An initiative entitled Community Connections Enhanced Case Management is making a dramatic difference by stabilizing the lives of some of the most vulnerable Jews in the Philadelphia region.
Administered by Jewish Family and Children's Service (JFCS), Community Connections, in place since April 2005, provides ongoing, in-depth case management services to needy Jews under age 65 and their families, living at or near poverty. During its first year, 156 clients were served. That number is expected to increase.
Funded by the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, the concept for such a comprehensive social "safety net" program was set forth three years ago through Federation's strategic philanthropy plan.
According to David Rosenberg, director of Federation's Center for Social Responsibility, "Serving the most vulnerable Jews through enhanced case management services was one of the long range goals of the strategic plan. We were trying to find ways to increase opportunities for this segment of our population and make their lives more manageable by linking them directly with community resources and services."
With a full-time case management professional in JFCS' Center City and Northeast Philadelphia offices, the program has had a resounding impact for many existing clients often caught in one crisis after another.
JFCS outreach is ongoing to disseminate information to vulnerable Jews throughout the community who may not be aware that such a program exists.
"Our focus is on people with chronic needs," explained Joanne Lippert, LSW, assistant director of JFCS' Case Management Department. "Most of these clients have chronic mental health issues, illnesses or physical disabilities. Some are homeless. People are often shocked to discover that there are Jewish homeless in our community."
With a carefully crafted plan, developed collaboratively by the case manager and client, recipients are connected with community services that at one time seemed out of reach. Case managers devise a workable budget, guiding clients on how to apply for public entitlement funds that enable them to obtain necessities like food stamps, cash assistance, welfare and disability. Case managers might provide a vital web address or a contact to obtain a hearing aid, or open a door to a part-time employment opportunity. The program strengthens community connections while fostering independence.
Part of the beauty of Community Connections, notes Lippert, is a monthly stipend that can be utilized at the case manager's discretion.
"Often clients feel isolated," said Lippert. "Many have no family, no connection with the community. If a client always loved art, the stipend might be used for enrollment in an art class. For another, the money might be used for a food voucher."
Since Federation has so generously funded this program, we now feel that we're able to effect long-term change for our clients. It's very satisfying to see that the program is working."
According to Joanna Schober, Center City case manager, "This program is unique because we are able to take the time to give individualized attention. I have seen success stories where some people have become almost self-sufficient. Many of my clients have no other source of emotional support; they have no family, no friends. Just knowing that someone is on their side means a lot to them."
For more information, call Joanne Lippert at 215-496-9700, Ext. 111.