In 2019 the Jewish Federation of San Diego County, the Jewish Family Service of San Diego, Jewish Community Foundation of San Diego, and the Isakow Foundation commissioned a study to investigate the extent and causes of Jewish poverty in the San Diego.
In February 2020, the “Report on Poverty in SD Jewish Community” was released, and showed that more than 20% of San Diego’s Jewish population struggles with financial & housing insecurity. This includes nearly 9,000 Jews living below the local poverty levels, and 5,000 households (about 12,000 individuals) that are “one paycheck away” from a financial crisis.
Amongst many findings, the Report demonstrated that there is limited intra-community awareness of the financial challenges that affect many local Jewish households, as well as many inaccurate assumptions, biases, and beliefs about the causes of poverty. The Report found that the financial needs of vulnerable households are diverse, and households affected by poverty generally have multiple assistance-needs that existing Jewish organizations were not able to meet. Additionally, local government and nonprofit service providers are available, but not being effectively accessed or utilized. The Report concluded that navigation and access to services were complex and difficult and that many types of service are simply not available in San Diego County.
The study also highlighted the lack of a Community Standards for care and services, and that limited organizational-coordination is a barrier to identifying and assisting vulnerable households. The San Diego community lacked a single point of entry or information hub, to services and government programs to assist those in need, resulting in inadequate supplemental financial assistance options, and no meaningful poverty-prevention programs. As a result of these factors, the Report found that there existed a lack of credibility among users and potential users in current system of services.
The Report concluded that a communal plan was needed to address the issues of Jewish poverty in San Diego County, and that the plan’s implementation should be a priority. It emphasized that experimentation with new and existing programs should be encouraged, and the necessary resources should be provided by the Community to enact them. There were numerous, different projects that were identified for further evaluation and future implementation, and all efforts should be monitored through metrics and ongoing reporting.
It was recommended that the Jewish community of San Diego County develop a coordinated plan with an organizational structure that provides a single intake-point; collaboration with Jewish and secular resources; customized services to assist clients to identify, apply for, and obtain needed services; and receive consistent, meaningful follow-up and ongoing assistance.
Kindness Initiative Launched
During the summer of 2020, first steps to implement the program were launched by developing a community-wide implementation plan, prioritizing projects, and developing an organizational structure. Kindness Initiative’s Member-centric program focuses on human dignity, volunteerism, collaboration, efficiency, effectiveness, and innovation.
Through our oversight to ensure that the needs of every vulnerable Jewish household in San Diego county are addressed, we:
- Create and oversee community “Service Standards” for quality and care, including performance metrics and evaluation
- Provide an convenient single-point-of-entry to obtain customized need- and service-plans
- Maintain an extensive and dedicated volunteer corps
- Coordinate a collaborative broad services provider network
- Assist vulnerable Jewish households to navigate and access services
- Develop programs to fill needed services voids