Ninety percent of the families who graduate from Interfaith Family Services, an organization that transitions families from homelessness to self-sufficiency, leave the program with employment and earn an average of $13.51 per hour—well above the minimum wage.
Now you’re speaking the language of Jeff Sangalis, Managing Director of ORIX Mezzanine and Private Equity and a self-proclaimed “numbers guy.” Inspiring statistics like these are what motivates Jeff as he serves on the board of directors for Interfaith.
Founded in 1985, Interfaith is on a mission to empower families in crisis and to break the cycle of poverty. How they do it? By offering transitional housing for working homeless families, as well as financial coaching, career development services, child care and children’s programs.
“Often, it’s families that fell on hard times due to a job loss or an illness of some sort, and they just need some help to get back on their feet,” Jeff says.
That’s where Interfaith steps in. Currently, the organization’s Dallas facility houses 25 furnished apartments and serves approximately 100 families—or 250 people—each year, with average stays ranging from nine to 12 months. During that time, parents are required to meet with personal success and financial coaches as they work to regain independence, while the organization helps them prepare for job interviews—even providing the proper garb if needed.
Meanwhile, the children receive more than just day care while their parents are looking for jobs—they’re learning too. Arts and crafts, play therapy and individualized tutoring are just a few things that the children participate in, and the impact is obvious: When the children leave Interfaith, 70 percent experience an average reading improvement of two grade levels.
Just as impressive? Interfaith saves Dallas taxpayers roughly $8 million annually since about 90 percent of the families who go through its program go on to live without the aid of any government subsidies. “There are so many families who really want to work and succeed and just need help getting there,” Jeff says. “This is a great program which allows us to help instill some self-worth and self-sufficiency, while also saving the city money at the same time.”
Self-sufficiency is a common theme at Interfaith, which no longer accepts government funding. “It provides us with a lot more flexibility in how we operate and what we do,” Jeff says.
On the horizon for Interfaith: a new Family Empowerment Center, designed to serve about 200 additional families who are experiencing child care, career and financial crises—before they become homeless. Equipped with a three-story adult education center where career and financial coaching will take place, the center will also house an adjoining child care and youth services center which will provide services such as tutoring, play therapy and counseling.
Even if you’re not keen on numbers and statistics like Jeff, that doesn’t mean you can’t lend a hand to Interfaith. A few ways to get involved: sign up for the annual golf tournament this fall; sponsor a family for a year through the Adopt-A-Family program; provide financial coaching at Interfaith; or attend events like the Auxiliary Luncheon on March 31, which will feature Robin Roberts of Good Morning America.
For Jeff, seeing the families at some of these events and hearing their success stories—like how their children are on their way to college—is what makes it all worth it. “A contribution to your community is a duty—it’s not an option,” he says.
Admittedly, Jeff—who manages to run marathons in his spare time—has been heavily impacted by his involvement with Interfaith. “It just opened my eyes to what is happening in our city,” Jeff says. “It opened my eyes to how there are so many families that don’t want a permanent crutch—they just need some temporary help.” And perhaps most importantly, “It opened my eyes to the impact you can have.”