Poverty is a social and economic condition that is multifaceted and accompanied by heavy social stigma ...
More than solely an indicator of economic deprivation, it encompasses neighborhood environments, health disparities, housing quality, access to mainstream financial services, lack of opportunities to higher education, few if any opportunities for labor mobility, and social isolation.
By addressing any one of these conditions through individual or family services, one’s economic situation could be affected. At the same time, however, addressing any one of these issues at a community level can only be achieved by a large group of people working collectively with a common goal and a shared analysis of the solution.
Studies indicate that the environment found in neighborhoods with high levels of collective efficacy (i.e., residents’ willingness to help out for the common good) is associated with higher rates of health indicators, higher levels of immigrant integration, and lower rates of homicide. In other words, when residents are active in their communities, the quality of life in those communities improves and consequently, targeted organizing efforts can create healthy environments whereby inequality is reduced and more opportunities exist for all.
Policy and Organizing at Sacred Heart
The Heart’s Policy and Organizing program trains low income volunteer leaders in the City of San Jose how to channel their influence and work collectively to address the root causes of poverty. Volunteer leaders learn how to:
- Build meaningful relationships with neighbors and community allies through intentional conversations
- Surface concerns in the community
- Run disciplined meetings and invite new volunteer leaders into their Action Committees
- Surface root causes of poverty and analyze their implications
- Make decisions around focused initiatives that represent the needs of their communities
- Conduct research with officials and issue experts
- Participate in the democratic process
- Hold public meetings and forums to advance concrete causes.
SHCS's Policy and Organizing program began in June 2009 as a response, in part, to the nation's prolonged economic recession and the skyrocketing need for social assistance. The recession shed light on both structural inequalities in the County of Santa Clara and the growing need for advocacy and civic engagement aimed at poverty-related concerns. More families than ever before came to SHCS in 2009 in need of immediate help, but also with a desire to participate in building collective solutions to the problems facing millions.