Our Latino Road Map to Healing and Wellness: Building a National Model

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By: Angela Gallegos-Castillo PhD, Community Builder/Planner

Just three years ago, hundreds of community members—mothers and fathers, teachers, youth,  abuelos and abuelas, counselor, and nonprofit leaders in the Mission District of San Francisco came together and said YA BASTA to the senseless violence and deaths of six Latino youth within a five-week period.  Over 500 residents responded to “el grito” and came together to collectively identify community solutions. “No more business as usual. No more watching our kids fall through the bureaucratic cracks” they said.

After several town halls and many workgroup meetings later, the community process produced the Roadmap to Peace: A Community Proposal (RTP), a five-year community-driven systems reform initiative. This proposal is based on the knowledge we all know:  that the longer youth remain disconnected, the more they are exposed to increased risks that can ultimately lead to prison or death. The RTP seeks to change that path by providing an effective alternative. Rather than asking youth to accommodate to bureaucratic processes, the RTP builds systems around the needs of youth. How?

First, Rood Map to Peace is rooted in community-based knowledge and solutions. We, the compilation of the Latino community: teachers, service providers, abuelos, parents, family members etc. have the cultural and linguistic knowledge and wisdom to effectively support the healing of our young men and women. We know that to effectively facilitate youth’s journey to healing and wellness, we must embrace restorative justice, resiliency, trauma-informed, and intergenerational principles; our approach must be holistic and coordinated.

Second, the Rood Map to Peace promotes on-demand services. This concept has been raised numerous times for various issues, and there’s a reason. It’s essential for disconnected youth. Linking youth to support and services when THEY need it is pretty revolutionary. Currently, youth and their families wait—sometimes as long as three months— for help. By the time youth can finally be seen, their problems have worsened. On-demand services means youth and their families can receive care without waiting, thereby warding off increased risks.

Third, is the notion of shared care conferencing. Remember when it was said that “it takes a village?” But what happens if the villagers don’t have a process for communicating about the developing needs of each youth? That’s the system we currently have. On average, a disconnected youth typically needs support for housing, healthcare, education, job training, and behavioral support. That usually means s/he must work with five or more service providers, most of whom don’t talk with each other about that one youth. Services and solutions remain in silos, leaving young person frustrated with an overly bureaucratic system. We aim to create a coordinated, integrated service network that communicates together to create a human safety net for each young person so they don’t fall through the cracks.

Fourth, Rood Map to Peace is also tackling policy reforms. Existing policies around juvenile justice, program budgeting targeting disconnected youth, and police responses to neighborhood violence must be revisited with an eye towards social justice and equity. For example, we know the restorative justice framework is healing and effective at reducing violence and conflict. However this framework has yet to be adopted in most school districts as the strategy for reducing suspensions and expulsions. It’s time to integrate policies that support equity, social justice and healing into current systems. Advocating for these and other policy changes will go far in the creation of positive, healthy options and connections for young people, their families and the communities they live in.

IT’s TIME! Together, as an organized and collective voice, we can make a difference in how we engage, inform and support the healing of our Latina/o youth and their families and collectively change the institutional practices that don’t work. As they say, “If not us, then who?”

Come join us! We are seeking partners – youth, residents, agencies and institutions – in San Francisco who are interested in peace-making and strengthening community connections among our youth. Please contact us if you would like to assist or if you’d like more information. Please contact Angela Gallegos-Castillo at angela.gallegos-castillo@ifrsf.org

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Road Map to Peace Partnership

The Road Map to Peace initiative is directed by a colectiva that encompasses the following members:  community residents, Instituto Familiar de la Raza, Mission Peace Collaborative, CARECEN of San Francisco, Mission Neighborhood Health Center, Mission Neighborhood Centers, Bay Area Community Resources (CHALK), Asian Neighborhood Design, Five Keys Charter School, Mission Peace Collaborative, Horizons, Inc., UCSF Clinical and Translation Science Institute, and SFSU Cesar Chavez Institute. The mission of the RTP is increase the economic security, health and safety of San Francisco Latina/o youth in the Mission district and citywide.Roadmap to peace

 

THIS WORK IS PERSONAL

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By: Melisa Patrino

My name is Melissa and I am the Executive Director of Puertas Abiertas Community Resource Center. Puertas Abiertas works hand in hand with the Latino community to inspire and achieve healthy living, self-sufficiency, and opportunities for leadership and civic engagement. We assist immigrants who have recently arrived as well as those that have been here for decades.

Working for Puertas Abiertas is really personal for me. I am an immigrant myself. I fully understand what it feels like to not be able to speak the language, to leave everything you know behind, and to start all over. Immigrants come to the U.S. for various reasons; economic stability, family reunification, and in my family’s case, we left El Salvador due to war. A pervasive economic inequality prompted the war, which lasted 12 years and left 80,000 people dead, 8,000 disappeared, and created 500,000 refugees, who mostly fled to the U.S.

In high school, I really started questioning the war in El Salvador and I became involved. I joined programs like Upward Bound and Summer Search. These programs really helped open my eyes to the world outside of Napa. I developed long lasting relationships and mentorships through them. I can say with confidence that without these mentors, I would not be where I am today.

I worked for Congressman Thompson for seven years as a constituent representative working mostly on immigration case work and as a field representative. Immigration casework was often difficult, there were many times where I had to tell families there were no options for them but to remain undocumented. My mom and I were fortunate to come here legally, but many don’t have that option, and the desperation to flee poverty or war often outweighs the risk of crossing border. Due to the proximity to the Congressman, I could tell him all these stories, which I felt was really important for mi gente to have a seat at the table.

My experiences helping the community through Congressman Thompson’s office allowed me to see an amazing side of Napa that I had neglected to see before, we are an incredibly giving county, yes, we have our problems, but there are so many instances where I’ve been astounded by the generosity of people who live here.

There is still a lot to do in terms of decreasing the educational and income gap in Napa. Puertas Abiertas serves low-income Latino families who face tremendous barriers to success. Barriers include literacy, immigration status, isolation and lack of financial literacy/resources. Our client database contains over 1,500 families, 32% of those served last year, had an annual income of less than $20,000. A total of 18% of all clients have less than an elementary school education, and 23% have less than a middle school education, and 16% have obtained a high school degree or higher.

Puertas Abiertas offers life skills, educational programs and advocacy services to support personal growth and family stability. We are often on the forefront of issues pertaining to our community, which enables us to prepare services and programs to address the concerns.

Being the Executive Director of Puertas Abiertas is empowering and I take my responsibility very seriously. I want to create a community where everyone has the opportunity to thrive, not just survive.

Join me in celebrating our 10 Year Anniversary on April 25th, in Napa! For more information please visit our website at www.puertasabiertasnapa.org

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Latino Caucus Bills to Watch in 2015

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The Latino Community Foundation launched the California Latino Agenda (CLA) to strengthen the Latino community’s voice and participation in public policy. We are dedicated to ensuring that our communities have the tools they need to get involved and to participate civically.

The Latino Legislative Caucus just released the Legislative Priorities for the 2015 bill cycle, which include issues spanning immigration, health care and community revitalization. We encourage you to take a look! Also, if you want to learn more about the Latino Caucus, click here.

Latino Legislative Caucus priority legislation for the 2015 bill cycle:

  • SB 4 (LARA) HEALTH CARE COVERAGE FOR ALL. This bill ensures all Californians, regardless of immigration status, have access to affordable health care coverage.
  • SB 249 (HUESO) CALIFORNIA ENHANCED DRIVER’S LICENSE. This bill allows for the creation of an Enhanced Driver’s License to reduce border wait times and increase economic gain produced by efficient and secure cross-border travel.
  • SB 350 (DE LEÓN) CLEAN ENERGY & POLLUTION REDUCTION ACT OF 2015. This bill seeks to create jobs, grow the state’s economy, and improve public health by raising the renewable portfolio standard, reducing petroleum, and increasing energy efficiency in buildings by the year 2030.
  • AB 2 (ALEJO) COMMUNITY REVITALIZATION AUTHORITY. This bill creates a new state authority capable of investing property tax increments focused on improving employment opportunities, repairing infrastructure, cleaning up brownfields and promoting affordable housing.
  • AB 278 (HERNÁNDEZ) DISTRICT-BASED MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS. This bill seeks to increase civic participation by requiring district-based elections for cities whose population meets or exceeds 100,000 residents.
  • AB 560 (GOMEZ) CIVIL ACTIONS: IMMIGRATION STATUS. This bill ensures the protection of minor children from having their immigration status exposed or used when seeking civil recourse or recovery for past intentional or negligent acts that cause harm or suffering.
  • AB 904 (PEREA) CLEAN REUSED VEHICLE REBATE PROJECT. This bill implements a Clean Reused Vehicle Rebate Project, to increase access to clean vehicles by creating a secondary clean vehicle marketplace which is more affordable for all Californians.
  • AB 1351 (EGGMAN) PRETRIAL DIVERSION FOR MINOR CRIMES. This allows for pre-trial diversion, instead of post-plea deferred entry of judgment, for certain nonviolent, misdemeanor offenses.
  • AB 1461 (GONZALEZ) CALIFORNIA NEW MOTOR VOTER ACT. This bill will register eligible residents to vote when they obtain or renew a driver’s license from the Department of Motor Vehicles.

We invite you to join us on May 20, 2015 for our 3rd Annual California Latino Agenda, Sacramento Summit. We are committed to leveraging the power that exists in the Latino community by connecting, educating, and investing in a unified movement for and by Latinos. At this year’s Summit, expect the active participation of more than 150 Latino leaders, advocates and cross-sector partners. Together we can advance smart policy solutions!

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