With New Partnership, Foundation Hopes to Call Attention to Brookline's Neediest This Winter
Brookline Community Foundation partners with 11 other charities to raise $2.3 million for emergency assistance.
Brookline's Safety Net program in partnering with charities across the commonwealth in an effort to keep the region's neediest residents warm, fed and housed as the tepid job market slogs on into the winter.
The Brookline Community Foundation, which administers the Safety Net through a partnership with the Brookline Mental Health Center, has joined 10 other philanthropic groups to raise more than $2.3 million in emergency assistance for families this winter. The partnership won't change the day-to-day operations of Brookline's Safety Net, but leaders hope it will bring more attention to the struggles of the town's neediest residents.
"A lot of funders may think there's really no need in Brookline," said Richard Ward, president of the Brookline foundation. "I think by us participating with some of these organizations, they're learning more about who we are and what the needs are."
For years, the Safety Net has provided Brookline residents with emergency assistance for rent, food, heating fuel or extraordinary expenses. The program is meant to help residents faced with sudden unforeseen needs, not those requiring long-term assistance.
Ward said the foundation initially pledged to raise $55,000 for the Safety Net as part of the partnerships goal, but now expects to raise at least $75,000 and likely more than $100,000.
"Demand is high and there is a great need out there—and it's going to be a tough winter," he said. "Any resources that are going to help families, struggling families, address some of the issues around food, fuel and being able to stay safely in their homes is going to be critical."
The partnership comes amid fears about the future of a major federal home energy assistance program. The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, commonly known as "fuel assistance," had been running on cut-back funding until last Tuesday, when Congress passed a stop-gap bill that provides some $1.2 billion for the program.
Meanwhile, organizers say emergency assistance programs in communities across the state are seeing growing demand this winter, especially as laid-off works find their federal unemployment assistance running out. And Brookline is no different.
"The economy has really affected folks in Brookline, especially unemployment," said Marty Wisler, a social worker who administers the Safety Net at the Brookline Mental Health Center. "I am seeing more people who lose their jobs and are not able to become employed again then I've ever seen before."
The new partnership puts the relatively small Brookline Community Foundation in the league with much larger organizations, including the Boston Foundation and United Way. The group also includes even smaller charities, like the Brookline-based food recovery program Lovin' Spoonfuls.