Photo Courtesy of Bresee Foundation

Serving as an intermediary point between the Department of Social Services and the community, the Bresee Youth Foundation is helping those in need that were previously steered away from public benefits.

Founded in 1982, the foundation’s mission is to empower Los Angeles families with skills and resources to combat poverty. Recently, they were provided a grant by the Enroll LA campaign — an initiative to spread information about resources like CalFresh to underserved Angelenos — to assist families in need of public resources.

Specifically, the foundation helps people that were declared a public charge — an individual that is deemed to likely be dependent on the government for subsistence — during the Donald Trump administration. 

“A lot of the families that we’re currently serving or that are new to our facility in the past two years were vulnerable prior to the pandemic and then, once the pandemic hit, were left in a crisis,” said Wendy Lopez, a family advocate at the foundation’s Family Resource Center. 

“Some of them did not have the means or the resources to be able to obtain basic needs such as food or paying for rent, and Enroll LA gives them somewhat of a support to be able to continue providing [for their families].”

While CalFresh is a major focus, Lopez also helps families to enroll in Medi-Cal and CalWORKS. 

Lopez, who has been with the foundation for four years, recounted helping one family earlier in the year that was struggling with a recent separation and had previously been turned away from these programs because the children were receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI). 

Fortunately, they were approved in March and have been getting benefits since then.

Through her work, she has helped many families by dispelling several myths or misconceptions they may have about receiving public benefits.

Some families believed that getting these benefits would affect their immigration status or that they would have to pay it back. There are also senior and disabled individuals who are receiving social security that are unaware that they are eligible for CalFresh.

“[Families would] rather struggle with needing and not being able to provide for food than applying for these benefits, and Enroll LA has provided the opportunity to make the families aware of these programs, what the requirements are and answer a lot of the questions and steer them away from … misinformation,” Lopez said.

There are still certain requirements that families have to meet; one of them is that at least one individual must be a US citizen or resident. 

There are some exemptions to this, however; if the person is in the process of applying for certain visas like a T visa — a type of visa given to noncitizens who were victims of severe forms of human trafficking and have assisted law enforcement in their investigation — they could be accepted.

Since February, Lopez has helped at least 15 families per month to try and enroll in these programs. So far, no more than three each month had their applications denied.

There is no deadline to apply. Once approved, there are two different recertifications: one that occurs every six months and another only once a year.

“It doesn’t hurt to ask and try [to enroll],” Lopez said. “Because a lot of people that did not think were eligible or were rejected in the past have received approvals now.”

For more information about the Bresee Foundation, visit https://www.bresee.org/welcome.html. To learn more about the Enroll LA campaign, go to https://enrollla.org.