Philanthropic Ventures Foundation and Prescott-Joseph Center Help Family in Dire Need
by Executive Director Washington Burns, M.D.
On a Thursday afternoon about 3pm, I arrived at PJC after an outside meeting to have the director of a youth project meeting there tell me that one of the students involved in the project had just been burned out of his apartment. He lived there with his mother and 2 year old sister. The student named James was a 15 year old middle school student. He also said they had no place to live and were going to be put up in a motel for a night. His mother supposedly was at work and did not know of the incident yet.
I talked to James, a very tense, distrusting and obviously guarded boy. I understood because he did not know me. I got as much information as he wanted to give me. The sister at that moment was staying with the grandmother but they would not stay there because the grandmother and James’ mother did not get along. “A mother-daughter thing”, James said.
They did not have any money but they did have section 8. The mother was not working , “because of her condition” and James was somewhat elusive in talking about his mother.
“Are you on public assistance?”, I asked. He said he was but his mother was not. I was confused at this response. He said he managed the family business but he let the mother pay the bills. I told him that I thought I could get some help for them, certainly food and diapers for the sister. By 5pm that afternoon we had delivered the food and diapers.
We have a good relationship with the Philanthropic Ventures Foundation. Its Executive Director, Bill Somerville, has been very supportive of our efforts. First thing Friday morning I called him because I had an agreement with the Foundation that in the event of a major disaster in West Oakland, I could spend up to $10,000 helping the residents in West Oakland, with immediate reimbursement. Unfortunately, those funds were earmarked for multiple families in a disaster. We weren’t sure exactly where to turn; all we knew was this family needed help – fast.
Philanthropic Ventures Foundation came through. Tuesday, I got a check for $5,000 from them to help with single family disasters like the one that with which we were dealing. It took us 3 more days to track down James and his family, who were moving from motel to motel and had no phone. The clinical supervisor of our family support team talked to the mother. We took care of their immediate housing needs while our team started to work on their problems. They were given more food and diapers as well as personal hygiene materials.
It turns out the boy was guarded because he was concerned about the possibility of being displaced to foster care. He was willing to do anything to keep his family together. He is a bright kid. Right now we are trying to get him enrolled in a Merritt College program.
The family has now been enrolled in one of our family support services programs and we are helping them slowly put their lives back together. We are making sure that they have a warm place to sleep and food to eat while we work out more permanent solutions.
My thanks and blessings to Philanthropic Ventures Foundation, a true friend of the West Oakland community.