2018-2019 has been a very busy year. In the aftermath of October 27, 2018, JFCS has done a great deal of work in community healing. We’ve increased counseling opportunities, both individual and group. JFCS, along with our partner Jewish agencies, has engaged in improving security, providing training and helping to establish the 10.27 Healing Partnership, which opened about a month ago. The recovery journey of our community, stricken by the attack on Tree of Life Or L’Simcha, has been front and center all year.
But we are also pleased to report on some of our other accomplishments this year! Even in the face of community – and personal – struggle, our intrepid staff have once again dedicated themselves to helping clients in every department cope with challenges and changes and move forward.
85% of the clients of JFCS Career Development Center found work in an average of 13 weeks, substantially better than the 30-week national average. “Office hours” and job fairs have spread out to 15 different sites around the Pittsburgh area. And programs that address special clients like veterans and those with mental health challenges are proving that with a little focused attention, we all can shine!
Speaking of employment, one of our guardianship staff recently reported that a client she’s worked with for more than 12 years finally got a job. Guardianship clients are deemed by the courts to be unable to manage on their own. So getting a job after 12 years may not seem like much, but in this client’s case it was a life-changing step forward. JFCS: we stick with you as long as you need us.
Given the state of refugee and immigrant policy in this country, both our JFCS Immigration Legal Services and JFCS Refugee and Immigrant Services departments have been in high gear. A wonderful group of local Mt. Lebanon residents have started a fundraising effort to help fund legal services for unaccompanied migrant children; we have experienced a 112% increase in cases this year. Children as young as 4 have to plead their case in court alone; without legal representation, 85% of them will be deported.
The number of refugees being allowed into the country has been cut to the all-time low of 18,000 for FY 2019-2020. But JFCS still resettled more refugees this year than the year before. 100% secured employment and achieved economic sufficiency by 180 days. Afterschool programs were stepped up to include pre-college programming. The ISAC (Immigrant Services and Connections) website was completely redesigned to be more user-friendly, and ISAC responded to a record number of clients this year. Refugee support groups – peer-led groups in refugee communities – have increased to 74.
Senior services continues to look after local older adults. AgeWell Reads joined AgeWell Rides and AgeWell Visits as volunteer-driven initiatives for seniors. Now seniors who qualify can speak to librarians, and have books delivered to their homes. And Pet Health Day was created. Local veterinarians visit local senior residences at no charge and give pets basic care. This has been a wild success, and the staff who attend say it’s their favorite activity of the year!
PFMIpro, a senior evaluation program created by JFCS to comparatively measure senior clients’ well-being, has indeed gone “pro.” The model is successfully being marketed nationwide!
Finally, JFCS Squirrel Hill Food Pantry received a grant to expand food assistance and “basic needs” services to veterans. And you may not remember, but 2019 started off with a federal government shutdown. Emergency food drives gave the Pantry the ability to respond quickly to the increased need.
October 27, 2018 remains the most serious “change and challenge” our community has ever experienced. But 10,445 individuals had their own challenges and changes to face this year, and JFCS is proud to say we were there for each and every one of them.