Funding initiatives that help the most vulnerable populations within the Jewish community remain an ongoing goal of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia's Center for Social Responsibility.
To meet this goal, the center formed the Committee for the Jewish Poor. Co-chaired by Lyn Neff and Dr. Joseph Carver, it works to provide and enhance services to the chronic poor that should ultimately enable people to move toward self-sufficiency, as well as help with rent, mortgage and utility payments, and with food, shelter and other critical necessities.
The committee is an outgrowth of Federation's Task Force on Poverty, established in 1999. "Helping the chronic poor was identified as a critical area of need by Federation's strategic philanthropy plan," explained Neff.
One program that has made great strides is the Homeless Fund at Jewish Family and Children's Service, a partner agency of Federation.
"The program began in 2001 in response to the realization that homelessness existed in the Jewish community and needed to be addressed," according to Joanne Lippert, manager of Critical Needs for JFCS. "We have been able to help and respond to a number of individuals. Many people don't realize that there are Jews among us who are homeless; our program is also working to raise awareness throughout the community."
Circumstances among clients vary widely. Some struggle due to chronic mental illness; others are in tenuous situations due to the loss of a job, the loss of income as a result of divorce or widowhood or other factors, explained Lippert. Some live with the threat of eviction or foreclosure; others simply wait in fear of what tomorrow will bring.
JFCS helps in any way it can by arranging temporary or permanent shelter, such as housing in a personal-care boarding home.
Organization members also negotiate with landlords, banks and other outlets to arrange payment plans, pay a month's rent or provide money to purchase food for a week or so during a time of transition. The program also seeks to connect individuals with resources in the community to move them toward stability and independence. Such services may include psychiatric counseling, job-search assistance and help with securing public entitlement funds.
With clients served in the Center City, Northeast Philadelphia, Ardmore and Elkins Park offices, Lippert continued, "a program like this truly makes a difference in the lives of some of the neediest within our community. I hope we are able to continue to respond to people who come to our doorstep looking for help."
Another initiative funded by the center is that of providing scholarships for children to attend FELS, Federation Early Learning Services, which provided financial assistance to more than 100 Jewish children in 2004-05.
Affordable child care is a concern for many families. According to Maddy Malis, president and CEO of FELS, "some 46 percent of children attending our program are from low-income families and in need of scholarship assistance. By enabling children to attend FELS, parents are able to remain self-sufficient."
Malis explained that at times, a family must choose between paying for child care or buying food: "Without child care, parents would not be able to work and provide for their family's most basic needs. School-readiness programs like ours are now being recognized for the role they play in a child's long-term achievements." u
For more information, call at 215-832-0818.