January 1, 2017 | Volume 1, Number 11
Tri-Valley Coalition Seeks Help to Fight Local Poverty
By Hacienda Pulse Staff Writer
A host of factors have benefited the Tri-Valley cities of Pleasanton, Livermore, Dublin, San Ramon, and Danville. Those factors include natural beauty, an involved citizenry, a highly educated workforce, and a strong local economy, based in part on the Tri-Valley's ideal proximity to Silicon Valley and San Francisco.
As a result, the area is thriving. In 2013, for example, San Ramon was America's top-earning city. According to a report by CBS, 63.5% of the city's households had an annual income above $100,000, with 25% earning $200,000 or more. Pleasanton ranked third in U.S. household income, with nearly 60% of its households making more than $100,000 and 22.3% earned more than $200,000. In short, many area residents are doing well. What is less obvious is how many area residents are struggling-and how their struggles can affect the community as a whole.
"Individuals who live and work in the Tri-Valley are often unaware that many people are struggling to make ends meet," notes Kristi Miller, the Project Manager for the Tri-Valley Anti-Poverty Coalition (TVAPC). "The paradox of suburban poverty is that it is often hidden within the facades of wealthy neighborhoods and work environments."
Suburbs in America's largest metro areas have seen their poor population grow by 66% since 2000, according to Elizabeth Kneebone, Director of Research at UC Berkeley's Terner Center for Housing Innovation and a nonresident Senior Fellow at Brookings Institution. That makes areas such as the Tri-Valley home to the largest and fastest growing poor population in the country, she says.
Kneebone coauthored the book Confronting Suburban Poverty in America and was the keynote speaker at the October 2017 luncheon sponsored by TVAPC. The organization, now in its fourth year, brings together a myriad of community, business, and government organizations to collaborate in addressing the issues of suburban poverty.
A variety of other experts and officials also spoke at the event as part of TVAPC's efforts to improve the lives of local residents by improving current services and promoting long-term change. Sue Compton, for example, who is CEO of Axis Community Health, spoke about the increased need for health care services in the Tri-Valley.
In 1972, under a different name, Axis Community Health began as a health center for low-income children in Eastern Alameda County who had no other access to health care. Today Axis serves more than 14,000 low-income residents of all ages and provides a range of health-related services, including addiction counseling. As one woman wrote to Axis, "I'm a 20 year-old mother of four, recovering from a meth addiction. My drug problem got my children taken away, but thanks to Axis I have been able to stay clean and sober and now have regained custody of my children."
Such health services are critical and in increasing demand. As Compton explained at the luncheon, the Axis Community Health clinic in Pleasanton was recently expanded; even so, the expanded clinic has already reached capacity.
Hidden Poverty Affects Many
"Poverty tends to be hidden here," says Lyssia Porter, Partnerships & Communications Director at Blue Oaks Church, a member of TVAPC. Poverty is a common experience for some people in the Tri-Valley, Porter says, "whether it is the single parents struggling on one income, families experiencing job loss, or the passing of a parent who provided a significant portion of income."
TVAPC focuses its work in four key areas: housing, health, education, and food security. The need for such work may be surprising to some Tri-Valley residents, who may not notice the extent of local poverty given the overall affluence of the area. If you do not work directly with people in need, it is easy to miss the growing poverty level facing the Tri-Valley area. That growth is more obvious to the members of TVAPC, and so are the costs that poverty inflicts on the area.
"Poverty impacts everyone," notes Miller. "Poverty costs our society in financial productivity, individuals not reaching their full potential, individuals at risk for substantial health problems, increased crime, and weakened families and communities. Social and economic disparities are especially harmful to children."
TVAPC was founded by Kaiser Permanente, the East Bay Leadership Council, the East Bay Community Foundation, and Hacienda Helping Hands, Hacienda's community engagement initiative. Those four groups came together in 2013 to help start what would eventually become the Tri-Valley Anti-Poverty Collaborative. Approximately 115 members now belong to TVAPC, including some 40 agencies guided by a nine-member steering committee.
"Caring for the health of everyone in a community is important," notes Mary Grace Gardner, the Area Portfolio Leader and Chief of Staff for the Kaiser Permanente Diablo Service Area, which includes the Tri-Valley region. "This effort looks at the needs of the entire community. If you have a subset in need, and those needs aren't met, it does threaten the overall health of that community."
The work by TVAPC helps address the economic vitality of families and communities, neighborhood safety, and social and emotional awareness, says Gardner. "These are key factors that promote healthy communities overall."
How You Can Help
Those who are involved in TVAPC are energetic and passionate about the work, according to Gardner, who encourages business owners and residents to get involved in the coalition. Kaiser Permanente became involved with because its goals align well with KP's own mission. "We are big on supporting innovative efforts to increase access to healthy food, physical activity, economic vitality, safety, and wellness in the communities that we serve."
"Awareness of the need in the Tri-Valley is important," says Miller. "Hacienda residents and business tenants can support the Tri-Valley nonprofits, safety net service providers, and faith-based community in their efforts to provide direct assistance. Suburban safety net providers are often underfunded and stretch to meet the needs of their community. This is certainly true in the Tri-Valley. Another way to help the Tri-Valley community is to support policy decisions that will assist those in need. Political action promotes upstream change."
TVAPC values community participation and engagement, and will be holding informational events for the community. For more information about the Tri-Valley Anti-Poverty Coalition, visit www.tvapc.org or see its Facebook page at www.facebook.com/TVAPC .