INDIANAPOLIS — Julie Roush had been assisting a military veteran with moving out of impoverished living conditions in Tippecanoe County where she is Fairfield Township trustee.
When Roush went to the man's new apartment, his daughter and her boyfriend were leaving with a backpack of food allegedly taken from the man's refrigerator. The daughter had allegedly cashed the veteran's Social Security checks without his knowledge.
The veteran, in his 70s and an alcoholic, is now seeking a protective order with Roush's urging.
Roush's efforts were applauded Monday by about 300 attendees to an annual Indiana Township Association conference. The conference, with a theme centered around hope, is encouraging the state's 1,005 trustees to step outside of their mandated duties in providing firefighting services, maintaining cemeteries and administering poor relief.
"Many times our clients come to us feeling hopeless," said Debbie Driskell, executive director of the association.
"If they want SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits, they can apply online or with a telephone call. If they want Medicaid they can fax in their information. You're the people that have the opportunity to sit with these folks that are in need and hear their stories," Driskell told attendees.
Roush's office works with local social service agencies and administers the federal Representative Payee Program's financial guidance in managing Social Security or Supplemental Security Income payments.
"This is how far a trustee can go in helping," Roush said. "It's about building relationships."
Last year, Gov. Eric Holcomb charged trustees with being first in line to help find treatment for those with drug addictions in their community.
This year, trustees were encouraged to develop partnerships and connections to help residents with substance abuse.
"They can connect with resources," Jim McClelland, executive director for Drug Prevention, Treatment and Enforcement in Indiana, said. "That would be the No. 1 thing. They're in a great position to do that."
Trustees also heard about connecting with agencies to provide assistance for the homeless, homes impacted by domestic violence and how to offer relief during natural disasters or fires.
"When you talk about hopelessness, what combats that is being prepared," Frank Mrvan, North Township trustee in Lake County, said.
Mrvan's office in Hammond offers a menu of connections to services including "Dress for Success" clothing for first-time job interviewees, day care needs, employment training, and a wellness ministry, among others.