Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Homelessness prevention programs at risk

Though we all cringe at Miami’s $4-a-gallon gas prices, most of us can at least be grateful we’re able to fill up our tanks and get to work. The cost of fuel appears more dire to someone who’s just been laid off and can’t make it to a job interview. Having transportation can be the difference between unemployment and employment, between homelessness and having a place to stay.

Jewish Community Services of South Florida is addressing this and other factors that contribute to homelessness with its Homeless Outreach for Prevention and Employment (HOPE) program. HOPE provides vocational training, transportation assistance, job referrals, rent assistance and other guidance to those at risk of becoming homeless. Unfortunately, JCS is one of the community-based organizations slated to receive half of their funding from Miami-Dade County.

County funding for organizations like JCS has been steadily eroded over the course of the last five years. JCS Vice President of Rehabilitation and Employment Tom Fleischmann says they are receiving a mere fraction of their initial funding. While they were once able to serve upwards of 120 people a year, they are now contracted to serve 26. And Fleischmann worries that next year with half the money they will serve half the people. As it is, Fleischmann says they are “treading water,” until things begin to look up.

JCS is not the only agency tackling homelessness at risk of losing funding. Camillus House and Catholic Charities, among others, are looking at a 50% cut in their funding this year. These types of programs are not only critical to the well being of the county, but save us money in the long run by preventing problems like homelessness from reaching a boiling point.

To learn more about the budget and what you can do to save services and jobs, visit the Penny Wise Campaign page.

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