A senior with a disability who lived alone received LIHEAP assistance to pay for her home heating bills early in the winter. Later in the winter, the carbon monoxide detector in her home went off. She called the fire department to come out and check on things. The fire department shut down the furnace because the detector’s alarm registered high levels of carbon monoxide when the furnace was turned on.
The following day, she contacted her local LIHEAP agency, Mid-Iowa Community Action, about her furnace. The agency sent a repair technician to look at the furnace right away. Within three minutes of testing, he found potentially fatal carbon monoxide levels. Immediately, the local LIHEAP agency worked to install a new furnace using LIHEAP crisis funds.
What at first appeared to be simply a furnace issue, turned into a life-and-death issue. Had there not been a working carbon monoxide detector in the senior’s home or a local LIHEAP-funded technician available to inspect and replace the furnace promptly, this story would have had a sad outcome.
This situation is a reminder of the importance of crisis assistance in programs such as LIHEAP. LIHEAP is a federally-funded program often run by community-based groups called community action agencies. Locally-based programs can build a trusting relationship with vulnerable community members, including seniors. They also can provide support services directly or quickly refer people in need to people and programs that can save lives and keep communities safe and warm.