We might not have been able to tell recently, but historically the months spanning December to March are known to bring on the coldest temperatures of the year in Hampton Roads.
The most vulnerable of residents are at risk when the temperatures fall which is why the Virginia Department of Social Services runs its heating crisis assistance programs during those same months.
Until March 15, eligible residents can receive emergency assistance to help pay for primary heat security deposits, utility heating bills with a cutoff notice, or for the repair or replacement of a heating unit.
“If they’re in doubt, I always tell them to apply and then they can speak to someone after they put in their application to see whether they’re eligible or not,” said Teresa Fry, a benefits program manager for City of Hampton Social Services.
A “heat crisis” is defined as a situation in which the household has no heat or is in imminent danger of being without heat, according to a document from the Social Services Office.
Emergency shelter is also an option when warranted for those who qualify for crisis heating assistance which Fry said is based on income, household size, and even the ages of the people who live in the home.
Residents who qualify must receive “crisis intervention” and a resolution to their problem within 48 hours unless there are persons deemed “vulnerable,” younger than 6 years old or older than 60 years old, who live in the home. At that point, the crisis becomes a “life-threatening situation” and must be resolved within 18 hours.
Virginia’s Social Services Energy Assistance Program runs year-round providing cooling assistance from June through August and fuel assistance, a service meant to help eligible households with the costs of heating their homes, in the fall and ending mid-November.
Fry said while the office typically processes a couple of hundred applications for crisis heat assistance in the winter months, most residents will have already applied for other services in the fall and summer.
“What normally happens is those people who have gotten assistance for cooling or fuel the year before are automatically going to get applications mailed out to them the following year,” she said.
Otherwise, residents can apply online by visiting commonhelp.virginia.gov, or calling 855-635-4370.
Residentscan also pick up a paper application at their respective Social Services office.
The one in Hampton is at 1320 LaSalle Ave.