JFS Perspectives

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Preventing Homelessness: The Very Special Work of JFS



Preventing Homelessness: The Very Special Work of JFS

Despite Colorado’s relative prosperity, approximately 10,500 children and adults are homeless in Colorado on any given night. Of those, 7,600 are living in emergency shelters or transitional housing and 2,900 are on the streets. 

These numbers represent a staggering magnitude of human suffering and cost. Taxpayers spend an estimated $43,240 per homeless individual in Colorado each year for services such as emergency health care, police intervention, incarceration, emergency response, and legal issues. The social cost of related problems like mental illness, drug use, and physical abuse are equally devastating to our community.

There are great organizations and dedicated individuals working to support those who are already homeless, and we applaud those efforts. At JFS, we complement those efforts in a very special and meaningful way: our work is dedicated to preventing homelessness before it happens. It is in prevention that we can finally get to the root of the homelessness problem.

The goal of the JFS Family Safety Net program is to keep people in their homes. We work to get families through whatever crisis they are facing and back on the path to self-sufficiency. It might mean covering rent for a couple of months while staff work with clients to resolve root problems. We help people better manage their finances. We help them find sustainable employment. We provide food and help them find housing they can afford. We help people access resources, such as food benefits and Medicaid.

We’re seeing great results. Last year, the agency provided financial aid to 293 families to keep them in their homes. We helped 290 individuals with job counseling and job-search services. We referred 1,425 people in need to other resources.

The average cost for our Family Safety Net program to work with a family in crisis and prevent them from losing their home is $6,000, including staff time. That’s 14 percent of $43,240 each homeless person is costing taxpayers. But the real benefit is giving people the tools they need to remain self-sufficient.

Shepard Nevel
President and CEO

 


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