The Tri-Valley Interfaith Poverty Forum helps Those in Need Year Round

Poverty afflicts those of every race, creed, and religious background and, here in the Tri-Valley, an equally diverse group is working hard to try to help those in need. While food and clothing are a large concern, housing is an especially important topic in getting those willing to work into places in the region where they can afford to live. Pleasanton's Economic Vitality Strategic Plan, summarized in this issue, is a key factor in working toward getting workers into affordable housing. However, groups like the Tri-Valley Interfaith Poverty Forum are working directly and immediately to help those who need assistance.

The Tri-Valley Interfaith Poverty Forum seeks to mobilize people of all faiths to address the needs and rights of low-income people and to strengthen the community. Among its activities, the group acts as an advocate for affordable housing in all five Tri-Valley cities (Danville, Dublin, Livermore, Pleasanton, and San Ramon), connects the Tri-Valley faith community with local agencies serving those in need, conducts an affordable housing education campaign in Tri-Valley congregations, and partners with the Tri-Valley Business Council, the East Bay Community Foundation, and East Bay Housing Organizations to develop and present audio-visual presentations dealing with poverty to Tri-Valley civic organizations.

The Tri-Valley Interfaith Poverty Forum was founded in 1998, when Catholic Charities of the East Bay and the California Council of Churches joined with nine Tri-Valley congregations and the FAITHS Initiative of the San Francisco Foundation to present the facts about welfare reform at a "Faith Community Forum on Poverty." Today, the Poverty Forum is a non-profit organization that does research, and engages in education and advocacy in an effort to connect the faith community with local agencies serving those in need.

"What happened that really helped our group focus its efforts was that suddenly people in retail, the service sector, and those that held other key jobs in our community needed emergency food. We then realized that, without help, we couldn't meet the needs of the community," says Maurine Behrend, executive director for the Poverty Forum. In 2000, when rising rents forced working people to get help from local food pantries just to make it through the month, members of the Tri-Valley Interfaith Poverty Forum decided to train themselves and others to work on these challenges in the Tri-Valley. Since that time, the Poverty Forum has trained and organized 132 Tri-Valley residents to inspire their cities to address these issues directly.

Local groups that participate in the Tri-Valley Interfaith Poverty Forum include Open Heart Kitchen, a non-profit organization that provides free nutritious meals to some 2,400 people each month; Interfaith Sharing of Livermore, which collects donated food, items of personal health and hygiene, and special holiday contributions from major grocery chains and distributes them to very low-income families and individuals; the Tri-Valley Haven Food Pantry, located on Junction Avenue in Livermore, which distributes free groceries to low-income Tri-Valley residents; Tri-Valley Haven Homeless Services; Sojourner House, the only homeless shelter in the Tri-Valley Area that accepts two-parent families, single fathers, with children, or families with teen-age boys; St. Vincent de Paul; and the Tri-Valley Business Council.

For more information on the Tri-Valley Interfaith Poverty Forum and how you can participate in building a healthier community, contact the Forum at 925-960-0251 or by email at .

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