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Archive for the ‘Advocacy’ Category

No Safe Place: Criminalizing Homelessness in America

Friday, July 18th, 2014
by Taylor Skillin

HomelessnessCriminalization is the most expensive and least effective way of addressing homelessness. We’re not providing enough public housing while simultaneously making basic acts of survival—sitting, sleeping, asking for food—illegal.

The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty’s report on the criminalization of homelessness highlights three studies that show how providing housing, rather than jail time, can save cities money:Homeless Person's Access to Justice

-Creative Housing Solutions in Central Florida found that providing chronically homeless people with permanent housing & case managers would save taxpayers $149 million in reduced law enforcement & medical care costs over the next decade.

-The Utah Housing & Community Development Division reports that it costs $11k annually to provide an apartment & social worker vs. $16k for emergency room and hospital stays.

-The University of New Mexico has shown that by providing housing, the city reduced spending on homelessness-related jail costs by 64%.

Criminal convictions–even for minor crimes–can create barriers to obtaining critical public benefits, employment, or housing, thus making homelessness more difficult to escape.

“I’m just simply baffled by the idea that people can be without shelter in a country, then be treated as criminals for being without shelter. The idea of criminalizing people who don’t have shelter is something that I think many of my colleagues might find as difficult as I do to even begin to comprehend.” —Sir Nigel Rodley, Chair of the U.N. Human Rights Committee

Read the full report here: http://nlchp.org/documents/No_Safe_Place

Hunger Action Day

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014
by Taylor Skillin

Rallying at the CapitolSt. Anthony’s believes that access to adequate, nutritious and safe food is a fundamental human right. Last week, we rallied the troops and headed to Sacramento to join California Hunger Action Coalition groups from across the state and make our voices heard. Our guests, volunteers & staff sat down with lawmakers to share stories about how proposed anti-hunger legislation would effect their lives.

Addressing a fired-up crowd on the steps of the Capitol, State Senator Mark Leno, Assemblymembers Tom Ammiano & Phil Ting, and our very own Advocacy Coordinator Colleen Rivecca spoke about food insecurity in California communities.

Thank you to everyone who made the trip with us and helped to provide a voice for San Franciscans in need.

View photos from Hunger Action Day.

The People’s Dance Floor

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014
by Taylor Skillin

TweetyLong-time St. Anthony’s volunteer Tweety turned the steps of the State Capitol into The People’s Dance Floor at last week’s Hunger Action Day rally in Sacramento.

Click here to watch her bust a move.

 

Time to Reinvest in the Safety Net

Thursday, May 1st, 2014
by Colleen Rivecca

On Friday May 2 at 2:15 pm, St. Anthony’s will be participating in a rally supporting reinvestment in the state-funded safety net.  Many of our guests have experienced deeper poverty and increased instability as a result of the cuts to California’s health and human services safety net that were made during the recession.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI/SSP) recipients, low-income seniors and people with disabilities, make up a significant portion of the people who eat in our Dining Room. A few weeks ago, staff from the offices of our state representatives Senator Mark Leno and Assemblymember Tom Ammiano visited St. Anthony’s dining room during our “senior hour” and spoke with a few of our Dining Room guests who receive SSI/SSP.

One of them was Edward, pictured here with Dining Room manager Charles Sommer. Edward rents a room in an SRO hotel and spends about 50% of his income on rent. He is unable to prepare food at home because he has no kitchen in his SRO room. Because his building has a problem with roaches and rodents, Edward says that even if he could cook at home, he wouldn’t want to, because he doesn’t want to attract the vermin in his building into his room. After paying for his rent and medical expenses, Edward says he has about $100 left for everything else he needs for the month: food, laundry, toiletries, and transportation.  Needless to say, Edward runs out of money before the end of the month and before he is able to meet his basic needs.

Edward would like to see a restoration of the SSI/SSP benefits cut during the recession, a reinstatement of the Senior Citizens Renters Tax Assistance Program, and he’d like to have a safe, healthy, and affordable place to live. Each of these goals are components of St. Anthony’s anti-poverty advocacy work this year, and each of them could be addressed by a reinvestment in the state-funded safety net.  That’s why we’re participating in Friday’s rally.  Want to join us?  Look for our banner at 2:15 pm, outside of City Hall (Polk Street side).

Huge Week for Anti-Poverty Bills in Sacramento

Friday, April 4th, 2014
by Colleen Rivecca

Poverty-END-Poverty-Now

The week of April 7 is going to be an exciting one at the Capitol.  A bunch of anti-poverty bills will be heard in committees in both the Senate and the Assembly, and advocates from across the state will be there to tell our elected officials why ending poverty in our communities is so important.

St. Anthony’s is bringing a group of our guests –  people who are struggling with hunger, poverty, homelessness, and low incomes – to Sacramento to talk about issues that are important to them.  Here are some of the bills and issues that we’ll be focusing on:

SB 1029 (Hancock): Successful Re-entry / Lift the Ban

  • This bill would end California’s practice of banning people with prior drug felony convictions from receiving aid through CalFresh (food stamps) and CalWORKs (California’s welfare-to-work program).
  • Join us in supporting this bill.  Click here to sign on to our petition in support of SB 1029.
  • Tweet your support for SB 1029 using the hashtag #LiftTheBan.

SB 935 (Leno): Raise the Minimum Wage

  • This bill will raise California’s minimum wage to $13 per hour by 2017 and will index the minimum wage to inflation.
  • St. Anthony’s supports raising the minimum wage because we know that a source of income that is adequate to provide for basic needs is a critical component of our guests’ ability to transition from poverty to stability.
  • Click here to sign on as a supporter of SB 935, through our friends at the California Partnership.

SB 1002 (De Leon): Connect Essential Benefit Programs

  • This bill will improve coordination between health and food assistance programs serving low-income Californians.
  • Find out more about SB 1002 from our friends at California Food Policy Advocates.

SB 899 (Mitchell): Repeal the Maximum Family Grant Rule

  • This bill will repeal the Maximum Family Grant (MFG) rule, which denies CalWORKs assistance to children born to families who are already receiving aid.
  • You can submit a letter of support for SB 899 using the sample letter, here.

AB 2345 (Gonzalez): Support for all Legally Present Immigrants

  • This bill will extend equal access to food assistance (CalFresh) and public benefit eligibility (CalWORKs) for legally present immigrants.
  • Under current law, several categories of lawfully present immigrants who work and pay taxes, such as Deferred Action, and longtime residents who are in the process of securing lawful permanent residence, do not qualify for these CalWORKs and CalFresh.
  • Click here to submit your own letter of support for AB 2345.

Stay tuned to our twitter feed and our Facebook page for updates and pictures from this exciting week.

 

California’s Campaign to Lift the Ban

Thursday, March 20th, 2014
by Colleen Rivecca

lift the ban2

Join the Campaign to Lift the Ban

California is one of only a handful of states that bans people with drug-related felony convictions from receiving SNAP (formerly known as “food stamps”, and called CalFresh in California) and welfare-to-work (known as CalWORKs in California) benefits.   St. Anthony’s has been working to lift the ban for more than a decade, and we’d like to invite you to  join us by signing on to our petition to support SB 1029, a bill that will lift the ban.

SB 1029 (Hancock)

On Friday, February 14, 2014, California Senator Loni Hancock introduced SB 1029, a bill to lift the ban.  SB 1029 will allow individuals previously convicted of a nonviolent drug felony, who meet all other eligibility rules, to receive CalWORKs and CalFresh, provided that they are complying with the conditions of their release, or have successfully completed their probation or parole.

Why St. Anthony’s Cares About Lifting the Ban

St. Anthony Foundation serves many people who have paid their debt to society, have been released from prison, and are working hard to build a better life for themselves and their families. As former offenders work to get their lives back on track, they face barriers in finding employment, housing, and keeping food on the table. We know that access to income and job training through the CalWORKs program and to nutrition assistance through the CalFresh program can help former offenders achieve a successful transition back into their communities. That’s why we support SB 1029 - because we believe that our communities will be safer and stronger when people who have served their time have the help they need in order to be successful.

First Hurdle – Senate Policy Committee Hearing

SB 1029 will be heard by the Senate Human Services Committee on April 8, 2014. Now is the time to let our California elected officials know that the community supports this bill.

Check our blog, Facebook page, or Twitter feed for the latest news on SB 1029, including opportunities to take action.

California – A Road Out of Poverty?

Friday, February 21st, 2014
by Colleen Rivecca

endpovertynow

On Wednesday, February 26, St. Anthony’s will be joining advocates from across the state for a day of action addressing poverty in California.  We’ll be meeting with legislators to talk about ideas for addressing poverty and will attend a hearing of the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Health and Human Services, where legislators will discuss poverty in California and the impact of recent cuts to social service programs.

Although California has made economic progress since the recession, poverty and long-term unemployment in the state remain high.  Last October, Stanford University released a report using a poverty measure that takes California’s high cost of living into account.  The report showed that 22% of Californians live in poverty.  Census data confirmed the poverty level found in Stanford’s report and showed that California’s poverty rate is higher than any other state in the nation.

Over the years of the recession, the California legislature and governor have made significant cuts to safety net programs like SSI (cash aid for low-income seniors and people with disabilities), CalWORKs (California’s welfare-to-work program for low-income families) and the In-Home Supportive Services (home-based care for low-income people who need help with activities of daily living).

Over the years of budget deficits during the recession, California made significant cuts to SSI, cutting the program by $77 per month for and eliminating the cost of living adjustment for the state portion of the grant.  St. Anthony’s has noticed a significant increase in hunger among low-income seniors and people with disabilities who receive SSI.  SSI recipients in California are ineligible for federal nutrition assistance through the SNAP (food stamp) program.  SSI benefit levels in California are currently only 90% of the federal poverty level: a single SSI recipient receives $877.40 per month.  After paying their rent and out-of-pocket medical expenses, seniors have very little money at the end of the month for necessities like food, transportation, and toiletries.  Many seniors visit free meal programs like St. Anthony’s Dining Room to help make ends meet.

St. Anthony’s is bringing dining room guests who are SSI recipients to Sacramento on February 26 to talk to the legislature about the impact of cuts on their ability to meet their basic needs, and to ask for restorations.  If you’d like to share your views about how to address poverty in California, send an email to the members of the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Health and Human Services.  Click here for committee members names and contact information.

If you’d like to learn about advocacy opportunities with St. Anthony’s, email Colleen at crivecca <at>stanthonysf<dot>org to be added to St. Anthony’s advocacy email list.

December 19 Memorial for SF Homeless Dead

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013
by Colleen Rivecca

The winter solstice marks the first day of winter and the longest night of the year.  On or near this day, cities across the country remember and honor the members of their communities who died while homeless.  This year, San Francisco will mark National Homeless Person’s Memorial Day on Thursday December 19, with an interfaith memorial for homeless San Franciscans who have died over the past year.  The San Francisco memorial will feature a reading of the names of homeless San Franciscans who have died, a candlelight vigil, and words of hope and inspiration from faith leaders.Homeless Memorial Vigil

We invite you to participate in this event with St. Anthony’s to honor the lives and the memories of our deceased homeless brothers and sisters.  We will gather as a group at our Dining Room (150 Golden Gate Avenue) at 4:30pm.  Participants can make signs and we will have a brief program.  Then we will march to Civic Center for the vigil.  If you would like to join us please register online at www.homelessmemorial.eventbrite.com

WHO:        All guests, volunteers, staff and friends of  St. Anthony’s

WHAT:      Participate with the St. Anthony’s contingent in the Annual Interfaith Memorial

WHERE:   Meet at St. Anthony’s ~150 Golden Gate Avenue.  Then march to Civic Center Plaza for the vigil.

WHEN:      Thursday, December 19th: 4:30 pm – 6:30 pm

Reflections on the 2013 Hunger Challenge by St. Anthony’s Executive Director, Barry Stenger

Friday, September 13th, 2013
by Barry

For me the most challenging thing about challenges is that what ends up being the most challenging thing is never what I thought was going to be the most challenging thing. This has been borne out again this week as our family has taken up the San Francisco Food Bank’s “Hunger Challenge.” For five days my wife and I, together with our two daughters, are trying to mirror the experience of a family living on food stamps (now called SNAP benefits). At $4.50 per day per person this works out for a family of four to $18 per day plus two bags of fruits, vegetables and eggs from the Food Bank.

We figured it would be a week of less: less food and less taste. What we’re learning is that living on less means more work shopping, more planning and more time in the kitchen. The boneless chicken thighs, usually so easily snatched from the meat department, have to be carved from a whole chicken (half the price), the bones set aside for broth and then carefully picked for the makings of the next day’s chicken salad sandwich. Beans have to be soaked ahead of time, and we need to get up early to make lunches.

Scheduling problems delayed my retrieval of the Food Bank’s groceries. So two days into the challenge, when I walked through the door with bags of fruits and vegetables, you would have thought it was Christmas in September—oo’s and ah’s over fresh strawberries, potatoes, cantaloupes and more. All of a sudden new possibilities opened up to us: a healthy snack, and eggs for breakfast.

These days when we head to the store, we go in the opposite direction, not toward the Oakland hills and the aisles of well-lit produce and specialty coffees, but toward the tracks and the bustling grocery outlet. The other day, while carefully counting out her allotted portions, my wife was interrupted by the checker: “Are you paying with food stamps?” As a child, her family with its eleven kids relied on food stamps for a few months when her father was out of work. The checker’s question brought back those feelings of shame and judgment—another reminder to all of us of what is really challenging about this challenge.

As the Executive Director of St. Anthony’s, I see how this challenge plays out in the day to day lives of the guests we serve in our Dining Room. While sitting at my desk looking at my tuna sandwich, I’ve been tempted to go downstairs and share in the nutritious and filling meal provided for the thousands of people every day whose food stamps have either run out or have been denied for some reason. This “Hunger Challenge” becomes a challenge for all of us to continue to support institutions like the Food Bank, St. Anthony’s and other food security programs that help people feed their families and retain a sense of dignity.

Farm Bill Passes Without Nutrition Title

Monday, July 22nd, 2013
by Colleen Rivecca

The SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as “food stamps”) is our nation’s most important anti-hunger program.  SNAP provides nutrition assistance to 47 million low-income Americans, helping them to avoid extreme poverty and to afford nutritious food.  For several decades, the Farm Bill, the legislation that authorizes the SNAP program, has been that rare piece of federal  legislation lucky enough to receive bipartisan support.  The bill, which is reauthorized once every five years, contains provisions that set agricultural policy as well as nutrition policy.  In June, the U.S. House of Representatives was unable to pass their version of the Farm Bill, which contained $20 billion in cuts to SNAP. In the beginning of July, they tried again.  The version of the Farm Bill that they passed has no funding for SNAP: it contains agriculture-related provisions only.   This move puts the SNAP program in a tenuous position, as the current authorization for the program expires on September 30, 2013.

In our Dining Room, we see that there is more than one face to hunger.  Some  of the 2,600 meals that the St. Anthony’s Dining Room serves each day feed people who are ineligible for SNAP, either because their incomes are too high, because they are seniors or people with disabilities who receive Supplemental Security Income benefits, or because they don’t qualify because of past drug-related convictions or because of their immigration status.  It’s important to remember that St. Anthony’s also feeds people who do receive SNAP.  With an average benefit level of $4.50 per person per day, SNAP benefits are an important nutrition support, but will not cover all of a person’s nutritional needs.  When their SNAP benefits run out, many San Francisco SNAP recipients come to food programs like ours to make sure that they can get enough to eat. 

If SNAP benefits were to be reduced or if current beneficiaries were to be made ineligible, we would see more people in our community struggling with hunger.  St. Anthony’s works to reduce hunger by feeding people through our Dining Room and by advocating for sound nutrition policy.  We have been advocating  for a Farm Bill that protects funding for SNAP and that doesn’t reduce eligibility or benefit levels.   St. Anthony’s has joined with anti-hunger organizations from around California to ask Congress to support SNAP, protect the program from cuts, and protect SNAP recipients from benefit reductions.   If you’d like to join us, visit Feeding America, where you can send a customizable letter to your Congressional representatives.

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