Should I cast people out in my life or put myself in peril to help them?
That's the decision some area residents increasingly have had to make lately, said Todd McPherson, a leader with Integrated Family Community Services, a nonprofit located …
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That's the decision some area residents increasingly have had to make lately, said Todd McPherson, a leader with Integrated Family Community Services, a nonprofit located just west of Englewood that supports financially struggling residents and families.
“It's becoming more and more popular, people putting themselves in a situation of poverty to take care of kids" that aren't their own, said McPherson, whose organization helps people in Centennial, Englewood, Glendale, Highlands Ranch, Littleton, Lone Tree, Sheridan and unincorporated Arapahoe County — all the way to Bennett.
When people have to make those tough decisions, or drop a job to take care of someone in their life, they can end up needing the services of IFCS, said McPherson, director of development.
“Seventy-six percent of clients are single mothers,” McPherson said. “We do have single fathers, seniors who have dependent grandchildren — a lot of different scenarios. It could be a 20-year-old that's taking care of siblings.”
The organization, which became a state-recognized nonprofit in 1968, offers free food, rent and mortgage support, temporary housing assistance, school supplies, clothes and other programs to low-income individuals and families. IFCS gave out backpacks and supplies like markers, books and glue sticksfrom Aug. 2-18 — an annual program that had people lining up outside its building at 6:30 a.m. The program also gives students in grades K-8 who registered for it in May-June a new first-day-of-school outfit. All K-12 students are eligible for backpacks and supplies.
Until Aug. 31, IFCS will give away school supplies if any are left over from earlier in the month, according to its website.
William Davis, 52, and Trashundrah Jones, 42, who live in Englewood and take care of three grandchildren, brought one of them to the nonprofit's office at 3370 S. Irving St. looking for a backpack Aug. 14. The grandson played with a toy as they sat across from Shannon Kerrick.
Kerrick, 40, who has stayed in an Englewood motel since February, signed up for services on that hot afternoon.
“I've been here in Colorado since 2012 and haven't even found anyone to help find housing,” said Kerrick, who was born with a disease called osteoegenesis imperfecta, or “brittle-bone disease.” She uses a motorized wheelchair and lives with Jai Ross, 37, her caretaker who does day labor and panhandles “when he needs to,” Kerrick said. She receives federal disability assistance, but it's not enough, she said.
They came to IFCS for the food pantry and the donated clothes bank. As they filled out forms, they talked to Davis and Jones.
Jones recommended Kerrick a service in Aurora she had used, and she and Ross thanked her.
IFCS serves several thousand family members each year. The largest group of its clients comes from Englewood. Littleton is a close second, McPherson said, and the target age range for clients is 20s to 40s — those that are most likely to be taking care of children. But McPherson sees people of all ages coming to get help.
“There's no normal anymore,” said McPherson, who described a diverse picture of client families. “There aren't many dad-mom-three children families — people are taking custody of their siblings' kids, there are same-gender parents ... I see more and more grandparents.”
McPherson said he knows a woman who didn't have biological children but took in her sister's children because she was dealing with addiction.
“Out of love, she put herself in that situation,” he said.
When individuals or families find themselves on the financial edge, IFCS can connect them with temporary housing in partnership with Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, another nonprofitbased in downtown Denver. IFCS also provides rent assistance, which is usually a one-time service, McPherson said — clients also get financial counseling to keep them on-track.
We try to “give people a hand up, not a handout,” McPherson said.
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