Downtown Ecumenical Services Council emergency programs.

Services ranging from food to one time emergency aid can help the low income in Clay, Duval and Nassau County. Downtown Ecumenical Services Council is a non-profit that can be contacted. Any type of financial help is limited, but the staff will do their best to meet the request and help the family stabilize their situation.

Any type of financial assistance in Jacksonville is combined with Family Self-Sufficiency. This is a requirement as the charity, as well as many others, want to break the cycle of poverty. So any funds are provided as a hand up to clients. So it in effect buys them time to gain control of their financial situation.

Homelessness Prevention is combined with Rapid Rehousing. This will both provide a pro-active approach as well as react to the client's needs. There may be access to government grants for paying back rent, such as emergency food and shelter, as well as landlord and tenant mediation services administered.

These were set up as the emergency services and Downtown Ecumenical Services Council is committed to preventing homelessness one individual and family at a time. The funds can be used to pay for housing relocation and stabilization services. This will also include funds for paying utility bills if it could lead to homelessness, and of course back rent. There may also be grants for security deposits, moving costs, and similar needs. Tenants of rehousing will also benefit from other supportive services such as job readiness as well as budgeting classes.

More long term solutions in the state of Florida include section 8. This will be run by public housing authorities in counties such as Clay, but the staff from Downtown Ecumenical Services Council can provide referrals to these locations for applications. While there will be a waiting list, section 8 will pay for a portion of the monthly rent or maybe even energy costs if the family also contributes as much as 30% of their household income.

One other solution available in Duval County is SSVF, or the Supportive Services for Veteran Families. This program is funded by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. It provides low-income veteran families that are facing eviction with services aimed at preventing homelessness and improving their stability. It ranges from funds for rent to legal services and applications for VA benefits, among other services.





Downtown Ecumenical Services Council food banks are available as well. They can be turned to every several weeks, and depending on income and household size, some type of groceries will be passed out. There may be rice, cereal, baby formula, and canned goods, depending on donation levels. Proof of identification, residency and other support is needed to apply to DESC.

DESC offers clothing as well to hundreds of families. The volunteers from the church work with charities in Duval and Nassau county, such as Presbyterian Social Ministries as well as Dignity U Wear. The result of this can be clothing for work or school reasons as well.

Downtown Ecumenical Services Council employment and educational support

Downtown Ecumenical Services Council will require self-sufficiency classes. As noted, this is key to getting the client back on the path to long term stability. Instead of taking a piecemeal approach to addressing a crisis one after another, and taking a revolving door for social services, the stability helps participants to address the root cause of the crisis.

Self-Sufficiency, which is very similar to case management, is defined as a process through which a person is given support to help them reach long term economic independence. The goal is to have this happen will they reduce or eliminate any reliance on any federal or state of Florida public benefit programs over a length of time.





So Downtown Ecumenical Services Council will combine their services with a self-sufficiency plan of action. This will be developed with the client as well as the case manager. Some of what will be includes is as follows. People will get advice in locating and applying for education/training programs, information on voucher programs to pay for child care expenses, employment and job training programs, and much more.

The goal is to reduce dependency upon Federal government, county of Duval and State programs. Through their services, the Jacksonville faith based charity provides all the services necessary to help a family assess its strengths. Staff from Downtown Ecumenical Services Council work with the heads of households so that they can market themselves more effectively in order to find better jobs. There will be tips to save money towards the purchase of a home, car, or to continue their education. This can only occur with an increase in the total family income. The end result will ideally be the families moving out of poverty.

Education Services include GED and ESL. There will also be an After School Tutorial Program for low to no income youth organized by DESC. There are even budgeting classes organized by Downtown Ecumenical Services Council and its partners. The goal is to educate adults about the basics of money. Then, they can learn how to become debt free and learn the fundamental of money.

The faith based volunteer groups services several counties from their center at 215 North Ocean Street, Jacksonville, FL 32202. Call (904) 358-7955.



By Jon McNamara

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