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J-HELP emergency referral assistance.

J-HELP is involved in assisting residents of Cook County with finding services and resources that will help the family work towards their goals. Several charities and social service groups make up this service, including Jewish Child & Family Services,  EZRA Multi-Service Center, Jewish Vocational Service, CJE SeniorLife, JCC, Maot Chitim, Touhy Health Center, and The ARK.

A key focus is on offering referrals. Another resource that may be available from the non-profit is emergency, one time financial aid. There may be funds for everything from back rent to prescription medications or food. In some cases, local agencies will also help pay for employment related expenses of income qualified applicants.

Food is available from a pantry as well as holiday programs. The goal is to help feed low income families in Chicago Illinois and surrounding towns. Volunteers are needed to keep the program running. Staff from J-HELP also depend on gracious donors, including companies such as Kroger or Wal-Mart as well as the Jewish community, to provide food to the hungry in the community. Many of the people seeking help are doing so for the first time. They may be struggling due to job lay-offs, salary reductions, cost of goods, plant closings, or even unemployment.

Families of the center will have the ability to shop at the pantry. This means they will select exactly what they need. Or if that does not work for the client, then pre-bagged foods can be passed out by staff. The items contained will be easy to cook and the groceries are given at no cost to families in need of food. If someone can make it to a center, then home deliveries may be arranged by volunteers of the Jewish community.

The other service is the holiday distribution. This operates at Thanksgiving, Hannukah and Christmas. J-HELP is involved in spreading holiday cheer to low-income residents, regardless of their religion, as well as seniors or the homebound. There are resources such as free holiday food baskets, Toys and Coats for Head Start children, and a Turkey for Thanksgiving Dinner.

Housing services are available in partnership with the Illinois Continuum of Care as well as U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). This encompasses many different aspects to eliminating homeless in the Cook County region. Assistance is available as a community-based, long-range plan that addresses the needs of very low income as well as homeless persons. Short term grants are offered for bills or rent in addition to advice in an effort to help them reach maximum self-sufficiency.




More as a result of federal funds from the Continuum of Care or other programs, emergency financial assistance provides people with immediate resources. This of course depends on funding levels. Any cash grants for rent or housing is paid out on a first come first serve basis.

When applying, staff will interview the client. They need proof of income, expenses, and identification. They will then need to evaluate the individual’s or family’s need for the assistance on a case-by-case basis. If everything works out as part of this process, J-HELP will have funds for expenses such as rent, a mortgage payment or overdue energy bills. There are also vouchers to pay for medications.

Resources for homeless residents, whether individuals, youth, single parents, and families include some or all of the following.

-Emergency shelter as well as transitional housing in Cook County.
-Referrals are given to permanent supportive housing programs or low income apartments as well as funds to pay the rental deposit.
-Domestic violence shelters, legal support and advocacy services.
-Other housing arrangements from J-HELP will include support services for people with disabilities.
-Rapid re-housing as well as one time rent assistance at local centers.

Employment and stability services from J-HELP

Case management as well as anti-poverty services are arranged. J-HELP will assist homeless and low-income households with finding a path out of poverty. Clients of the non-profit are encouraged to develop a partnership agreement with their case manager that clearly spells out their needs.





Coaching is available from staff at the Jewish organization. Whether it is help for a job search or tips on eliminating debts, free advice is arranged. J-HELP can refer people from Chicago to non-profits that may offer this service. This is stressed as it is a key to overcoming poverty in the city.

While many of the resources are available at the office, if J-HELP can't meet the needs then staff will provide linkage to mainstream benefits, including public assistance, for low income households. Some examples of what is offered includes Early Childhood services, parent training, child abuse services, as well as support for low income non-English speakers with limited proficiency. Staff will also follow-up to keep tabs on the process. They want to ensure that neither the client nor other service providers drop the ball.

There are cases in people who are struggling are under tremendous pressure. Some individuals will need counseling. Whether it is a mental issue, or other domestic struggle, the service has information on providers in Cook County. This type of support will also help a client get on the path to stability.

J-HELP provides some or all of the above as well as referrals. Clients can telephone the office to make an appointment (which is preferred) or walk in to find out about services. For more information, dial 312-357-4949.




By Jon McNamara


















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