In our Essential Services and Self-Sufficiency Programs we help families meet their basic needs and improve their economic situation through education, better employment and a shared sense of community and purpose.
These critical programs exist to serve the thousands who come to us each month. Our advocacy work exists to reduce the need for our other services by making our community a more equitable place for all and eliminating long-standing structural barriers that block people's paths out of poverty.
Like all programs at Sacred Heart, our advocacy work depends on the involvement of people from all walks of life and all corners of our community. Click these links to learn more about our campaigns and how you can help.Housing Action Committee
Our MissionAccomplishmentsNewsTestimonies United Seniors Action CommitteeOur MissionCurrent GoalsNewsTestimoniesHistoryMinimum Wage CampaignPredatory Lending CampaignTestimonies
- To give a voice to the need for affordable housing for low-income residents in San Jose and the surrounding county.
- To be committed to following up on local and county commitments to insure that new money for affordable housing goes where the need is the greatest.
Turned out the community in support of steps towards a fee that developers would pay to fund affordable housing. The committee won this battle with their overwhelming presence at the City Council meeting and a moral authority that was too great to be ignored.
Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors approves allocation of funds for affordable housing.
On June 17, 2013, the county's Board of Supervisors approved to set aside a certain amount of money from the county's General Fund for affordable housing.
San Jose City Council approves nexus study.
On June 4, 2013, the San Jose City Council approved to conduct a nexus study that will examine the possibility of a housing impact fee. The city will now hire a consultant to study whether new, high-end residential development creates a need for more affordable housing. The study will set a fee that the city can charge developers, and then use the money to build more affordable rental units.
Committee Leader, Jolene:
"It has been a powerful and healing journey for me working with the Sacred Heart Housing Action Committee. I had never spoke publicly about my disability, poverty, and housing crisis before I arrived at the first meeting. I was touched to receive gentle encouragement from the members to speak my truth, the importance of telling my story, and how my experience represents so many thousands living in poverty in the Bay Area who are crushed by the astronomical rental prices here. The committee's encouragement for me to be a 'leader' and not just a member, moved me to take an even bigger step and speak to the city council members about affordable housing. I had feared judgment from the audience and council but instead received applause, encouragement, and the realization that I moved people. I made a difference. We made a difference. Sacred Heart has given us the tools to become grass roots community housing activists. Because of our courage to tell our personal stories, the council voted overwhelmingly to pass the nexus study. We were surprised to even get the Mayor's endorsement! Though my housing situation is far from being solved, I no longer feel alone or ashamed about it. I now feel empowered to make a difference not only for myself but for the community."
Committee Leader, Tina:
Tina, a leader of the Sacred Heart Housing Action Committee, first got involved with the committee when she noticed the large amount of people on the streets. She said she was bothered by this fact, and wanted to make a difference when it came to the affordable housing issue in the area. Tina says her time with the committee has been a positive one, helping other leaders, while stepping out of her comfort zone with public speaking--she has spoken in front of the San Jose City Council multiple times, as well as the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors.
- To represent the seniors at the Alma Gardner, Mayfair, Seven Trees, Cypress, Southside, Northside, Willow Glen senior center and more.
- To be advocates for those who wish they could go to a community center but cannot.
- To seek positive change that improves quality of life for seniors in Santa Clara County.
- Improve the taste, nutritional content, and diversity of the Senior Nutrition Program (SNP) food.
- Maintain and expand transportation services for low-income, isolated seniors.
- Increase socialization opportunities for seniors, including affordable classes at centers, field trips, and access to trained and caring gerontologists.
- Increase the amount of volunteers at the community centers to enhance capacity and programming for the seniors.
- Increase equity among the centers with potentially a new city or county wide program.
San Jose restores transportation for home-bound seniors to get healthy meals at the city's community centers thanks to the leadership of Sacred Heart's volunteer leaders!
On May 21st, the Policy and Organizing Team assisted Pantry and Job Link volunteers, plus other Senior Leaders from across San Jose, with a first of its kind press event.
Imagine this: 150 seniors from 9 senior centers, lunch at city hall, a mock jail, prisoner t-shirts, city council members and city staff, and media cameras. The event raised awareness for the plight of thousands of low-income seniors across the City who live like prisoners in their homes. Since last year’s budget reductions to services, seniors have been without transportation to and from their Senior Centers, where socialization, the nutrition program and field trips occur.
15 Community Leaders addressed the audience. One such speaker was Celia from the Mayfair Community Center:
"We seniors have paid our taxes. And we’ve voted. We have worked our entire lives. All we ask is to NOT be shut-ins. We need to talk with our peers, and we need to eat lunch. We aren't asking for anything above and beyond what any other human needs to survive. Without transport, we don't eat. It's simple."
Another community leader, Gail from the Alma Community Center shared her story of isolation: "I used to be isolated myself. A few years ago, I had no one. I was confined to my home. I didn't know about any of the services our community centers provide. Luckily, I found out about the Gardner and Alma Community Centers and started to attend. The nutrition program was a godsend as well as all the friends I made. I love it. The centers became my second home. Without transportation, those of us who cannot drive, and should not drive, will be stuck at home. Isolation is inhumane. We need the city's support today so that more seniors in need can access our vibrant senior centers."
After the van service was eliminated at the end of 2011, Patricia, another Senior Leader, became concerned. “One day very soon I may not be able to walk to the Seven Trees Community Center anymore. What will happen then? I don’t have family close by to call upon. I’d probably lose access to the center, like many others. We need our vans back."
Councilmembers Kansen Chu, Xavier Campos, and a representative of Councilmember Sam Liccardo spoke at the press conference, from behind the jail replica with the seniors. They committed to fight to restore transportation services for seniors who use the 7 most marginalized community centers in San Jose.
The San Jose budget was approved on June 15 by a unanimous vote and included over $250,000 in additional funding for senior services. Primary among these is senior transportation. An interim van service will be restored for at least one year while the City considers alternative transportation options for seniors.
"While we need to make sure this new van service meets our needs, we are pleased that the City listened to us and will be providing this vital service for our city's seniors once again," said Celia, community leader with Sacred Heart and the Mayfair Community Center. "It is time for seniors to receive the respect we deserve and we are on our way to that goal."
Seniors from across the City are continuing to meet on a regular basis to oversee the implementation of the funding for transportation as well as to talk about other needs our seniors have. Mary Anne, another Senior Leader from the Alma Community Center, said, "We are not going away. We are going to continue to fight for seniors in San Jose!"
Committee Leader Tom:
We have come across several people at the various centers with special needs. Several centers were located only where automobiles make the trip accessible without help from the city. One such center is Mayfair which is ½ mile from the nearest public transit. I have a friend that is a member of the committee that depends on the ride provided by the city to reach it. He has health problems that although he has walked over 2 miles during the day to the center, it is often difficult if not impossible on a regular basis. Over the time I have gotten to know him, he is not only obtaining nutrition at the center, but it is a very large part of his social life. The friends he has at the center are very dear to him, and as the next layer of city rules, it may force others to not go to their preferred centers. One other example is that no special diets are available with the current offerings. One person on the committee, who is affected by type 2 diabetes, like many others in the country, often cannot eat the meal that is being served by the city nutrition program. Both of these examples have affected my will to help those that do not normally have a voice. Being an engineer at heart, I have had the opportunity to grow and be more vocal in several avenues beyond my comfort zone. Although the organizers helped in making this easier for me to achieve success, it is not about me, it is about those in need.
"What I've Learned" by Committee Leader Glenice:
During the research stage you should take good notes and maintain records of names, phone numbers, pertinent info, etc. Having a definite agenda and running meetings according to your plan allows you to get the information you are after – not that someone else wants to give. Don’t be afraid to take your message where it needs to go. When you continue hammering away at your message it starts to be heard. People who are at the center of the problem need to be heard and when they are they feel empowered and are willing to go forth. Advocacy can be powerful. If you want people (especially seniors) to attend a meeting – bring food! Set time limits for those speaking. It’s very good that speakers were given help in planning how they would say what they wanted to say. That allowed them (meaning us) the “push” to do it. Those in positions of decision-making and power don’t always have the full story. About myself, I learned that not all the brain cells have completely disintegrated and a challenge can be invigorating. It’s rewarding to feel you have made some small difference to others as you listen to their “story”. I don’t remember how I got from the pantry to advocacy and organizing, but I’m glad it happened.
"What I've Learned" by Committee Leader Tom:
Most politicians are trying to do the right thing. We had the pull through SHCS to see the council folks to present our case. Having the real effected seniors present was very helpful. The Mayor has a heart, although he keeps up a good front. The seniors at the center are amazing, if you get something that they can rally around. If it is right, people will at least listen. Policy and advocacy is a continuum even on one subject, it is never done, and we still need to follow up. Because of complexities, it is difficult to know what we have really achieved, but we still need to show interest and advocacy. The achievements are never exactly what you are asking for, but the good news is that you may not know what exactly you should be asking for. The consensus approach works for the team! It is interesting that once you think you have won, it is not exactly clear. Like most things in life, planning is great, but just in time planning and associated surprises are bound to occur. Advocacy is somewhat of a solution looking for a problem. However, I learned through this experience, there are a lot of causes that the afflicted do not have the ability or sometimes just the organizational capability to speak out or get their problem known to solve it.
- Began as the Alma Action Committee, fighting to keep the Alma Community Center open against threats of closure from the City of San Jose.
- A distinct group of Monday morning pantry volunteers at Sacred Heart began meeting on a weekly basis, based on their concern for friends, who did not have transportation to come and volunteer. After fighting for 2 consecutive years to keep the Alma Center open and the threat of closure being lifted, it became clear that other senior issues were more regional in nature. A regional committee was created that brought together the experienced Alma Committee leaders, the Monday group of SHCS pantry, JobLink volunteers, and seniors leaders from the 7 new centers.
- In 2012, the City of San Jose cut the city van service that transported isolated seniors from their homes to their community centers and back. About 100 vulnerable seniors who depended on the nutrition services and socialization opportunities at the centers were unable to access the centers. The affected centers were seven of the most marginalized, so the committee organized a city-wide campaign to demand that the van service be reinstated. After many Research Actions with Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Services officials, and also all of the San Jose City Councilmembers, the committee held a press conference in front of San Jose City Hall with over 150 seniors from 7 community centers, and demanded that the City reinstate the van service so that seniors could once again get to their beloved centers. Councilmembers issued Budget Documents asking for the van service to be reinstated and the Mayor added $150,000 in new funding to the June Budget Message, which passed unanimously at City Council in June. Also, the committee asked for a new Volunteer Coordinator position which would enlarge and enhance the involvement of volunteers at the senior centers. Several councilmembers requested a variation on this ask, and the Mayor recommended that a position be created for a FTE ($86,000 in new funding, including salary and benefits) -- it was a Volunteer and Transportation Coordinator that was included and passed in the final budget.
- In 2013, after extensive research with Parks, Recreation, and Neighborhood Services officials, the County Department of Aging and Adult Services staff and leadership, VTA officials, Outreach Paratransit leadership, San Jose City Councilmembers, Santa Clara County Supervisors, and other grassroots senior leaders (PACT), the campaign culminated in an action at the Alma Community Center with over 120 seniors. There were a variety of asks, including maintaining city funding for the van service for seniors to access their community centers and enhancing funding for gas cards and other transportation resources ($320,000 total), increasing the county’s senior transportation budget by 10% to ensure no senior or people with disabilities lose county subsidies for their rides ($231,000 total), and getting the city and county to collaborate on funding and implementation of healthy soups on the Senior Nutrition Program (SNP) menu. Also, the city is to issue an RFI or RFQ well ahead of the RFP process for the June 2014 SNP contract, in order to invite more competition by a number of corporations and/or non-profits for the next SNP contract, with the goal of improving food outcomes for seniors at the community centers.
Sacred Heart is part of a coalition to raise the wage in San Jose to $10 an hour, an initiative that will put more money in the pockets of thousands of working poor (half the customers who rely on Sacred Heart have jobs that pay less than $10 an hour) and stimulate the local economy. We collected 36,000 signatures in six weeks to place the initiative on the November 6 ballot. The San Jose City Council voted May 22, 2012 to place the initiative on the ballot.
As a result, voters passed the new Minimum Wage Ordinance on election day, causing the minimum wage raises to go into effect on March 11, 2013.
Payday lenders keep people in poverty by making short-term loans at a 459 percent interest rate. We're working with other anti-poverty organizations, civil rights groups and legal aid organizations to make it much harder for these lenders to exploit our neediest neighbors. We're also working hard to help people get a solid financial education and learn about alternatives to these ruinous financial products.
Eileen came into Sacred Heart Community Service to pick up her bimonthly bag of food when a SHCS Community Organizer walked up to her and asked her if she had time to fill out a quick survey. The topic - payday lending and how it affects our community. It turned out that she herself had been deeply affected by this predatory product, and ended up homeless as a result. When she heard she could take part in pushing back against payday loans, she jumped on-board.
In concert with the Coalition Against Payday Predators and the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, Sacred Heart Community Service has advocated for strong reforms of an industry that charges 459% APR. In San Jose, there are 39 payday lending shops and the majority are located in low-income communities of color.
Eileen wanted to become a leader on the issue so she attended multiple community meetings and forums. She shared her story and activated others. Finally, in April 2012, the San Jose Planning Commission was considering issuing a recommendation to the San Jose City Council regarding regulations that could be adopted. Eileen, alongside other volunteers, leaders, and staff from Sacred Heart, spoke about the negative impact of these predatory loans and succeeded in the unanimous passage of a strong recommendation from the Planning Commission.
In May 2012, the group of advocates again had a strong presence at the City Council meeting where the issue would finally be decided. The decision, after hours of discussion and public testimony, was to cap the number of payday establishments in the City at the current level, 39, and to change land use laws so that new payday lending establishments cannot be placed in low income census tracts.
The latter change is a new, innovative policy approach that protects against further asset striping in already poor neighborhoods. Financial literacy education regarding healthier financial options is ongoing work that Sacred Heart is engaged in.
The financial education work in conjunction with the recently passed ordinance reflects Sacred Heart's commitment to financial justice for low-income families. Eileen and other community leaders with Sacred Heart have helped us take an important step toward this end.