Jewish Family Services has launched a new program to provide short-term financial assistance to Jewish community members living in the Tri-Cities area, including Maple Ridge and Mission. This program is funded by a grant from a private donor through Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver.
Called the Chesed (or Compassion) Program, the project responds to recommendations made by the Jewish Food Security Task Force, a joint collaboration between JFS and Jewish Federation, that identified the lack of regionally based Jewish food options as one of the top priorities to address.
According to a report from the Jewish Federation, 4,200 Jews in the Lower Mainland earn less than $30,000 annually and live below the low-income cut-off. Approximately 20% of these households live in the Tri-Cities, Mission, Langley and Maple Ridge. Another five percent of households in these areas earn less than $50,000. This means there are approximately 1,000 people living in these communities, many of whom are single-parent working families, who are considered food insecure.
Richard Fruchter, chief executive officer of JFS, said that, for those living in this situation, their day-to-day reality is dire. “Many do not have enough food to last the whole month without accessing a food bank,” he explained, and “some parents go without so that their children have enough to eat. Still others have poor diets, lacking sufficient income to purchase fresh fruit and vegetables.”
Nearly all Jewish programs and services are located in Vancouver and, despite the number of low-income Jewish households in these geographic areas, there are no Jewish-run social services available to them. Many are families that have requested assistance from JFS but, because of the distance to Vancouver or the Jewish Food Bank’s limited hours of operation, they are not getting the help they need. In addition, a significant number of these households are new immigrants, the majority of whom are Russians or Russian-Israelis. They would benefit from being connected to the Jewish community and having access to social and educational programs offered closer to their homes. The Chesed Program is a small but significant step in creating access to these social services.
The program is designed to offer up to six months’ short-term assistance for people in crisis where no other source of funding is available. Eligible are Jewish community members 18 to 65 years old who are residents of the Tri-Cities, Maple Ridge or Mission and can demonstrate financial need (i.e. bank statement, rent receipt, income tax statement, social assistance cheque, proof of income) and are willing to develop a long-term plan for addressing their financial needs, where possible. Individuals or families who meet the eligibility criteria will receive a loaded credit card that can be used for purchasing basic needs items.
For more information about the Chesed Program, contact Tanja Demajo, director of family and adult resources at JFS, at [email protected] or 604-637-3316.