COVENTRY – Some seniors and others who are physically challenged often forgo the basic necessities that many take for granted.
Frank, 76, a retired mechanic and former musician, receives $741 per month from Social Security, and spends half of that amount to rent a small mobile home. After he pays other bills, he has little money left for food and other essentials.
“Some months I have less than $50 dollars a month to live on,” he lamented. “I don’t eat the way I should. I have to watch what I buy.”
The Korean War veteran, who suffers from many ailments, including Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, relies on a portable oxygen tank and must stay warm so he won’t catch a cold or develop pneumonia.
When his oil tank nearly ran empty two weeks ago, Frank called a local community action program but was told that he had exhausted his annual grant and was ineligible for additional assistance. A staff member there suggested that he contact Bishop Thomas J. Tobin’s Keep the Heat On program.
“Keep the Heat On was absolutely perfect,” the elderly man said. “My tank was almost empty and the needle was near the bottom. Thank God the diocese gave me 50 gallons of oil.”
In an effort to conserve oil, Frank said he sometimes turns the thermostat up very early in the morning and once the trailer is warm, he turns the heat down and wraps himself in a thick blanket.
“It’s going to be panic time when the oil runs out,” he feared, noting that he has already tapped all available sources of assistance and doesn’t have the funds to purchase the minimum amount of oil required by most suppliers.
With spring more than a month away, Frank emphasized that his biggest concern is staying healthy for the remainder of the winter. He added that sometimes he is forced to cancel important medical appointments at the Veterans Hospital in Providence because he doesn’t have enough gasoline in his car.
“If I can just make it another month, I’ll be okay,” he said.
As Frank struggles to stay warm in Coventry on his retirement income, a couple in Smithfield worries about losing their home to foreclosure.
Susan and Bob often must decide which monthly bills they will pay and which they can delay in order to avoid missing a mortgage payment.
Susan, who works full-time as an administrative assistant, added that she is looking for a second job to supplement the couple’s income, which has been reduced significantly as a result of her husband’s disability. Bob receives Supplemental Security Income at a fraction of what he earned as a carpenter. In addition to his disabilities, he struggles with the insecurity that he can no longer provide for his family, including one daughter living at home.
When the couple realized two weeks ago that they couldn’t afford to purchase oil to fill their nearly empty tank, they began to call community agencies but were told that because of Susan’s income, they were ineligible to receive heating assistance.
Their prayers were answered after they sought help from the diocesan heating assistance program.
The couple said they are grateful for the support offered by the church to them in their time of need.
“My husband has worked hard all of his life,” Susan said, explaining that he can no longer work in construction because he suffers from a respiratory condition, diabetes and orthopedic issues.