With the winter months in full swing, the heaters (and bills) will be cranking up everywhere. What do residents of Oxford who cannot afford the monthly bill do?
Oxford Police Department Sgt. John Varley said there are not specific laws pertaining to the eviction of families due to their inability to pay energy bills
“It is all circumstantial,” Varley said. “It will depend on the situation. Obviously if there are kids involved, they’re probably not going to turn the heat off.”
“Families who need help with bills go to the Oxford Family Resource Center, which also helps families with clothing and food. Also, the churches in Oxford are very generous. Families can go there to present their needs and the churches will help in whatever ways they can,” Miami University first-year and native of Oxford Joop Roberts said.
Director of the Oxford Family Resource Center Diane Ruther-Vierling said there are several programs and agencies designated to helping lower income families cover heating costs. She also said there are an increasing number of people going to homeless shelters in Hamilton.
“Duke Energy has a program called Heat Share, and we have access to some of that money. There is also HEAT, which is a federal government program helping to provide people with heating utilities,” Ruther-Vierling said.
Ruther-Vierling also said the center receives donations from other individuals and churches.
Glenwood Energy General Manager Keith Smith said bills may not necessarily increase for customers using natural gas, depending on natural gas prices.
“Typically, heating bills normally don’t rise in the winter,” Smith said. “When you’re comparing heating costs, a lot of people think that electricity is less expensive than natural gas. We are finding that electricity is about twice the price of natural gas currently.”
The amount of money spent on heating a home can vary.
“It really depends on the storage capacity, how much is in storage and how cold the winter is,” Smith said. “If it is a really cold winter, it will have a slight increase. Average cost of natural gas is $8 an MCF, which is measured as 1,000 cubic feet of gas. Cost has remained relatively stable over the past three or four years.”
In concurrence with Roberts and Ruther-Vierling, Smith also said some people are willing to help.
“There are several state and federal agencies that help people with paying bills. We also try to help if we can. Typically, there are people who fall behind,” Smith said.