BARSTOW Non-profit organizations helping struggling families with children under age 6 will have a chance to connect with other High Desert service providers working with First 5 San Bernardino.

Desert Sanctuary is hosting a forum Thursday designed to make residents and service providers aware of what other resources are available for First 5 San Bernardino clients in the High Desert. About 30 agencies and organizations will be present, said Peggi Fries, Desert Sanctuary's executive director.

Desert Sanctuary is partnering with Barstow Community Hospital and will hold forums on a quarterly basis, Fries said. Each forum will feature different guest speakers.

"We'll have a speaker talk about what their program is, how that impacts our communities and how to access each program," Fries said.

Services and organizations that will be at the forum include Victor Community Support Services, Victor Valley Dental, the San Bernardino County Department of Behavioral Health and Child Protective Services. The Barstow Police Department and the Barstow Area Chamber of Commerce will send representatives to the forum, Fries said. Joyce Wilston and Mark Sielski, who are spearheading a community diaper drive will also be at the forum.

The forum is open to residents, but it will focus on letting service providers know what other organizations receive funding and provide services through First 5. According to Olivia Duran, Desert Sanctuary's First 5 case manager, this will allow service providers to help their clients faster.

"It's a direct link," Duran said. "We want people to know their resources and be able to access them."

First 5 San Bernardino awarded a three-year grant of more than $562,000 to Desert Sanctuary July 1. In addition to hosting quarterly forums for First 5 funded service providers and clients, Desert Sanctuary kicked off a housing stabilization program in January called the Desired Results Initiative.

Through the Desired Results Initiative program clients attend support group sessions and parenting meetings. A client also receives a case manager who will work with him or her at Desert Sanctuary and will visit the client's home. By working the program, clients receive incentives such as transportation assistance, food vouchers and rental and utility assistance.

Desert Sanctuary's goal is to get 120 families started with the Desired Results Initiative program. About 47 families are involved in the program so far, Fries said.

Contact the writer:
(760) 256-4123 or jcejnar@desertdispatch.com