DALLAS — Editor's note: The video above is from a previous segment that aired in 2020. The information below is furnished by Interfaith.
WFAA is partnering with Interfaith Family Services to spotlight issues surrounding affordable housing throughout the month of September for our annual TEGNA Advocacy Campaign.
The TEGNA Foundation supports nonprofit organizations in communities served by TEGNA Inc. The Community Grant program serves to address local community needs.
Interfaith's mission is to "empower families in crisis to break the cycle of poverty."
According to the group, Dallas is at a "tipping point."
"Despite our economic success and low unemployment rate (less than 4%), poverty and crime continue to rise as thousands of working families struggle to make ends meet," Interfaith said. "These issues disproportionately affect minority communities."
In Dallas, 83% of people in poverty are Black or Hispanic, according to Interfaith.
The group cites a 2019 United Way of Texas ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) report revealed that 269,000 of Dallas County’s 925,000 households are one emergency away from poverty, while about 132,000 are already there. The latest numbers from the Corporation for Economic Development show that 36% of Dallas residents are considered “asset poor.” That means many working families who lose a job or encounter an unexpected expense will be in immediate crisis. Many working families’ lack of savings and low wages make them especially vulnerable to homelessness.
This lack of assets also puts children at risk. For the third year in a row, Dallas maintains the second worst child poverty-rate among major cities in the United States. In fact, 28.8% of Dallas families with children currently live in poverty. Given that over 46% of Dallas residents have a high school diploma or less, some parents lack both the skills to increase wages and the capacity to address their children’s academic challenges.
What does Interfaith do?
"First, we eliminate barriers.
You can’t build a life on unstable ground. That is why our first step is to eliminate the barriers that keep families in crisis from achieving stability. For families facing homelessness, we provide transitional housing in one of the 23 fully furnished apartments that we own debt-free. For families who are behind on their rent or have other serious financial issues, we provide up to six months of rent assistance plus back-rent. For parents who cannot attend interviews or start a new job because of lack of funds for childcare, we provide free childcare.
Next, we equip parents.
Next, equip parents to overcome poverty by helping parents identify a purpose that will help them to go from “working to live” to “loving their work” via career coaching. We assist parents with increasing their earning potential though counseling to boast self-confidence, career assessments to help them identify the best career path, and career training to increase skills. We also provide financial coaching to help reduce debt, build a savings safety-net and make the most of their new income.
Then, we educate children.
Simultaneously, children are stabilized via our structured and nurturing Childcare Center and our Hope & Horizons Children & Teens Program. We build our children’s self-worth through affirmation, artistic expression, and activities that encourage them to dream. Then, we equip them with the skills to successfully pursue those dreams by providing tutoring to overcome academic gaps as well as play therapy and group counseling to ensure they develop the discipline and self-esteem necessary to succeed in and out of the classroom."
Our Home & Hope Program provides housing for homeless families in one of our 22 lovingly decorated, furnished apartments for up to one year. The apartments are rent-free for clients who enter the program unemployed. Upon obtaining employment, we require a monthly occupancy charge of 30% of the net family income. To encourage savings, Interfaith Family Services returns 100% of that charge to families who save $500 or more and successfully complete all other program requirements.
In addition to housing, clients are required to meet weekly with their personal success coach and financial coach to provide the accountability and support needed to reach their savings and debt-reduction goals. Additionally, unemployed, and underemployed clients must participate in our ADVANCE Career Coaching Program until viable employment is obtained. We also provide on-site childcare and afterschool/summer programs for children as well as fitness/wellness classes and counseling services for the entire family.
Rent & Utility Assistance Overview
Interfaith family Services now provides funding for past due rent and monthly rent for up to 6 months. Clients who receive this assistance must be willing to obtain the financial and career coaching to help overcome future financial challenges. Our proven Family Empowerment Program is designed to help our clients increase wages, reduce debt, and build a savings safety-net in just a few short weeks. We offer a savings match of up to $150 dollars to those who participate in our financial coaching program.
Day and evening coaching is available, and childcare is provided. Family Empowerment Program participants also have access to our on-site gym, fitness classes, career training, and counseling services. [In-person services are currently limited due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Call 214-827-7220 ext. 100 for additional details.
The Moody Family Childcare Center and its staff are fully licensed according to the Texas Child Care Licensing regulations and utilized the highly acclaimed Frog Street Curriculum. Our beautiful new facility has small student-teacher ratios, and we require all teachers to either hold an Associate’s Degree (or higher) or obtain it within one year of employment.
Childcare is FREE for unemployed clients enrolled in our program until CCA is received. Discounted rates are offered to Educators and Law Enforcement Officers. Childcare is offered weekdays, evenings, and Saturdays and is open to both clients of Interfaith Family Services and community members.
Hope and Horizons Afterschool & Summer Program
Children in grades K-12 attend Interfaith’s on-site Hope & Horizons Program. This special program is designed to stabilize homeless children through a combination of arts and crafts that emphasis creativity, play therapy to address emotional and social issues, individualized tutoring to address common academic gaps, and field trips & camps that expose children to the world around them.
During the summer, teens are encouraged to participate in Interfaith’s Summer Work program. Teens rotate from various positions throughout Interfaith ranging from Children’s Program Assistants to Facility Assistants. In addition to earning funds for the school year, teens are required to save part of their income, open up a savings account at Credit Union of Texas, and participate in Financial Literacy Classes. Activities such as their annual college tour, summer tutoring program, and the work program provide a comprehensive approach that prepares our teens for life as self-sufficient adults.
This program is free for clients who are actively participating in Interfaith programming.
Work in action
Throughout the month of September, WFAA is highlighting some of the work of Interfaith by profiling some of the clients who have graduated from the Interfaith Family Services program.
Felicia Melton, a single mother of three, hit rock bottom at the start of the pandemic. She credits Interfaith Family Services for transforming her life.
When Jennifer Richardson and her daughter were on their own, a client told her about a program that could give her a place to live.