Voices On Poverty (10/8/14)

A Newsletter of the Multi-faith A.C.T.I.O.N. Coalition
(Advocates & Communities Taking Initiative 4 Our Neighbors)
"Looking at problems of poverty from all directions."
- Stated a Multi-faith A.C.T.I.O.N. Coalition member expressing an accomplishment of our new organization.

We are proud of the strides we have made this year as faith-based communities coming together to discuss poverty in our county and what we could do to make a difference long-term. We put this newsletter together to share some of the work that has been started. Many people, all volunteers, have put in countless hours.  We recognize what we have done so far; we recognize this progress and we recognize that there is much to be done.
The Steering Committee brainstormed many goals for 2014-2015 including:  
  • Take concrete actions;
  • Increase the number of congregants involved;
  • Keep everyone connected through more communications;
  • Be clear and mindful of our goal –
    to fight and eradicate the root causes of poverty.
Please review this email and think about how you can join our efforts. Click on one of the links in this newsletter to join the Multi-faith Advocates & Communities Taking Initiative 4 Our Neighbors Coalition. http://www.MultiFaithACTIONCoalition.org
In Peace,
Jasmine Tarkoff  & Rev. Will McGarvey
Co-Chairs of the Multi-faith A.C.T.I.O.N. Coalition
Multi-faith A.C.T.I.O.N. Coalition:
  • Over 50 faith institutions 
  • Representing over 26,000 congregants
  • 100’s of clergy, ministers and lay leaders
  • 600 faith members on our email list
FIRST ACTION ALERT – Doctors Medical Center (DMC)
In July 2014, the Multi-faith A.C.T.I.O.N. Coalition asked congregants throughout Contra Costa to take action to save Doctors Medical Center in San Pablo. 
Problem: this hospital facility faces imminent closure.  Over 40,000 annual patients will have to travel to get medical care.  Poor medical care is one result of poverty and one cause of poverty.     
Coalition action: Through the Coalition’s Health Task Force, sample letters were distributed and hundreds of residents responded by sending their letters of support to authorities in Sacramento
Recommendation: DMC to become a satellite emergency department under the county’s jurisdiction. It would then be within the county public hospital system and eligible for a higher reimbursement rate.  This higher rate would improve DMC's current finances.  This alternative is subject to the approval of the California Department of Health. 
Goal: Our goal is to keep medical services accessible to the 40,000 patients who were seen at DMC last year. 
Progress:  The Multi-faith A.C.T.I.O.N. Coalition has shown decision makers that it can mobilize hundreds of residents; these residents care about fighting poverty.   Close to 500 letters were sent in support of DMC.  And just this past week the Governor signed a bill to fund DMC $3 million to allow more time to find a solution.
Problem: Hunger, poor nutrition.
Coalition:  The Coalition recognized that there were many low-income individuals and families eligible federal food subsidies but who were not enrolled in a “Cal Fresh” program.  (“Cal Fresh” has replaced “food stamps.”)
Recommendation and goal: Find out why enrollment is low.  Increase enrollment.
Progress:  Starting in February 2014, volunteers from the faith community have been working to increase Cal Fresh enrollment and thereby provide food purchasing power to low-income residents.  Over 100 people volunteered to help.
The Coalition’s Food Security Task Force, through partnering with several organizations, has raised awareness of the problem, helped increase the locations where applicants are approached, rallied support for additional county workers to process the applicants and studied how to change the administrative process to make it better.  If that sounds like a lot of work, it is.
This work has a direct impact on those living in poverty and the county at large. For every $1.00 spent in the Cal Fresh program, $1.70 is generated in the local economy. 
The Cal Fresh Partner Working Group has a specific plan for 2014-15 to increase enrollment by 10,000.  If you would like to join this effort, go to our Food Security Task Force Volunteer Form.

Problem:  No employment and under-employment.  Lack of job opportunities and lack of job skills.
Coalition action:  In August 2014, the Coalition’s Jobs Task Force sponsored a luncheon/meeting in East Contra Costa County.  The meeting was titled “Dignity of Work.”  Participants included non-profit organizations already working towards the goal of helping Contra Costa residents regain the dignity of work.
Presentations described the work of these organizations and what Coalition congregants could do to participate.  Organizations had a chance to network with each other.  A survey of participants showed that 85% felt that the meeting met their expectations and the information was helpful.
These organizations need mentors and volunteers to help Contra Costa residents in seeking employment and developing job readiness skills.   Volunteer opportunities are available at all levels and this is a very real way we can participate to end the cycle of poverty.  
If you are interested in participating on the Jobs Task Force or volunteering for any of these organizations, go to Jobs Task Force Volunteer Form.

Problem: The complexity of these issues cannot be overstated.  Many faith communities already participate in short term and temporary services; we want to see a more lasting impact.    
Coalition action:  The Coalition’s Housing and Shelter Task Force, in conjunction with non-profit and government professionals who have years of experience in the field, is emphasizing informing the community of the facts about homelessness.  For example, the County’s current housing inventory is: 
  • 410 Emergency Shelter Beds
  • 648 Transitional Housing Beds
  • 867 Permanent Supportive Housing Units
 On any given night, there are nearly 4,000 individuals homeless in Contra Costa County.  Obviously, the numbers don’t add up well for the homeless in our County.  
Recommendation:  It has been proven that placing a person or family in housing as a first priority will give them the foothold they need to resolve other issues that have led to their homelessness. 
Goal: It is urgent that the housing inventory be increased.  We can start by identifying more homes to place families in.  If you are a property owner, manager or contractor, your participation is critical. If you are interested in helping with the work of this Task Force, contact us through our  Housing and Shelter Volunteer Form.
Goal:  The Housing and Shelter Task Force wants to promote an expansion of the Housing First model by supporting “Zero: 2016.”  More information about this will be coming out in the weeks ahead. 

For more information on the current situation, click here.

The work of the Multi-faith A.C.T.I.O.N. Coalition can only get done if people of faith join our dialogue and call for action.  Add your expertise and knowledge to one of the Task Forces.  Also, we need help from people experienced in graphics, event coordination, minute taking and communication.  Please answer this call by going to www.MultiFaithACTIONCoalition.org

Multi-faith A.C.T.I.O.N. Coalition would like to come to your house of worship.
In recent weeks we have visited:
  • Lafayette Christian Church
  • Temple Isaiah
  • Lafayette Orinda Presbyterian Church
  • St. Bonaventure Church
Speakers cover general poverty information, the Multi-faith A.C.T.I.O.N. Coalition, the specific Task Forces and how congregants can get involved.
Please contact our Congregational Outreach person, Ken Sargent if you would like the Coalition to make a presentation at your faith organization.

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