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On the Radar Screen: Helping the Poor

September 8, 2005 By:
Jan L. Apple, JE Feature
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Some 15,200 Jewish households in Greater Philadelphia have incomes at or below the poverty level. Many face issues such as the inability to pay for rent, utilities, food or medicine. Some are too proud to come forward for help; others sacrifice one basic need for another.

Thus, the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia's Center for Social Responsibility established the Committee for the Jewish Poor to oversee initiatives to serve this at-risk population.

"Helping the chronic poor was identified as a critical area of need by Federation's new strategic plan," explained Lyn Neff, co-chair of the committee with Dr. Joseph Carver. "Another directive of the strategic plan was to enhance collaboration among Federation and its partner agencies."

"We are working to provide and enhance services for the chronic poor, and ultimately enable people to be self-sufficient," continued Neff, who explained that she has long had a passion to effect such change. "Accordingly, one of the committee's goals is to enhance case-management services."

Neff said she feels the Greater Philadelphia Jewish community is rich in resources, and that the committee aspires to bring together these resources to make a sweeping impact, rather than provide piecemeal solutions: "I feel it is incumbent upon us as Jews and as human beings to attempt to make people's lives better and ensure that basic human needs are met. With enhanced case management, we're reaching more people; we're doing so more efficiently, more effectively and collaboratively."

One initiative already addressing the committee's goals is a Jewish Family and Children's Service-led effort, Community Connections, which was awarded a $150,000 grant by Federation. Two case managers have been added to the effort; they will work with local agencies to connect people with critical services.

Another Federation-funded initiative is JFCS' Critical Needs Department.

Joanne Lippert, department manager, explained that it works to aid a larger segment of the population in need by raising awareness in the community: "People typically don't think there are Jews within their midst living in poverty, unable to pay rent or bills."

Last year, the department served 725 households through emergency grants.

'People Still Struggling'
"Someone may have lost a job, a spouse or was recently divorced," said Lippert. "Some, like the elderly or those with a disability, live on a fixed income and are in chronic need; others require emergency intervention for essentials like rent, food, clothing or medicine for a child.

"A lot of people are still struggling," she continued, emphasizing that even little things can make a big difference.

For example, she relayed, "during one home visit, a social worker discovered that an 87-year-old woman's vinyl kitchen floor was curling. She could have tripped and fallen, possibly breaking some bones.

"We financed the repair, enabling her to remain at home safely." u

For more information, call 215-832-0818.

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