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From the time a musician first calls or visits us, our Housing and Emergency Assistance program provides jazz and blues artists with an experienced social worker to assess his/her situation and provide rapid assistance. The program focuses on a wide variety of crucial services: from paying rent and mortgages and assisting with tenant and owner issues, to keeping the phone and electricity on, to ensuring food remains on the table. Other services include paying for transportation, home assistance, instruments and instrument repair, storage, clothing and union dues. Whenever necessary, musicians are referred for pro bono legal services, primarily to negotiate and obtain royalties. When a client is first accepted into the program, our social workers conduct a thorough evaluation to determine what and which support systems can be put into place to stabilize his/her home situations. Financial aid is given with counselor support and guidance to ensure that clients are planning their next steps and keeping on track. A majority of the JFA clients are 50 years of age and older and have long-standing life and health issues, so providing immediate services and follow up is essential.
The Jazz Musicians Emergency Fund helps to ensure that the electricity stays on and food remains on the tables of veteran musicians with nowhere else to turn. The Emergency Fund plays a critical role in what we do as it allows us to be fast-acting and responsive in times of crisis. Since Hurricane Katrina, we have helped over 1,000 New Orleans musicians and their families, many with small children.
Housing and Emergency Assistance provides approximately 1,900 case assists per year.
JFA’s Emergency Housing Fund pays rent and mortgages when musicians are in crisis. Monthly rent or mortgages are often the first bills that aren’t paid – and the final tipping point that brings musicians in for help when they may be many months behind in payments and unable to dig themselves out of debt. Clients also may go weeks without proper nutrition or other necessities in order to pay their rent. Since stable and on-going housing is a prominent issue for the elderly, it is JFA’s long-term goal to build a jazz housing residence in New York City that will become a community focal point for these elderly legends.
Emergency assistance is at the core of JFA’s mission as it provides JFA clients with a range of social services, including a phone or in person intake session, a completed written application and case-by-case interventions and case management activities. Interventions include a multitude of actions that take place depending on the client situation. Case activity may include payment of a pending bill, arranging legal connections and pro bono legal services, counseling, home visits, reaching out to other community based organizations, researching health and insurance benefits, contacting family and friends and/or making connections with other key support systems. Some cases are extremely complicated and require the collaboration of many different community based agencies that may be involved with a JFA client. Emergency Assistance is a 24 hour, 7-day a week operation because our social workers will do whatever is necessary to provide key counseling services and aid to their clients at any hour or day of the week. JFA social workers also refer the musician to a network of pro bono legal and other case management services. These kinds of community connections and supports are key to the program success.
Any musician in the emergency assistance program can also be a part of the Jazz in the Schools program to keep them playing and to give them opportunities to work.
Our annual A Great Night in Harlem gala benefit concert and our Jazz Loft Party raise money to keep our Jazz Musicians Emergency Fund going year after year.