A helping hand for customers in need

An unemployed father-of-three, whose wife had recently passed away, faced the prospect of having his utilities cut off and losing his home. Regional Consumer Advocate Miguel Santos explains how we helped him out of crisis.

In times of bereavement, it's not just emotional help that can make a difference. Sometimes, it's the practical issues like finding a job and household bills that need urgent attention too. One of our customers* was dealing with a 'perfect storm' of personal tragedy; losing his job and potential foreclose on his house.

Caring for customers is at the heart of being a Consumer Advocate. As well as listening to him and understanding his situation, we offered him practical advice that proved to be the first step in getting his life back on track.

Offering the right support

When we spoke to him, it became clear that the gentleman’s overwhelming fear was for his children. What would happen to them? How was he going to keep a roof over their heads?

He’d always been employed and never needed financial help. People in this situation are especially vulnerable because they don’t know where to go for financial assistance in times of need.

Right away we were able to reassure him. Firstly, he qualified for a grant through the Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP), which granted him with $140.00 and prevented a shut off.

He also qualified for the Care and Share program, which was founded by National Grid in 1981 to provide emergency financial assistance to low-income families and individuals who are experiencing difficulty paying heat related bills. HeartShare Human Services of New York administers the program.

Foreclosure was another big worry for the family. As a practical next step, we referred our customer to a specialized service that helps homeowners in financial difficulty.

Back on track

There was light at the end of the tunnel. The gentleman found another job. Although it didn’t pay as much as his old one, he was very happy to get back to work. But most of all, he was relieved for his family. When he found out about the help that was available, he burst into tears.

He talked about the difficulties of raising his children without his wife. Then there was the added blow of being let go from his job. Finding out that help was at hand gave him fresh hope.

*The customer's name has been withheld

Published: June 2017