The Family Service Association of Redlands’ executive director and Rotarian, I presented at the Noon Rotary Club, Thursday, June 16, about all of the activities the historical and prestigious agency accomplished in 2021.

With nearly 125 years of history in the Redlands community, the overarching goals of the organization are to fight and prevent hunger and homelessness in the region. In 2021, services were provided to more than 2,000 families with 16 staff members and two campus locations.

Kyra Stewart and Jill Prendergast

Family Service Association Executive Director Kyra Stewart, left, with Fund Development Manager Jill Prendergast at the June 16 Noon Redlands Rotary Club meeting.

Toxic stress and health issues due to lack of food access were highlighted as issues that families living in poverty faced. I discussed the importance of collaborating with other agencies while serving participants who are in high crisis in order to meet growing needs in low-income subpopulations.

Never closing their doors during the pandemic crisis, Family Service boasted serving more than 4,000 meals in one quarter alone, providing breakfast every morning at the agency campus to the community whose audience includes high numbers of chronically homeless. The agency also launched a contactless drive-thru food box program that provides a box of food to families in high need throughout the county. In this program alone, 1,000 families were registered.

Further covered in the presentation were specifics about the Housing Assistance Program. In an effort to stabilize families and keep them safe and away from the imminent dangers of homelessness, Family Service paid emergency rental assistance for 105 families who were either facing eviction or already homeless. Through partnerships with eight motels, more than 500 motel vouchers were provided to vulnerable individuals who had no other shelter options to turn to during homelessness crisis.

The housing program is supported through private donations, corporate grants, contracts with county and city as well as fundraising events throughout the year.

We are in a human service crisis. The effort was highlighted a report in a report by the National Low-Income Housing Coalition. California has the highest housing costs in the nation and lower-wage individuals and families on fixed incomes are fighting to maintain the roofs over their heads. Further exacerbating the crisis is the high cost of gas, food and basic life necessities as well as lack of affordable housing options in the state. Family Service is integral to healthy and stabilized families as vital assistance such as hygiene kits, diapers, emergency food and access to clothing is going to be more of a need.

The affordable housing crisis is evident, and studies show that a head of household would need to make over $39 an hour to afford a decent two-bedroom apartment at Fair Market Rate in the area, according to the National Low-Income Housing Coalition, nlihc.org. The website also counted an over 1-million-unit housing shortage. which will eventually prove to be a recipe for disaster as well as an increase in homelessness.

During the recession, we have to be resilient and creative with solutions and we have to rely on our board and community in view of the anticipated downturn in economic conditions.

Kyra Stewart is executive director of the Family Service Association, which was founded as Associated Charities of Redlands by Alfred Smiley in 1898.