The addition of Sojourner Center to the list of Jewish Family & Children’s Service programs allows JFCS to offer a full continuum of care for victims of domestic violence.
JFCS announced on July 31 that it had entered into an affiliation agreement with Sojourner Center, which means that Sojourner is now under JFCS management and governance.
Sojourner Center was founded in 1977 and has served thousands of women, children and pets each year through its shelter, transitional housing and community outreach programs, child development center, health care clinic, and lay legal advocacy programs. It is a longtime JFCS partner, said Frank Jacobson, JFCS vice president of Philanthropic Services, and one of the shelters JFCS called upon when an emergency shelter was needed for clients.
Earlier this year, Sojourner announced a “management team transition,” resulting in the firing of its three top executives. The organization’s 2015 IRS tax return reported total revenue of $4.8 million, with nearly $6.6 million in expenses.
After JFCS President and CEO Lorrie Henderson heard about the center’s financial challenges, he reached out to its board to see if JFCS could provide assistance. “It’s part of his sense of community collaboration,” Jacobson said of Henderson.
After discussions with board members of both organizations, the two nonprofits decided to move forward.
The JFCS board was certainly cautious because of the financial issues, Jacobson said, but Henderson’s professional experience with nonprofit acquisition and the acknowledgement that the Sojourner Center’s mission matched JFCS’ mission helped cement the decision.
“We believe it is essential to make certain Sojourner Center is able to continue providing those services, and that’s what we did,” Henderson said in a press release. “JFCS prides itself in being a good community partner and believes this is yet another demonstration of that commitment.”
The affiliation agreement allows the Sojourner Center to maintain its own 501(c)(3) status and continue running its programs to assist victims of domestic violence. JFCS will handle fundraising, administration and some of its staff will work with Sojourner Center programs. Several Sojourner staff had left prior to the agreement, Jacobson said, as the center pared down to cut its budget.
Jacobson said that as of now, all of Sojourner’s current services will continue through JFCS, except for a developing behavioral health program that was absorbed into a similar program already being operated by JFCS.
JFCS, founded in 1935, is one of the largest providers of behavioral health and social services in Maricopa County, serving nearly 48,000 children, families and adults of all ages and faiths.
At this time, there are no plans for Sojourner to move any of its locations, according to Jacobson. In addition to the 129 shelter beds (there are only 501 emergency beds in the entire state, he noted), there are also a child development center and a pet companion shelter.
Shelter Without Walls (SWW), JFCS’ program for victims of domestic violence who are not in a shelter or who have phased out of a shelter, will continue as is for now, Jacobson said. Although SWW, founded in 1998, offers some services that are similar to what Sojourner offers, they are not identical.
SWW targets survivors of domestic violence identified as “falling through the cracks,” according to JFCS. This includes those who desire to live independently from their abusive partners and need assistance to do so safely; survivors transitioning out of local shelters; and survivors living independently from their abusive partners but are struggling to remain independent.
Services include safety planning, shelter and resource referrals, counseling, and case management.
Last year, SWW helped 2,380 individuals, Jacobson said. A future assessment will determine whether it will eventually consolidate with Sojourner Center.
The new arrangement “will cement Sojourner Center’s extraordinary legacy of providing safety, hope and healing to victims of domestic violence for many years to come,” said Dr. Paul Stander, chairman of the JFCS board of directors, in a press release. “JFCS is committed to ensuring the continued, long-term impact of Sojourner Center on the thousands of community members it serves.” JN