SF Works helps families make ends meet

December 24, 2010 8:58:24 PM PST
They are sometimes called the working poor-- people with jobs, but not enough income to support their families. According to SF Works in San Francisco, it is a growing problem, so they are trying to make a difference.

Maria Cruz loves her job. She runs the housewares section at Cole Hardware on Fourth Street, but she and her husband were facing a crisis. They were about to lose their house, purchased with a loan about to re-set.

"When SF Works came and showed us, gave us some referrals, I felt so happy because I didn't believe there is a way," says Cruz.

SF Works is a non-profit agency focused on helping people who do important service sector jobs, but who don't earn high wages.

One of the hardest things about living in the Bay Area is the high cost of living. In fact, even with two incomes, it sometimes can be impossible to make ends meet.

In just four months, counselors at SF Works helped the Cruz family restructure their loan.

A few blocks away, Dianne Alvarado is a single parent who works as a family support coordinator at South of Market Child Care. Her modest paycheck barely covers rent and food. SF Works provided some financial counseling. Money is still tight, but she manages it better and it changed her life.

"It really led into a whole mindset of not being worthy and not being somebody important because there were things I couldn't afford to do. Now being able to have the credit rating that I have, if things come up, like my daughter had to get glasses last Thursday, I now can go and get her glasses, and I can pay it off at $25 a month," says Alvarado.

It's estimated there are 50,000 households in the city where paychecks aren't sufficient. SF Works helps these families to reduce their utility bills and to qualify for discounts, in addition to counseling.

"So essentially what we're able to do is usually provide over $2,500 of annual savings after a quick conversation with people and help showing them how to do a lot of forms. So we're giving people a 5 percent raise that their employer would like to provide, but just can't right now," says SF Works executive director Carrie Portis.

Rick Karp owns Cole Hardware. SF Works has helped a majority of his employees.

"I think they saved my employees collectively about $160,000. About 72 of our 100 employees took advantage of some service," says Karp.

Because of the need, SF Works plans to expand its outreach in the year ahead to help more families.

When asked if life was going well for her now, Alvarado says yes it is. She also advised others, "...you should ask for help. You really should, and for a lot of years, I didn't. I'm glad that I have now."


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