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Organization helps folks get back on their feet

OCEANSIDE — Interfaith Community Services is helping people get back on their feet with comprehensive assistance services that include food, housing, vocational training and drug rehabilitation services.
“We help those who are homeless and marginalized by providing some sort of help that pushes them towards self sufficiency, that’s our goal,” Jason Coker, Interfaith Community Services communications coordinator, said.
The organization began in Poway in 1979 by the joint efforts of four faith centers and now works from its offices in Escondido and Oceanside with a collaborative of more than 450 faith centers and business partners, and 5,000 volunteers. Some of its programs focus specifically on at-risk youth, seniors and veterans.
Last year 35,800 men, women and children were served. “It’s hard to describe a typical client,” Coker said. “There has been a dramatic increase with the economic downturn. It used to be a homeless person would look like what you might expect, an older middle aged man living on the street alone, but now that’s not true. It could be a whole family with children.”
Tough economic times have also marginalized previous stable, upper middle class families. “Some of our clients are former donors looking for assistance, who have lost their careers,” Coker said.
The face of veterans needing assistance has also changed. Now young retired military men and women with families are in need of help and there are more veterans returning from war with injuries and trauma.
A unique program that has been successful in helping those with mental illness is the Fairweather Lodge. Three small group homes, one specifically for veterans, trains individuals with mental illness to live together as a community and operate a business. “It’s really unique and has demonstrated long-term consistent success,” Coker said.
Another beneficial service is the 72-bed transitional housing complex in the Crown Heights neighborhood that provides up to two years of housing for clients who are working to get back on their feet.
A fundraising effort is under way to pay off the mortgage of the Crown Heights housing complex so the $20,000 a month currently spent on mortgage costs can be put toward direct services. Price Charities has offered Interfaith Community Services a matching grant to help pay down the costs. “It makes a huge difference for us,” Coker said. “When people donate $10 it becomes $20 automatically.”
Interfaith Community Services hopes to have the remaining $300,000 in mortgage costs paid off within a year and be able to redirect more of its funds to much-needed direct services.

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