|Guests: Forty years later, SMOC’s mission remains vital|
By Bruce Hulme, Jeffrey Fishman and James D. Hanrahan / Guest Columnists
Wednesday, January 18, 2006 - Updated: 12:08 AM EST
South Middlesex Opportunity Council was established over 40 years ago
as part of the nation’s "War on Poverty." As stated in the Economic
Opportunity Act of 1964, "The United States can achieve its full
economic and social potential as a nation, only if every individual has
the opportunity to contribute to the full extent of his capabilities
and to participate in the workings of our society."
mission and purpose of the agency was to organize people and marshal
resources to help meet the basic human needs of low-income or otherwise
disadvantaged members of our community.
these efforts, SMOC assisted people to improve the conditions of their
lives which prevented them from achieving social and economic equality
and independence. Lack of educational opportunity, low wages,
unavailability of decent affordable housing, lack of child care,
substance abuse or mental illness or, perhaps, a combination of these
things, contributed to the conditions which held people back from
reaching their full potential.
South Middlesex Opportunity Council (SMOC) worked with each individual
and family to correct these conditions and assist them to move to
successful community living where they would contribute their energy
and skills to the improvement of the quality of their own lives and to
the betterment of the community at large.
believe in these goals and, over the years, the board and staff of SMOC
have taken these responsibilities to heart and have worked diligently
to design, attract and implement programs that would meet our mission
of providing the ways and means for people to meet their needs and keep
planned and purposeful growth has led to the establishment and
maintenance of programs designed to meet the immediate human needs of
our neighbors by allowing them to live in dignity while using the tools
of education, job skill development, good health and affordable housing
to help build the foundations for their eventual economic independence.
Head Start and Child Care programs provide early developmental growth
opportunities for children and their families. The Women Infant and
Children (WIC) provides opportunities for wholesome nutritious foods
for low-income families. The Meals on Wheels and Elder Congregate Meals
programs provide opportunities for good nutrition for many hundreds of
our senior neighbors who might otherwise be pushed to dangerous and
difficult choices because of inadequate income or resources.
Energy and Financial Assistance programs provide critical support for
low-income families and individuals, many of whom are our elderly
neighbors, to keep their homes warm during New England’s harsh winters
-- again, without forcing cruel choices that would force families to
forego some basic necessities such as food or health care as they
exhaust their meager resources.
Health Services provide our neighbors and families with supports that
permit people with mental illness to fully participate in the life of
our community, with support that permits people with substance abuse
histories to beat their addictions, commit to recovery, reconnect with
their families, get jobs and move to successful independence.
subsidies and supported housing provides our neighbors and families
with an affordable home where people can concentrate on building skills
and stable home lives for future growth and success.
Against Violence provides safe haven for families fleeing domestic
violence and for women who have suffered violence, assault, abuse and
rape. This program provides a time and a place to heal for many
hundreds of our neighbors and families.
Development programs provide adult education, daily living skill
development, employment search and replacement and other support
services that assist low-income residents to obtain and sustain jobs,
thus creating the means for personal development and economic growth
Shelter programs meet the truly profound needs of individuals and
families who have exhausted all their personal, family and community
connections and resources and have found themselves in desperate need
of safe shelter from the elements and the dangers of the street. Many
of us are a paycheck or two away from homelessness. Whatever the
struggles that have brought them to this point in their lives, these
people, too, are our neighbors and families and basic human compassion
calls upon the community to shelter them and begin again the work to
repair the human conditions which brought them to this place.
is important to all of us at SMOC, the board and staff, to carry out
this work respecting both the people who participate in our programs
and our neighbors throughout the communities in which the programs
reside. Our history is a history of reaching out to our neighbors and
being respectful and responsive to reasonable questions and concerns.
work is not about any individual in our organization. Our focus is and
will continue to be on the goal of improving the quality of lives of
the people in our programs that, in turn, will enhance the well being
of the community at large.
poverty remains persistent in the land of plenty, we remain dedicated
to the mission of the South Middlesex Opportunity Council as it was
established 40 years ago -- to work with our neighbors and families to
assist them to move to independent dignified living as equal and
contributing members of society.