Jewish Family Service of the Desert (JFS) works to give struggling Coachella Valley residents hope and resiliency.
Founded in 1982, JFS serves thousands of clients throughout the area, fulfilling its mission of “healing the world.”
JSF offers counseling for those who need someone to help them overcome an emotional hurdle. Whether comforting a teenager who feels alone in their emotional challenges or helping an individual find the resources they need to overcome crippling depression, JFS is there to take the phone call.
Another service the organization offers is assistance to those who are facing potential homelessness. Case managers at the organization offer rapid resolution, interviewing clients to help identify resources they may have overlooked or been unaware of. Then they help with obtaining services, planning for resiliency, and/or with one-time assistance for rent or utilities.
“Whether it be someone who has lost hope and is seeking counseling to deal with what life has thrown at them or someone who is struggling to keep their home, our therapists and case managers give them hope again,” says Kraig Johnson, the organization’s assistant executive director.
While the organization will assist with an immediate crisis, its goal is to help clients create a self-sufficient future. Last year, JFS was contacted by an 80-year-old woman named Jane who was about to lose her home. Her rent had steeply increased to $1,195 a month and she was living on a fixed income of $1,286. The organization helped her with rent assistance, then immediately went to work on finding a long-term solution.
By May, Jane was approved for a Section 8 voucher and found a landlord who would accept it. Now she has a safe and comfortable apartment for $400 a month.
“We have the ability to give people a fresh start and prevent homelessness,” Johnson says. “We are not taking them off the streets, but we are helping prevent them from being there in the first place.”
In addition to these services, JFS also offers community outreach. The organization’s Let’s Do Lunch program is provided at six different locations, and participants enjoy a two-hour live event and a light lunch. For home-bound seniors, this is a rare opportunity to socialize with others. JFS keeps a roster of individuals who have participated and reaches out to them with an invitation. They also make transportation arrangements when necessary. In addition, the organization checks in with its program participants to ensure their well-being.
Recently, JFS received a grant through the Inland Empire Community Foundation. The organization depends on grants and donations to offer its services and welcomes further support.
On Sunday, March 15, at The Annenberg Theater at Palm Spring Art Museum, JFS will host a program featuring Daryl Davis and honoring Lee Erwin and Tim Jochen, M.D. with the JFS Humanitarian Award. Davis is a blues musician who has impacted racism simply by having dinner with members of the Ku Klux Klan and demonstrating how their hate is misguided. In the course of this outreach work, 200 Klansmen have given up their robes. His story has been featured in the PBS Documentary “Accidental Courtesy.” Proceeds from the event will support JFS’s homelessness programs.
Johnson hopes that more of the community will learn about the work JFS does and will consider supporting, volunteering, referring those in need or reaching out themselves.
“We want everyone to know what we do, who we do it for and why we do it. If you have questions about anything please reach out.,” Johnson says. “And if you want to talk to someone or are at your wits end with a crisis, just give us a call.”
For more information, call (760) 325-4088 or visit jfsdesert.org.
The Inland Empire Community Foundation’s mission is to strengthen Inland Southern California through philanthropy.