By Mimi Pollack
Here in “America’s Finest City,” the weather is nice year-round while rents are among the highest, so many families live paycheck to paycheck. This situation is one reason why there are so many homeless people in San Diego, and worse yet — homeless families.
However, two nonprofit organizations — Dreams for Change and Jewish Family Service of San Diego — have partnered to provide the homeless with a unique, and very practical, short-term solution — a safe parking lot in Kearny Mesa for the homeless to stay at night.
Next year will be the 100th anniversary of JFS, so this organization has been serving the community for a long time with its various programs that strive to help others by empowering individuals and families, sponsoring and supporting refugees, and fostering community connection and engagement. JFS’s mission is to build a stronger, healthier, and more resilient San Diego.
Dreams for Change was founded in 2009 to support homeless and low-income people who were not being served by traditional homeless-service providers and government programs. They emphasize finding permanent housing, employment, training and emergency support. They also started the Safe Parking Program for homeless people who live out of their cars, so they would have a safe place to park at night.
Last year Dreams for Change approached JFS and asked if the homeless could use the agency’s parking lot after hours, and an innovative and effective partnership was born.
This program operates from 6 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. seven days a week, 365 days a year. It is contained in the fenced parking lot between JFS’ two buildings and provides 40 parking spaces for between 20 and 30 cars and around 40 people, including individuals and families. Dreams for Change carefully screens the homeless clients before sending them to JFS.
The program is self-contained and operates almost completely outdoors, with the exception of case management sessions that Dreams for Change now conducts inside in rooms that JFS provides. As the partnership grew, staff and volunteers have hosted dinners on Thanksgiving, Christmas and other evenings.
In addition, JFS is now providing donated food from its “Corner Market,” portable toilets, sinks and access to an indoor shower. The children all go to school and it is nice for them to be able to clean up and eat breakfast before they leave.
Finally, this partnership, which also includes job coaching and employment services, has resulted in several individuals gaining employment, as well as financial assistance to help clients with clothing for job interviews, security deposits for homes along with other items related to self-sufficiency and becoming housed.
Both JFS and Dreams for Change will continue to work together with a common goal of helping families and individuals as they move toward greater self-sufficiency and finding stable housing, employment and a better life. It’s good karma all the way around and a blueprint for others to follow.
Mimi Pollack is an English as a Second Language teacher at Grossmont College and a freelance writer. This article was republished with permission from L’Chaim Magazine.
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