Interfaith Community Services, founded in 1979, addresses the needs of low-income, homeless, and under-served people in North San Diego County. Interfaith Community Services is the largest nonprofit organization in North San Diego County, with approximately 140 staff and more than 40 programs in nutrition and basic needs, employment, self-sufficiency and supportive services, behavioral health and recovery housing. The agency served 17,075 youth, seniors, veterans and other individuals last year alone.
One demographic served by Interfaith is out-of-school youth, generally defined as young adults between the ages of 16 and 24 who are not working and not in school. Barriers to employment facing these young adults include, but are not limited to, lack of housing, lack of transportation, lack of documentation and substance abuse.
To help tackle some of these challenges, SDWP funds Interfaith Community Services to provide work-readiness preparation and educational services to out-of-school youth in north coastal San Diego County. These services include financial literacy courses, entrepreneurial skills training in hospitality (particularly the food truck industry), labor market and employment information, job placement, activities that help youth transition to post-secondary education, and training for a specific occupation or occupational cluster (hospitality, STEM, security and justice, and civic administration).
The department that manages these services is Interfaith’s Transitional Youth Academy (TYA), which provides academic mentoring, dropout intervention, leadership development, workforce development and in-school programming. Leadership development services include individualized and group life skills training and workshops on topics such as communication, substance abuse, sex trafficking, and designer drugs, while workforce development includes training on essential skills, job searches, résumés, interview skills, paid internships and job placements.
A recent TYA leadership development student wrote, “[It] helps me become a better leader than everyone expected me to be.”
By all accounts, the young adults enjoy the opportunity to learn, so much so that they share what they have learned with their peers and refer them to Interfaith Community Services.
“They want to be adults,” said Amber Rizkalla, the director of TYA. “They are intentional when they attend our workshops.”
Recently, a young woman named Victoria enrolled in one of Interfaith Community Services’ programs. She was homeless, jobless, and didn’t have an education. She worked closely with her case manager and the Oceanside Police Department’s Homeless Outreach Team. Since then, she has secured housing and a job.
Due to the diverse, wrap-around nature of the programming offered at Interfaith Community Services, many individuals are referred to services performed by other departments within the agency to best meet all of a client’s needs. For example, some of the young participants in the WIOA1 job training program are referred by the veterans, housing or social services departments. Participants are referred to other service providers as needed. By partnering with other organizations, Interfaith is able to maximize its impact and offer a wider range of services.
1WIOA stands for the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, signed into law by President Barack Obama on July 22, 2014. It is designed to help job seekers access employment, education, training and support services to succeed in the labor market and to match employers with the skilled workers they need to compete in the global economy. It is the first legislative reform of this kind in 15 years.