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We Care Does Much More Than Prevent Homelessness

we care family support center

 

WE CARE of Los Alamitos Executive Director Rob Lowenberg. We Care is a community-based agency dedicated to preventing homelessness. Since COVID-19, their calls for service are up by 55 percent.

 

 

BY LAURIE HANSON • August 28, 2020

With many struggling to survive the pandemic’s economic effects on daily life, one nonprofit is helping to meet the ever-increasing need of local individuals and families.

Tucked in with several other nonprofits in the city of Los Alamitos is a community-based agency called We Care, who have been caring year-round for low income individuals and families since 1989.

Under the direction of Rob Lowenberg who has worked there for more than 14 years, with the last 4 years spent as executive director, the agency successfully helps prevent homelessness, provides financial assistance and other services to those in greatest need.

“We Care strives to keep families safely housed and provide financial assistance to aid in the prevention of these individuals from becoming homeless,” said Lowenberg. “Our agency takes pride in its year-round rental/mortgage assistance program.”

Over the past 5 months calls for help to the agency have increased by 55 percent, according to Lowenberg. Individuals and families simply are having a hard time affording to put food on the table, pay rent or utilities due to the economic effects of the pandemic.

“Now more than ever, our services are needed during this time of uncertainty, to meet the emergency needs in our community,” he explained. “Our Homeless Prevention and Food Pantry Program offer families comprehensive support, allowing them to stabilize their crisis and avoid losing their home.”

Over the last 5 months, We Care has administered more than $100,000 in rent and mortgage assistance alone. Their clients now are primarily those effected by the pandemic through layoffs, business closures and delays in unemployment benefits. Many are two to three months behind on rent and utilities, according to Lowenberg.

But We Care’s program is much more than housing and food assistance. Through a case management approach, their counselors help identify client needs, matching them to resources in the community to help address those needs now and in the future.

Individuals and families can receive an array of services including rental/mortgage assistance, food assistance, childcare expense coverage, vehicle support services, utility assistance, case management, therapy, and medical referrals. This along with other safety-net/wrap-around services are offered to clients throughout the duration they are with the agency.

“By the end of the program individuals/families are no longer at-risk,” he explained. “They are capable of adapting and dealing with the circumstances that put them in a vulnerable or at-risk state [in the first place].”

The recent closures of schools and churches has also affected We Care directly. Normally, the agency receives direct communications from local school counselors, teachers and principals who help identify struggling families and refer them to the agency. “This procedure has not only helped address the families’ financial crisis but has often been the answer to the academic struggles of the student,” Lowenberg said.

We Care’s food pantry resources are also dependent upon the schools and local churches, with their supply now being strained and stretched. Families are now limited to two to three bags at a time, instead of four to five bags normally.

The target population area the agency serves is individuals or families with or without children who are threatened with homelessness or are low-income in northwest Orange County. But they serve all of Orange County when utilizing federal homeless funds received through the Emergency Food and Shelter Program grant. The cities locally served are Los Alamitos, Rossmoor, Cypress, Fountain Valley, Huntington Beach, Seal Beach, and Stanton.

“The Homeless Prevention Program consistently has had a 71 percent success rate (as in, 71 percent of participants do not lose their present homes), which is much higher than the average homeless prevention program,” said Lowenberg. Other positive outcomes they have measured and achieved are: 93 percent of individuals/families remain in stable housing during the program ; 88 percent of families achieve self-sufficiency in the program; 71 percent served maintain self-sufficiency for at least six months after program completion; 100 percent of families served are linked to community resources/mainstream benefits that helps them develop a plan to prevent future housing instability

“We Care is committed to promoting our core values of compassion, integrity, respect, commitment and dignity,” he added. “Our vision is to create a community where its members are nourished, housed and self-reliant.”

For more information about We Care and the services they provide, please visit online at wecarelosalamitos.org or call their office at 562-598-9790.

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