I am often asked about the role of township government and what the Wayne Township Trustee’s Office does for our citizens. Since I am so close to what we do here every day, I sometimes forget that it is not always obvious to the general public what our central function is and how we serve our constituents.
As a large urban township, the primary function of our office is to provide temporary assistance to those in financial need. That sometimes means helping a family whose breadwinner has lost their job or someone who has become disabled and is unable to support him or herself because of that disability.
Unlike Wayne Township, smaller rural townships may have other functions that are important to them like firefighting, for example. One of the great things about township government in Indiana is its flexibility that allows each township to meet the particular needs of its residents.
Each year the townships are required to file financial reports with the state. After our Annual Report is completed and approved by our Wayne Township Board, Indiana law requires us to publish our financial information in a newspaper of general circulation in our county. Our legal advertisement recently was published in the Journal-Gazette and shows exactly how much we spend and where it goes. This advertisement is informative for those who have the time to go through it, but it does not tell the full story about township government and how it helps our community.
Wayne Township Trustee Office is an important part of the social safety net that is there for citizens who fall on hard financial times. When a client is eligible for Township Assistance, we can help them get by with his or her basic necessities such as housing, utilities, food, clothing and medicine. As you can see from our recently published legal advertisement, we, unlike the State, send the assistance money directly to the vendor, such as the client’s utility company or landlord. That way, for example, we make sure the client’s landlord or utility company receives his or her rent or utility payment in the most efficient way possible.
At this time of year we are working on the annual update of our Wayne Township Eligibility Standards for Township Assistance. Our Standards contain Income Guidelines (which align with the Federal Poverty Level) for a client to qualify for township assistance. When we review each applicant’s case we look at the money they have brought in and how the household has spent its money. Our clients are expected to use the money they do have to pay for their basic necessities first, before requesting township assistance. Once we determine that requirement has been met we can move forward with providing the assistance they need.
Wayne Township also provides support services to help clients regain their financial independence. These include our Employment Training Center, which has a job placement program. That center provides our clients with weekly training classes and to help them get a job and keep that job. We also have a Workfare Program, in which many of our clients are required to work to maintain their eligibility for township assistance. In this program, clients who are physically able, work for non-profit agencies or at our office. This way, clients can give back to the community for the help they have received from our office, and they often find opportunities for permanent employment.
Finally, our other support services provide a leg up for people moving from assistance to independence. Those services include our Payee Program, Clothing Bank, Food Bank, Scholarships, Tax Preparation Assistance and School Supplies Store. From our central location in downtown Fort Wayne, I like to think that we serve the community as a stopping point for any township citizens in need. We are here to help.
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