ID program helps Neighborhood House target service needs

CHARLESTON—Neighborhood House was chosen to participate in a pilot program that will enable them to keep track of all their clients and the services they use.

Nikki Grimball, director of the peninsula outreach, said the program provides photo identification with a bar code on the back for every client that comes in the door. The client then presents the bar code ID for every service he uses, whether it’s financial assistance, the soup kitchen, clothes closet or even the porch library.

“It shows where the greatest needs are, the most services used, plus areas where we need to outsource,” Grimball said.

The primary purpose is to compile data into an easily accessible format that can be used to apply for funding and grants, said Chloe Garrison, with Our Lady of Mercy Community Outreach, the parent organization for Neighborhood House.

The Sisters of Charity of Our Lady of Mercy founded Neighborhood House in 1915. For a while, it operated under the diocesan office of social ministry, but in 2005 it returned to the sponsorship of Our Lady of Mercy.

Garrison said the main outreach on Johns Island is part of the Charity Tracker system, but does not use the identification cards. Neighborhood House joined the bar code pilot program in October to help them keep track of more than 20 services available to those in need. The outreach aids a variety of clientele, from homeless people to workers eating at the soup kitchen to make ends meet. Grimball said they average 120 clients a day for hot lunches.

They also offer education courses for those trying to get ahead, and various enrichment classes for children and senior citizens.

Garrison said more than 280 clients have received bar code IDs so far and the intake process is ongoing.

In addition to helping the outreach keep track of their numbers, Grimball said it also benefits the clients by providing photo identification, which can be difficult for them to obtain. He explained that receiving a picture ID usually requires a person to have a fixed address, and most of the population at Neighborhood House are transients, moving from place to place as their finances dictate.

Another plus is being able to link to other social service agencies with Charity Tracker. That way, if a client needs to be referred elsewhere, the agency will only have to scan the bar code ID and have instant access to all the information.

“We’re trying to make it so their lives are a little less on the edge,” Grimball said.