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.
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!"
What I learned about myself and organizing, by 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 learned, by 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.
Minimum Wage Campaign
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 to place the initiative on the balance.
How can you help?
Contact Matt King at email@example.com to ask about upcoming volunteer opportunities.
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.
The story of one customer and volunteer who led the fight against payday lending
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.