.

“The next evening, my husband and I came to her home and she explained what had happened,” Roni said. “She said, ‘I spent most of the day crying because I didn’t know what I was going to do.’”

The Ronis worked out an agreement with Puget Sound Energy to make a payment towards the woman’s utility bill, giving her some much needed relief from her financial stress.

“I said, ‘You can sleep well tonight,’ Roni recalled. “She looked at both Joe and I, and a smile came to her face, and she said, ‘Thank you. Now I know that somebody cares about me.’”

Joe Roni also shared a few thoughts on SVDPS and what the organization continues to see in and around Federal Way since the economic downturn of 2008.

“What we’re seeing is that it doesn’t seem to be improving,” he said. “The middle class may be improving, but the people on the bottom are still in great need and … the need is more intense. Instead of needing $200 or $150 to finish the rent payment, they need $300, $400, sometimes the whole nine yards like $900.”

Joe Roni noted that one of the largest constituencies that SVDPS helps are single mothers, a group he said makes up about 50 percent of their cases. He also said that in the last quarter of 2013, about a third of the people they served were homeless.

“So that’s what we see out there. But I have to say, the funds that you give us for the poor out there go a long way to trying to alleviate some of these crises,” he said.

For more information, call (253) 838-5924. The SVDPS is part of St Theresa’s Church, located at 3939 SW 331st St., Federal Way.


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