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Hunger and Homelessness

Temple Beth Am recognizes the needs of those living in the Greater Seattle area without access to basic neccessities, such as food and shelter. We carry out the tikkun olam tradition with regard that individuals and families fall into hunger or homelessness for many different reasons and that each person deserves adequate resources to live. Our members strive to provide these things in a number of ways. 

Homeless to Renter (H2R)

One family disaster can lead to loss of home, due to job loss, medical bills, rent increases, domestic violence, or other issues. The first step is to find temporary shelter and support to keep family together. Then comes the more difficult step: moving from homelessness. That's where Homeless to Renter (H2R), a Temple Beth Am partnership with Jewish Family Service (JFS), helps.

H2R has been helping families for over fifteen years, and we continue to meet the challenges of family homelessness thanks to support from TBA members.  In the last quarter of 2019, JFS helped nine families find stable housing, and since January 1, 2020, H2R/JFS has helped eight more H2R families secure housing.

Department of Social & Health Services’s 211 “hotline” and agency case managers refer families to JFS, which assists families ready to rent. Families locate an apartment they can afford, and then H2R helps with deposits, move-in costs, and personal items, such as afghans, quilts, scarves, and hats—hand-made by our Knitzvah Knitters and LDS Church friends. 

In 2019, the Union for Reform Judaism awarded H2R the Irving J. Fain Award for its social justice work. Since 2004, H2R has helped more than 1200 people secure safe housing.

Jasmine’s is one of many success stories. A single mother who could only work part-time after a ruptured aneurysm required brain surgery, Jasmine had Section 8 housing assistance but needed help with the deposit and fees. Listen to her story in her words.

JFS Emergency Services Director Sandy Lowe says that they are now expecting a tsunami of requests for eviction prevention funding, due to job losses and reduced hours and illnesses related to COVID-19.

In December, before the COVID-19 outbreak, the Temple Beth Am Board of Directors authorized H2R and JFS to provide even more eviction prevention assistance, both to existing H2R families and, more importantly, to new families who did not need move-in assistance, just eviction prevention. This change enables JFS to respond to the anticipated requests for eviction prevention assistance in the weeks and months ahead due to COVID-19. They also authorized an increase in the maximum grants to families, from $1200 to $1500.

While TBA-H2R/JFS still has modest funds in reserve, we must raise more money to help those in greatest need. Those who will be especially hard hit by the effects of COVID-19, of course, are those who become ill, as well as those who work in restaurants, hotels, tourism, the arts, sports support, and countless other sectors subject to lay-offs or reduced hours.  

Our annual Purim-to-Pesach housing drive did not begin as planned, but it is important to remember that it is a mitzvah to give to the needy at Purim. Pesach reminds us that we, as a people, were once homeless wanderers. In the spirit of these two holidays, please ​​​​​​​contact Beth Am Staff Accountant Shana Kaye to make a donation or go to our Giving page. You can also connect with Carlee Savage or Leslie Peterson to join our knitting efforts. Contact Fred Diamondstone to connect with H2R.

Teen Feed

On the first Thursday of every month, we cook and serve a hot, nutritious dinner to homeless youth, ages 13-25 in the University District. Over a healthy meal at Teen Feed, young people connect with specially trained advocates and support coordination staff to access the resources and services they need.

Temple Beth Am members may volunteer to cook and serve the meal or donate food if they are unable to join. Youth over 12 years old are welcome to volunteer, but anyone under 16 years must be accompanied by an adult. For more information or to sign up for our meal team, please contact Linda Wheeler.

Check out our blog for the latest and to sign up to volunteer!

Tue, August 11 2020 21 Av 5780