Jewish Fam­ily Ser­vice bat­tles home­less­ness

Af­ter fi­nally find­ing af­ford­able hous­ing in the Den­ver metro area fol­low­ing a week­s­long search, Christina Vasquez, a sin­gle mother of two teen boys, sud­denly found her­self with­out a job and fac­ing evic­tion from her Au­rora home.

The Denver Post - - DENVER & THE WEST - By Jesse Paul

Star­ing down the prospect of home­less­ness, she called a so­cial ser­vices hot­line in June and was con­nected to Jewish Fam­ily Ser­vice of Colorado’s fam­ily safety net pro­gram. Sud­denly, it was like a switch had flipped.

Vasquez was able to keep the con­do­minium her fam­ily was liv­ing in and had landed a job in which she has quickly risen, re­ceiv­ing three pro­mo­tions in two months. Get­ting back on her feet was all thanks to Jewish Fam­ily Ser­vice.

“They ac­tu­ally helped ev­ery step of the way,” she said. “They made sure ev­ery step was com­plete.”

JFS chap­ter in Den­ver helps nearly 25,000 peo­ple like Vasquez in the Den­ver area each year, pro­vid­ing ev­ery­thing from emer­gency rent re­lief, to coun­sel­ing, to ac­cess to a food pantry and jobget­ting help. The or­ga­ni­za­tion is one of dozens re­ceiv­ing funds from The Den­ver Post’s Sea­son to Share cam­paign this year, money which will be used at JFS to sup­ple­ment ef­forts to keep fam­i­lies out of home­less­ness.

Aid doesn’t go just to Jewish fam­i­lies as the char­ity’s name might sug­gest, but spans peo­ple from all ages and so­cioe­co­nomic back­grounds, in­clud­ing refugees.

“One of the unique qual­i­ties of JFS is that we have a re­ally strong unique donor base that gives us flex­i­ble dol­lars so that we can re­ally tar­get our ser­vices where the client needs help,” said Shelly Hines, direc­tor of JFS’s fam­ily safety net pro­gram. “A lot of grants and gov­ern­ment fund­ing is very, very spe­cific and re­stricted. We are able to use pri­vate fund­ing and look at the (client) and find out what their need is.”

Hines said that means pay­ing for some­one’s emer­gency needs, like a car re­pair to get some­one back to work or a med­i­cal debt to pre­vent some­one’s check from be­ing gar­nished. That oneon-one, hy­per-spe­cific care is what sets JFS apart.

“It’s those ex­tra things that I think make a big im­pact on peo­ple’s lives that aren’t as easy to find fund­ing for,” she said. “It’s all about re­la­tion­ship build­ing.”

With rents in the Den­ver metro so high, JFS has seen an in­flux of clients — many of them se­niors — in need of money to pay their sky­rock­et­ing rents. The or­ga­ni­za­tion has served every­one from en­gi­neers who are out of work to long-time man­agers sud­denly with­out a job and sin­gle par­ents.

“A lot of them, they don’t have enough in­come to have a sav­ings ac­count to have some­thing kind of as backup if a cri­sis were to hap­pen,” said Di­cia Kemp, JFS’s fam­ily safety net care man­age­ment pro­gram co­or­di­na­tor. “Our clients, ei­ther be­cause of gen­er­a­tional poverty or just be­cause of their cur­rent sit­u­a­tion, they never learned how to save or they’re not ca­pa­ble of sav­ing.”

Kemp added: “They’re just sur­viv­ing.”

Abas Mo­hammed looks over the se­lec­tions at the food pantry at Jewish Fam­ily Ser­vices. The non­profit pro­vides as­sis­tance to in­di­vid­u­als and fam­i­lies that are in dan­ger of be­com­ing home­less. Seth McCon­nell, The Den­ver Post

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