News / USA

    US Faith-Based Organizations Increasingly Care for Poor, Elderly

    David Azrak was once a highly-paid lawyer.  But after a series of medical and financial setbacks, things are so bad that he cannot afford to feed himself.

    Every other week, he receives free groceries at a food pantry in Cherry Hill, a suburb of Philadelphia, run by the Jewish Family and Children's Service of Southern New Jersey (JFCS).  "If it wasn't for their help and their friendship and kindness to me in every way, not only financially, I couldn't make it," Azrak says.

    Government cutbacks and a poor economy have led the U.S. government to rely increasingly on faith-based organizations to help care for the elderly and those dealing with economic hardship.  In many areas, few if any social services are run directly by government agencies.

    In southern New Jersey, JFCS provides social support for people at every stage of life -- from child adoption services to hospice care for the elderly.  Its programs rely on government funding and private donations.  But last year, a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for its food pantries was cut in half, says Executive Director Jennifer Weiss.  "We're now having to sustain more and more people at a higher level because when the grant goes away, it doesn't mean that the needs are going away," she says.  Weiss says her organization provides care to 2,800 senior citizens in southern New Jersey, including social activities and home-based medical care.

    She says these services save taxpayers money because they prevent the elderly from having to be institutionalized at a much higher cost to the government.  "I do not want to go to a nursing home," says 95-year-old Ethel David, who drove ambulances for the Red Cross during her younger years and still drives a car.  She says she only needs JFCS workers' help to fill out forms, but that "just knowing they're there without you needing them - that mental safety - is worth everything."

    Ram Cnaan is a professor of social policy at the University of Pennsylvania and a leading expert on faith-based organizations.  He says they can deliver services cost-effectively because they rely heavily on volunteers and donors, in addition to government funding.  "For every dollar that the government pays them, it's 30 to 40 percent less than they pay for their own services.  So they basically subsidize the government," he says.

    Cnaan has studied what he calls the "replacement value" of social services delivered by churches, synagogues, mosques and other faith-based groups to their communities.  He estimates that in the Philadelphia area alone, these services are worth $500 million annually.

    But Cnaan says there is no evidence that faith-based organizations are better at providing services than a government-run social safety net, adding that they have a reliability problem.  "The problem with congregational social services is the congregation can decide overnight, 'We don't do it [perform a particular service] anymore.  End of story.' It's not a public program that is legislated," he says.

    Still, Cnaan says churches, synagogues, temples and mosques are so prevalent in America that there are more of them per square mile than any other public or commercial establishment.  "To disregard them and say no no you're in the fringe, we're not interested in you, we are government, and you are religion. It's a mistake."

    Cnaan says his research has also found that people are happier when they receive help from faith-based communities than than from the government.  "Clients tell us, 'This is where they ask me about myself; this is where I'm being treated more holistically; this is where I feel that people are interested in who I really am,'" he says.

    Back at the food pantry, David Azrak says he is more comfortable seeking assistance from an organization run by his own faith than from a government agency.  "What a difference!  You're not like a number.  You're not like a beggar in the street.  You're not like a homeless person," he says.  "Here I'm treated like an equal."

    And at the Jewish Family and Children's Service's food pantry, Azrak finds a can of one of his favorite foods in his grocery bag - a Jewish classic, gefilte fish.

    You May Like

    Turkey, US Splits Deepen Over Support for Kurdish Militants

    Ankara summons American ambassador to protest remarks by State Department spokesman who said Washington does not consider Syria's Kurdish Democracy Union Party (PYD) a terrorist organization

    Obama Seeking $19 Billion for National Cybersecurity

    Move, touted as attempt to build broad, cohesive federal response to cyberthreats, calls for increase in cybersecurity spending across all government agencies

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire, who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the wars in Iraq, Syria and Yemen

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clownsi
    X
    February 09, 2016 8:04 PM
    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay Prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Middle East Affairs and national security.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.