- Domestic Violence Prevention
- Financial Assistance
Once survivors of domestic violence take the courageous step to leave their abuser, they face an uphill climb to self-sufficiency. Homelessness, trauma, debt, and few job skills can create unsurmountable hurdles to creating a new life—oftentimes leading them back to their abuser. That’s why JFCS’ Dream Program helps women and their children with not only finding stable long-term housing, but with a multitude of other wrap-around services and support necessary to get them back on their feet.
JFCS recently expanded its Dream Program to offer more housing and services to an increased number of families who have survived domestic violence. This new capacity builds on a nationally recognized approach that quickly moves families to self-sufficiency.
A New Home in Their Chosen Community
Domestic violence survivors currently make up approximately 12% of the sheltered homeless population nationwide, and for many women the greatest deterrent to leaving an abusive relationship is fear that they and their children will end up on the street.
Kelsey Friedman, JFCS’ Director of Family Violence Prevention Services, says, “Most of our clients experienced homelessness in the process of leaving their abuser—often moving from shelter to shelter, sleeping in their cars, and experiencing deep poverty, which compounds the trauma they face.”
Dream Program clients receive comprehensive case management from JFCS, including a housing subsidy to get them into their own apartment within their chosen Northern California community—near family, friends, job training, and employment prospects. Given the realities of the competitive Bay Area housing market, JFCS collaborates with property owners and developers to identify rental opportunities throughout the region.
Women receive financial assistance such as apartment deposits, first month’s rent, move-in assistance, and rental subsidies as they recover. Kelsey says, “Dream Program clients sign their own lease so that they take complete ownership of their apartment. They are able to start to rebuild their credit and reestablish their lives knowing their family is safe.”
Wrap-Around Services Maintain Stability
Supportive services are critical for the women and their children to remain successfully in their new homes and can include therapeutic services and counseling, community resource connections, job training and placement, parenting consultations, and legal support. These services help mothers tackle complex issues related to their trauma.
Kelsey notes, “Sadly, the trouble doesn’t end when women move. Litigation abuse, credit fraud clean-up, divorce, and custody issues often await them, and JFCS is here to help.”
Families generally stay in the Dream Program between 12 and 24 months, depending on their specific situation, and the holistic approach of JFCS’ case management allows them to receive care that addresses all aspects of their lives. JFCS works individually with the families, as well as regularly bringing the women together as a group for support and friendship.
Dream Team Volunteers Add Another Layer of Support
As families settle into their new homes they continue to need urgent assistance with basic needs. The Dream Team, a passionate group of JFCS volunteers, coordinates a clothing closet, a mentoring program, and holiday gifts.
Co-founded by Kerri Lehmann and Debbie Kay, the Dream Team makes sure that women and their children in the program feel special, know there are people who care deeply about them, and have what they need to overcome barriers to self-sufficiency in order to begin a new chapter in their lives.
One recent Dream Program graduate says, “It’s frightening to think about where I’d be without JFCS. I’d probably still be on welfare. This program taught me a lot about responsibility. I’m more confident, calmer and happier, and I’m a better parent.”
Funding for JFCS’ Dream Program is provided by generous individuals, foundations, and endowment funds.