Deacon Jim Vargas is the president and CEO of Father Joe’s Villages and has put out a call to San Diegans to help keep the service viable during this unprecedented crisis. He has set up an emergency response fund for people or companies to contribute to Father Joe’s Villages. Those seeking to contribute can visit my.neighbor.org and donate to the cause.
“We are the largest and the oldest homeless services provider in Southern California due to the depth of the services we offer,” Vargas said. “There really isn’t anything that someone who is suffering – and I do call it suffering – from the plight of homelessness needs that we can’t provide. We're blessed in that way and unique in that way.
Vargas says that he is following the social distancing policy set forth by Gov. Gavin Newsom while still providing meals daily to the homeless population. This means only allowing 50 people into the cafeteria at a time while maintaining six feet distance between diners. In response to Newsom’s a stay-at-home order to California residents, he plans on distributing sack lunches as opposed to a sit-down meal.
Vargas noted that the homeless population is very vulnerable to the virus because they have no home to shelter in and are typically undernourished and their immune systems are usually compromised. He says they need our help now more than ever and has beefed up his year-old Street Health program where caretakers hit the streets to treat the homeless where they live. This team can diagnose conditions like high blood pressure, and provide prescription medication on the spot. They can also treat wounds including extremity wounds that people with diabetes often have. These treatments can often be life-saving and Vargas hopes it will have an impact on the number of homeless who die on the streets, which today hovers around 100 per year.
Father Joe’s Villages had to close its thrift store and donations center in response to Newsom’s emergency order. This has a substantial impact on the organization’s efforts to fund critical services, as they were a big source of revenue for the foundation. In addition, many critical staff and volunteers are unable to come in due to childcare or other factors. This is why the emergency response fund has been instituted. San Diegans are encouraged to donate what they can to ensure that the homeless population continues to get the critical care they so desperately need. Volunteers are also needed, but Vargas insisted that only those who are not in a high-risk group apply.
As a way to get funds flowing, longtime donor, philanthropist and Qualcomm co-founder Franklin Antonio has provided a $400,000 matching gift challenge to encourage support from the larger community. Other corporations are encouraged to contribute to the fund as a show of support for San Diego’s homeless population. But the lion’s share of funds will come from the $25, $50 and other small donations given by the residents of San Diego. Residents are asked to donate whatever they can, no matter how small, in order to ensure that the homeless continue to get the care they need in these unprecedented times
With your help, Father Joe’s Villages will continue to offer critical services like shelter, healthcare, food, showers and laundry to the people affected most by this crisis.
To donate, go to my.neighbor.org