For almost 40 years, an Inland organization has worked to offer help and hope to a staggering number of families struggling with poverty.

Catholic Charities of San Bernardino and Riverside Counties offers crisis intervention and family strengthening programs to those in need. Its three core programs, Family & Community Services, Immigration Services and Counseling Services all offer a broad slate of assistance.

The organization’s goal is to identify and address problems affecting the stability, health and well-being of a family seeking help. Catholic Charities then tries to help the family become stable.

In the past fiscal year, Catholic Charities assisted 1,718 families with avoiding utility shut offs, 7,879 families with emergency food assistance and prevented 482 families from becoming homeless.

Trying to help all the families in crisis can be a daunting task.

CEO/Executive Vice President Ken Sawa said there are more than 777,000 children, adults and seniors living below the poverty line in the two-county region.

“There is an unfathomable need for our services,” Sawa said. “Thirty percent of residents in our region need tangible social services to maintain their fragile level of stability. There is a tsunami of need with not nearly enough community resources to address the need.”

While the unemployment rate has come down, the number of families in poverty in the region has continued to increase. Sawa pointed to the growing population, rising rents, and the fact that many of the jobs available are part time. The varying hours from week to week of many part-time jobs make it difficult for families to get ahead and to budget,  he said. Many of these families are resourceful and hardworking, but they are one unexpected expense away from a crisis, he said.

“If you are just living on the razor’s edge you can very easily get tipped over and fall off that edge,” Sawa said. “That’s what Catholic Charities’ community services tries to help with, to help families recover from the unexpected. Oftentimes, that gives them the opportunity to actually thrive.”

Full story at Press-Enterprise