Contemplating the severe budget cuts fraying California’s social safety net, Anita Friedman thinks the Golden State is starting to resemble Greece. And not because both have great beaches.
“[California] has had multiple years of deficits,” said the executive director of S.F.-based Jewish Family and Children’s Services, “and that means we’re now down to making major structural cuts, eliminating critical services.”
The new state budget cut millions of dollars from programs for early childhood, mental health and the elderly, Friedman noted, and one JFCS service that has suffered mightily is the L’Chaim Adult Day Health Center. Located on Judah Street in the Sunset District, the center provides some 400 seniors — most of them Russian Jewish immigrants — with hot meals, medical services and socializing opportunities.
Now JFCS is fighting back with a fundraising campaign. Friedman hopes to raise $500,000 to provide a year’s worth of funding for the 13-year-old center.
Part of that campaign is a new video, “Budget Cuts Hurt Services for Vulnerable Seniors.” Shot at the L’Chaim center, the 31⁄2-minute video depicts elderly JFCS clients receiving services and talking about their reliance on the center.
Also interviewed on the video is JFCS associate executive director Gayle Zahler, who describes the center’s clients as “the poorest of the poor; people who have no resources.”
Friedman says in her three decades at JFCS she has never seen circumstances as difficult for clients as they are today.
“We need to raise $500,000 to keep the center open in the next year,” she said. “We are hoping that the community will continue to rise to the occasion in taking care of the most vulnerable members of the community.”
Without such centers, some clients may be forced into nursing homes. The catch, according to Friedman, is that there are no available Medi-Cal beds in Bay Area nursing homes, so frail elderly would be sent to homes as far away as Fresno.
Friedman also said that day-care centers like L’Chaim, which offer an array of services and allow low-income seniors to remain in their own homes and apartments, are more cost- effective for the state than placing them in nursing homes.
With the fundraising campaign just beginning, Friedman reports that a $150,000 lead gift has already come in. Now she needs others to step up.
“We do have a very resilient community that has continued to rise to the occasion and give,” she said, “and we’re grateful for that.”
After expressing that positive spirit, she updated her comparison of California to the debt-battered nation of Greece.
“Of course, it could be worse,” Friedman said. “It could be Bangladesh.” n
For more information, visit www.jfcs.org. To view the video or make a donation, visit www.bit.ly/KWfMkp.