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

in the streets

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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

 

Poverty data does not surprise us – and that’s a bad thing.

Poverty data does not surprise us–and that’s a bad thing. State surplus this year provides an opportunity to do something about this once and for all.
Raquel F. Donoso

For me fighting poverty is personal. I am a product of programs that provided my family the opportunity to buy a home, me the ability to receive a first-class public university education, and my son the opportunity to attend world class childcare. That is why I have dedicated my life to ensuring every family has the same chance.

The California Budget Project (CBP) released data this week that looks at poverty in California 50 years since the War on Poverty began. While there has been progress, it is clear that many families experienced big setbacks during the recession which still remain to this day. Last year, nearly 16 percent of Californians (6 million) lived in poverty. The child poverty rate is even higher, with 22.5 percent of the state’s children (2.1 million) living in families with incomes below the federal poverty line,which is an income of $18,498 for a family of three with two children. 1 in 3 of these children is Latino.

poverty map
What is more troubling is the variation of poverty rates in California. As the map below shows, counties like Santa Clara, Marin, and San Mateo have poverty rates below 10%, while Fresno, Tulare, Imperial have poverty rates at 20%-25%. This means in Fresno 1 in 4 people live below the poverty line, which is far below what many experts believe is sufficient to support a family in California and much of the U.S. In addition to this, for many families the weak labor market and financial devastation created by the Great Recession is not a thing of the past.

At the Latino Community Foundation, this information is not surprising. We ask our partners, Latino-based organizations funded by LCF, information on the family income of those they serve. On average, the majority of the responses show that family incomes are between $20,000-$25,000 a year for a family of four. Much more needs to be done to change this reality. Not just because it is the right thing to do, but because everyone does better when all boats are lifted. Children born into families that make more money do better – they do better in school, they have better health indicators, and overall add infinitely more to the prosperity of a society.

The CBP report does acknowledge that the War on Poverty programs, such as food stamps and cash aid, did make an impact in reducing poverty. Social policies aimed at tackling poverty work, but we can do better. California needs its own War on Poverty platform that moves policies forward based on current and future demographics and the needs of all residents in the state. As a single mother that received assistance during college I know first-hand that work training programs focus all too often on jobs with little or no upward mobility and assistance is tied to arcane rules.

I know there are efforts throughout the State to reduce poverty and LCF partners with many organizations to help support this mission. California is set to have the biggest surplus in more than a decade. At a recent budget briefing it seemed that the discussions in Sacramento were leaning to conservative actions rather than reinstating safety-net programs that have been devastated by budget cuts over the years and contributed to growing inequality and increased poverty.

With the 12th largest economy in the world it is critical that we come together and do something to address the chronic poverty we see in so many communities throughout California. Actions can be taken, with little funds, to bring programs that fight poverty into the 21st century and make them work better for a new wave of California residents and families. However, to really change the current state of affairs and build a more prosperous State that does not allow any child to go to be bed hungry – will require greater, more effective investments and leadership.

To read more about the history of the war on poverty: click here