A Publication of WTVP

The human service sector can be summed up in three words: people helping people.

Every individual and every family stands one tragedy away from devastation. Perhaps your house burns down, is struck by a tornado or burglarized; perhaps your son is born with a birth defect or gets hooked on drugs; perhaps your daughter becomes disabled through a car accident or develops a mental illness; perhaps your granddaughter is sexually assaulted or your grandson is bullied; perhaps your grandmother is scammed or your grandfather develops Alzheimer’s disease; perhaps you lose your job.

It could happen to anyone, regardless of race, ethnic background or economic status. So why is the human service sector a great “insurance policy” when bad things happen?

  1. Help is available immediately.
  2. Help is free, in most cases.
  3. Help is provided in a confidential, non-discriminatory and professional manner.
  4. The “policy” is mostly paid by our society through government contracts, the United Way and fundraisers.
  5. There is a strong prevention aspect provided by many agencies in order to save individuals and families from some of the most preventable societal problems.

It’s the greatest bargain ever!

This response team was established because we, as a society, recognize that PEOPLE are the most valuable resources of a community’s well-being. There are many examples of how human service agencies build the well-being of the Peoria area—the place we call home. Collectively, it all spells PEOPLE… the lifeblood of our community and our greatest asset.

Prevention focus. As Benjamin Franklin said, “A stitch in time saves nine.” Prevention education addresses a wide gamut of issues, such as: what to do in case of fire or tornado; how to stop bullying, sexual assault and domestic violence; how to eliminate drug abuse or teen pregnancies; how to lead a healthy lifestyle; how to budget and keep a good credit rating; how to get and keep a job. The list goes on and on. The impact and future savings to society is immeasurable.

Educational assistance. Agencies teach adults and children to read, do math and study properly. They help high school dropouts get a GED. They assist with accessing higher education scholarships and stipends. They teach life skills in the areas of food preparation, recreation, social interactions and parenting, among others.

Opportunity to learn leadership skills and fulfill the obligation of our society to help others less fortunate. Human service agencies provide unique opportunities for young professionals, especially, to hone their leadership skills by serving on boards and committees. Through donations of time, talent and/or treasure, anyone can make a significant difference in the lives of others, and therefore, benefit our society as a whole.

Professionalism. The human service sector is very similar to the healthcare sector. Both groups have general practitioners, as well as specialists. Human service general practitioners dwell on basic needs like housing, food and transportation, whereas specialists are trained in mental health and addiction, family violence, legal matters, healthcare, working with the disabled, child development and youth leadership. Both general and specialty practices are crucial. Workers in the human service field require extensive training and continuing education to keep up with new research and best practices. The jobs are challenging—and may make the difference between life and death.

Long-term solutions. The human condition is and always has been fragile and fraught with problems. Poverty, murder, abuse, violence, theft, ignorance and unfairness have existed for centuries. There are no easy answers or special pills that will eliminate them. The only solution is to provide interventions and skill building that refocus attitudes and behaviors. Human service agencies—along with other groups like law enforcement, the religious community and educational institutions—work every day, diligently and patiently, to hold back trends that could, if left unchecked, reduce our culture to one with no hope for safety, security or order.

Efficiency. Many human service agencies are contracted by state and federal governments for two good reasons. First, there is more control, flexibility and oversight of operations when an agency is managed locally. Secondly, community-based programs can usually operate at a much lower cost than government-run ones. Some of that savings rests on the use of trained volunteers; receipt of local donations for things such as used furniture, food or other supplies; and leveraging supplemental funds through United Way and agency fundraisers.

The human service sector can be summed up in three words: people helping people.

However, the PEOPLE in Illinois are facing a huge challenge. Not every agency receives state contracts for essential services, but those that do are in great danger of losing some programs… or of closing altogether. If either happens, the loss of those trained professionals is irreversible, and those who are served will have nowhere else to turn for help. The rates of homelessness, crime and child abuse, for example, may soar. The long-term costs will be monumental. Additionally, the loss of state contracts will affect our local economy and increase unemployment. The Illinois budget stalemate must be solved, for the sake of every individual or family who may need help—and for our community as a whole.

PEOPLE. It’s why human services are in business: to enhance the well-being of individuals and therefore, society as a whole.

An extra bonus for our area is that the human service sector is a powerful economic force. One year ago, iBi featured a story about the economic impact of human service organizations on the Greater Peoria community. Forty-six agencies collaborated to tell this story.

The article highlighted several significant findings from a study done three years ago with the assistance of the EDC. The research showed that human services, collectively, are the fifth-largest employer in Peoria; that they bring in approximately $100 million annually from federal, state and other out-of-town sources; and that the agencies’ “return on investment” is excellent.

That study was repeated again this year—this time with 54 agencies—and the results are even more impressive. Agencies provide employment to more than 3,000 people, making the sector one of the largest employment groups in the Greater Peoria area. In addition, the comparative study shows a 33-percent increase in “return on investment.” Today, for every dollar invested in human services, the return to the community is $2.13, versus $1.60 as of three years ago. This excellent rating showcases the effective and efficient operations of the 54 participating agencies and assures donors that support of the human service sector is well worth the investment.

No one can assume that life’s challenges won’t happen to them. But if they do, there is a great, highly-skilled group of people within 54 organizations standing ready to help. iBi