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A Lifeline for Sam

JFS Executive Director Debbie Zoller will never forget the moment when Sam* walked through the door with nothing but a small suitcase.

“Don’t take me to a shelter,” he begged Debbie. “I don’t think I could survive.”

Sam, a man in his early 70s with a slight build and generally poor health, had worked for the government for many years and now lived on a pension. Now single, his children were unable to provide him with financial support.

On the day Sam arrived at JFS, he had just left some old friends who he had been living with for a while. When his friends had jobs, they treated him well, but once they lost their jobs, they became increasingly demanding toward Sam. In addition to verbal abuse and threats, the pair stopped buying food unless they could use Sam’s money. 

Now at JFS, all his belongings inside the small suitcase, it was up to Debbie to get Sam the help he desperately needed.

Debbie’s first step was getting Sam a hearty meal while she conferred with other JFS staff members to figure out what they would be able to do for Sam. JFS was able to provide Sam with a hotel room for a week while they figured out a more permanent solution. Food was delivered to his door, and when his old roommates asked JFS where to find Sam, they did not disclose his location.

After the week was over, JFS staff were able to secure housing for Sam in a rent-free apartment. Now living independently, Sam’s life began to turn around. He began receiving rides from The GO Program to go to doctors’ appointments, the grocery store, and programming at the JCC. JFS staff also referred Sam to physicians and therapists to work through the trauma of the experience with his old roommates.

The biggest change for Sam, however, was the control he was able to take back in his life.

“Restoring Sam’s dignity,” Debbie said, “is what JFS is all about.”

*The name Sam is a pseudonym to maintain confidentiality.


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