Family Service works to help the homeless | Comment

The Executive Director and Rotarian of the Family Service Association of Redlands, I presented to the Noon Rotary Club, Thursday, June 16, on all the activities the historic and prestigious agency has accomplished in 2021.

With nearly 125 years of history in the Redlands community, the overarching goals of the organization are to combat and prevent hunger and homelessness in the area. In 2021, services were provided to over 2,000 families with 16 staff members and two campuses.

Family Service Association executive director Kyra Stewart, left, with fund development manager Jill Prendergast at the June 16 noon meeting of the Rotary Club of Redlands.

Toxic stress and health problems due to lack of access to food have been highlighted as issues facing families living in poverty. I discussed the importance of collaborating with other agencies while serving participants in acute crisis to meet the growing needs of low-income subpopulations.

Never closing its doors during the pandemic crisis, Family Service has boasted of serving more than 4,000 meals in a single quarter, providing breakfast every morning on the agency’s campus to the community whose audience includes a large number of chronically homeless people. The agency also launched a contactless drive-thru food box program that provides a box of food to families in need across the county. In this program alone, 1,000 families have been registered.

The presentation also covered details of the housing assistance program. In an effort to stabilize families and protect them from the imminent dangers of homelessness, Family Service paid emergency rental assistance to 105 families facing eviction or already homeless. Through partnerships with eight motels, over 500 motel vouchers were provided to vulnerable people who had no other accommodation options to turn to during the homelessness crisis.

The housing program is supported by private donations, corporate grants, county and city contracts, and fundraising events throughout the year.

We are in a human services crisis. The effort was highlighted in a report by the National Low-Income Housing Coalition. California has the highest housing costs in the country, and low-wage earners and families on fixed incomes are struggling to maintain the roofs over their heads. The high cost of gasoline, food and basic necessities, as well as the lack of affordable housing options in the state, further aggravate the crisis. Family service is an integral part of healthy and stabilized families, as vital assistance such as hygiene kits, diapers, emergency food and access to clothing will be increasingly needed.

The affordable housing crisis is evident, and studies show that a householder would have to earn more than $39 an hour to afford a decent two-bedroom apartment at fair market rates in the area, according to the National. Low-Income Housing Coalition, The website also identified a housing shortage of over one million units. which will eventually prove to be a recipe for disaster as well as increased homelessness.

During the recession, we need to be resilient and creative with solutions and we need to rely on our Board and our community given the expected downturn in economic conditions.

Kyra Stewart is executive director of the Family Service Association, which was founded as the Associated Charities of Redlands by Alfred Smiley in 1898.

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