Interfaith Community Services
What makes your organization unique in its approach to addressing homelessness?
Interfaith Community Services is unique in the comprehensive service delivery model that it offers the San Diego homeless community. We provide both immediate safety net services and long-term, life-changing services to break the cycles of poverty and homelessness.
Interfaith has forged innovative partnerships at the intersection of healthcare and human services—including the County’s first recuperative care program and a 12-year partnership with Neighborhood Healthcare to collaboratively address community needs.
What is a misconception you think the public has about homelessness?
A common misconception about people experiencing homelessness is the belief that chronic homelessness happens because individuals do not want shelter or housing and prefer the freedom of living on the street. San Diego County is grappling with a significant shortage in shelter beds. People living on the street often reject the option of crowded, unsafe shelters, due to concerns over space and safe storage for their personal possessions. Trauma can make proximity to others, or the feeling of being in an enclosed setting, a challenge. Some people experiencing homelessness also report that when they have a pet or partner, they have to choose between those sources of stability and a bed. .
Since “Housing First” began, this comprehensive model has made it apparent that the offer of immediate access to independent housing with support services is welcomed by most individuals experiencing homelessness.
When was the organization founded?
Interfaith was founded in 1979 when a group of faith leaders came together as a direct response to the rising rates of hunger and homelessness in North San Diego County. Despite diverse backgrounds, they all believed if they joined together, the sum of their parts could make something entirely more meaningful. With that inspiration in their hearts, their pact led to the formation of Interfaith as a nonprofit charitable organization.
The organization’s efforts received widespread support. We made community partnerships as we extended help to everyone, from homelessness individuals to low-income and under-served neighbors. Today, we have over 250-member faith communities, 2,300+ volunteers, 230 dedicated staff, and approximately 20,000 unique clients.
You are part of the "systems change" giv4 homelessness category. Can you explain more what work your organization does in this area?
Interfaith is working to create systems change by collaborating with individuals, faith organizations, government agencies, foundations, and other nonprofits to create and advocate for practical solutions to community needs. These collaborations are force multipliers, providing leveraged, cooperative solutions for housing, food, behavioral health/wellness, health care, education, and employment issues.
Interfaith seeks to end and prevent homelessness for all community members through traditional programs such as rapid-rehousing and shelters, as well as our leading-edge, person-centered, comprehensive care model. Working with hospitals, healthcare plans, Veterans Affairs, and Whole Person Wellness, the new Abraham & Lillian Turk Center will be the new home of our recuperative care program and is operating as the first non-congregate shelter option in the region. In addition, Interfaith will be opening the first low-barrier family shelter in North County.
Is your organization looking for volunteers? Are you looking for committee/board members with particular skill sets? Do you need in-kind donations of any sort?
Volunteers are an integral part of Interfaith Community Services and are deeply integrated and engaged across the organization, helping to expand service capacity and allowing Interfaith to support more community members in need. Interfaith also welcomes in-kind donations of food, hygiene items, baby items, pet supplies, gently used household items and furniture, small appliances, and other items. We continue to grow our Board of Directors and are seeking to increase member diversity across all areas.
Has your organization been featured in the media recently?
WSJ: Juneteenth, Now a Federal Holiday, Puts Companies to Work on a Response (discussing an Interfaith employee's reaction to now having Juneteenth as a holiday)
What else would you want people to know about your organization?
Interfaith has grown to become the most comprehensive social services agency in North San Diego County. Last fiscal year, we served 20,717 community members.
Interfaith purchased and is transforming a hotel property in downtown Escondido into a new center for healing and transformation for San Diego County community members working to overcome homelessness. The Abraham & Lillian Turk Recuperative Care Center will become the home of Interfaith’s Recuperative Care Program and a new Graduate Temporary Lodging Program. The only center of its kind in San Diego, the new campus will co-locate integrated, evidence-based social services, medical care, and behavioral health support to address the complex needs of individuals experiencing homelessness as they establish a pathway towards self-sufficiency.
Interfaith is keenly focused on addressing the inexorable link between racism, poverty, homelessness, and trauma, and is actively working to become an anti-racist organization.