Founded in 1898 by Alfred Smiley, Family Service Association of Redlands has come alongside families in need and in crisis to help them return to a place of self-sufficiency for 125 years. The agency provides basic yet vital support to households that are low-income, at risk of homelessness or homeless in the East and Central Valley of San Bernardino County. The agency’s goals are to fight hunger and homelessness in the region with a primary focus on households with children under 18 and elderly, disabled and on fixed incomes.
Recognizing the need for food support, Family Service provides breakfast for those in need at the agency Monday through Friday at 10AM. In 2022, the agency served over 15,000 meals in 2022 with the help of volunteers, donors and grantors.
Additionally, Family Service’s Housing Assistance and Advocacy Program provides emergency rental assistance and move-in deposits to families in the East and Central Valley of San Bernardino County who are either facing eviction or already homeless. In 2022, the agency served 206 families with 236 months of paid rent, keeping each household away from the imminent danger of homelessness. When the weather is cold, the agency also offers 2- or 3-day emergency motel vouchers to give families a respite from the cold when the shelters were full.
One of Family Service’s clients, a family of five with extremely low income requested help in March. The father was a cement worker and he had not been able to secure work during the rainy winter. Then in February, his wife who worked as a waitress lost her job. They were behind on their rent and were facing an eviction. Family Service was able to provide them rent for the month of March and keep them in their home as the husband got back to work.
“It’s these people who have temporary financial setbacks because of things that aren’t their fault that need help,” Stewart said. “The stories like this go on and on.”
The region’s need for affordable housing continues to rise and is more than 1 million homes short of the need in California, according to Stewart. Even when clients receive vouchers from the Housing Authority, they struggle to find a place to rent. As the homeless count in the agency’s service area continues to grow substantially every year, Stewart hopes they can play a stronger role in housing solutions. Ultimately, the agency would like to be able to provide affordable housing or permanent supportive housing to clients.
“We definitely see that everyone needs to be aware that there is a housing shortage,” the organization’s executive director, Kyra Stewart said. “When you are in a housing crisis you are experiencing toxic stress in your household which affects children.”
Recently, Family Service received a grant from the James K. Wilden Fund and The James and Rebecca Malachowski Charitable Fund through the Inland Empire Community Foundation. The organization depends on grants and donations to provide services. While the community is very supportive of the agency’s work, donations and grants aren’t going as far as they used to with the rising cost of living according to Stewart.
The agency welcomes support both financially and from volunteers. Every year, more than 500 volunteers from retirees to teenagers assist with meal preparation, serving food, sorting clothes, food drives and boxing up food. Volunteers can register through the agency’s website.
“The work that needs to be done, especially with housing, is bigger than us and we recognize this, but we are in the trenches serving with the resources that we have,” Steward said. “That basic vital assistance of food and housing is what is going to get those families back on track.”
More information: https://www.redlandsfamilyservice.org/ or (909) 793-2673
This story originally appeared in the Press Enterprise June 2023.
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