How do the people of communities get to know the people around them? Recently, at Ethel L. Baker Elementary School, many volunteers, young and old, gathered to bond together through planting trees and helping out their own communities.
The Democratic Party of Sacramento County held a phone bank on Friday, August 12th in support of Assembly Bill 1066, which would give farmworkers overtime pay.
Though many are concerned about crime rates in Sacramento County, there is still a dispute over the best way to handle it. The Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department is seeking additional funding in order to improve on police presence in high-risk areas. Others insist that more unconventional measures are the key to bringing down crime in the county.
After a call to quorum, testimony for the public workshop began with Sheriff Scott Jones. Jones believes that improving on County Sheriff’s programs while cooperating with local organizations and communities can significantly cut down on crime.
Jones also highlighted the contrast in services between 2008 and today, after facing layoffs and reduced funding. While he recognized the importance of overall health in a community, the sheriff still called for additional funding for his department in order to increase its capacity to respond to emergencies.
“There are really two components to public safety. One is responding to 911 calls… the second is quality of life issues,” Jones said. “…the overall quality of life of a community has very little to do with our 911 response. You need both components.”
After testimony from the Sheriff’s Department, the District Attorney for the county Anne Schubert stepped up to the podium. While acknowledging the need for better emergency response, Schubert also emphasized preventative actions that could be taken outside the Sheriff’s Department.
“Community Government Relations Division… if we can prevent a crime on the front end, we’ll be safer as a community on the other end,” said DA Schubert.
Following the District Attorney was testimony from various community leaders, many working with Sacramento Area Congregations Together, or “ACT.” Pastors, youth organizers and concerned residents all took part in the workshop, some supporting the Sheriff’s Department request for additional funding, while others wanted the Board to consider other approaches.
One such member of the community was Bob Erlenbusch of the Sacramento Regional Coalition to End Homelessness. In his view, protection and rehabilitation of the County’s homeless has much to do with crime rates and how thinly the Sheriff’s Department is spread.
Pastor Ellis Barbara Banks of the Christian Fellowship Church in Del Paso Heights also spoke to the Board of Supervisors. Banks concentrated on the health and wellbeing of the children in the community as a means of preventing crime.
“Education is the key to all of the stuff we’ve heard today. We’ve got to get them when they are young… but first we’ve got to get them alive… I am more concerned about our babies not living beyond two years.”
To view the entire workshop, click here (begin at 5:02:00)
A hotly contested issue in California, healthcare for the state’s undocumented residents was the topic of a recent workshop held by the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors. Attendees of the nearly five hour meeting heard speakers from many different walks of life, voicing their concerns and weighing the benefits and risks of re-expanding health care options for the undocumented in Sacramento County. Support for renewing coverage for the undocumented was high.
The county hearing room, nearly filled to capacity for the occasion, heard testimony from politicians, blue collar workers, medical professionals, business leaders, and non-profit activists among others, with almost overwhelming support for bringing back health care for potentially thousands of residents in the area.
After a call to quorum, testimony began with Dr. Sherri Heller, Director of Health and Human Services for Sacramento County. Heller laid out seven potential options for restoring coverage, each considering issues like number of potential enrollees, cost and complexity, and what each option would actually cover. The eighth option, “to take no action,” needed little explanation.
The role of the Department of Health and Human Services in this hearing was not to recommend any actions, but to do its best to lay out the potential costs and outcomes of different scenarios based on its findings. Heller also compared existing models in other California counties. She went on to cite Fresno as an “unusual case” in the state for its access to specialty care.
The seven action-based options on the table offer a wide range of paths the county can take. They all, however, hinge greatly on the implementation of President Obama’s executive order that would give legal status to an estimated 40% of the country’s roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants. His executive order is currently on hold pending a decision on its legality.
Later testimony included impassioned speeches from politicians, notably from Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, a strong supporter of the California Endowment’s #Health4All campaign.
The chamber was filled with applause as Johnson pledged to do “whatever it takes” to restore health coverage to the tens of thousands of undocumented residents in the region.
“That’s the Sacramento we believe in,” the mayor announced to his colleagues and constituents.
Assemblyman Kevin McCarty stepped up to the podium as well, offering his personal experience in the emergency room and attesting to the many people he has seen there who use the ER for their primary care.
“I don’t think you wanted to shut the door on health care for thousands of Sacramentans,” said McCarty sympathetically to the Board.
While recognizing the circumstances that caused coverage to be cancelled for those Sacramentans, McCarty also stressed a point that many others have stressed as well, the unsustainability of denying coverage to so many residents of the county. With the average trip to the ER in the hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars, the assemblyman argued that to rely on those services instead of re-expanding coverage would be “penny wise and pound foolish.”
Similar sentiments were voiced by important figures from across the state, such as Kings County Supervisor Richard Valle, who reminded the chamber of the role immigration has played throughout American history.
“Today’s immigrants are just as important as yesterday’s immigrants,” Valle affirmed.
As elected officials finished their remarks on this highly contested issue, groups granted ten minutes to speak rather than the usual two prepared their arguments.
First up were representatives of the Sacramento Building Healthy Communities, an initiative of the California Endowment, a private health foundation. They voiced concerns particularly for the “barriers” many in the Sacramento region face regarding access to health care.
Backed by dozens in the crowd wearing #Health4All campaign shirts, they made the case before the Board that restoring coverage for the undocumented helped citizens of the county as well.
Pointing out that “disease doesn’t discriminate,” they focused on the fact that keeping more people healthy, even those without documentation, would prevent the spread of illness and help to maintain a healthier, more productive community. For them, the answer is to allow those immigrants back into the health care system.
Following remarks from BHC leaders, Bishop Jaime Soto began with a sharp criticism of the 2009 decision that made this workshop necessary in the first place.
“The silence of the California leadership was deafening,” he said regarding the willingness at the time to let coverage for the undocumented disappear. The bishop also argued that the county had a moral and spiritual commitment to its undocumented population to restore health care access.
The final hours of the workshop were filled by testimony from ordinary citizens who patiently waited for their speaker slip to surface to the top of the pile.
“For two years I looked for a door that might open,” said one immigrant and mother of two who suffered along with her children from extensive medical issues. “At times I felt afraid.” She required a Spanish-to-English interpreter for her testimony, but her passion for the issue did not need translating.
More speakers requiring translation followed, all with personal experiences on the undocumented side of the health care debate.
“I just want to work,” said one man, whose insurance was denied to treat a work-related injury. “I can’t work.” The man had difficulty walking as he exited the chamber.
Despite a flood of support for the #Health4All campaign, it was clear that not all in attendance agreed. One voice of dissent came from Davi Rodrigues, a ranking member of Save Our State in Sacramento, an organization considered by the Southern Poverty Law Center to be a hate group.
In his opening remarks, Rodrigues began with criticism of the term “undocumented immigrant” itself. The phrase, he said was “dreamed up by people who are in support of illegal immigration.”
He went on to offer an alternative not yet heard by the chamber: repatriation. Rodrigues believes that the immigrants’ countries of origin are “responsible for their own upkeep.” If an undocumented immigrant is in need of medical care, he proposes directing them to the proper medical facilities in their home countries, dismissing the possibility that poor medical care could be what drives many people from their home countries in the first place.
Rodrigues also disparaged the amount of money each option would cost the taxpayers, something his opponents insist would, due to a healthier working population, pay for itself.
“Out here is not your constituency,” he said to the Board with a finger pointed to the crowd behind him. “They’re hard at work. They’re the ones where the money comes from, and they can’t be here because this is a work day,” he added suggestively.
After being asked to finish his remarks, the SOS leader turned his frustration towards Chairman of the Board Phil Serna, whom he claimed did not grant him the six minutes owed to him as a non-profit organization. Serna denied receiving such a request from Rodrigues, to which he struck his hand on the podium, instructed the Chairman to “read your mail next time,” and promptly left the chamber. Testimony continued shortly thereafter.
The views of Davi Rodrigues were clearly not shared by most in the room, as the remaining speakers showed their resounding support for the #Health4All cause. And after dozens of testimonies, the workshop was adjourned.
Although no measures were actually voted on in this workshop, and with no vote officially planned yet, Wednesday’s meeting was an important step forward in the conversation. For the undocumented residents of Sacramento County, basic health care, considered to be a human right by some, is finally within reach.
12 million undocumented residents in the US. 1 million in California. 100,000 in Sacramento County. And many are uninsured under the Affordable Care Act. “An immigrant who meets all eligibility requirements, but is not in a satisfactory immigration status for full scope Medi-Cal is entitled to emergency and pregnancy-related services and, when needed, state-funded long-term care,” states the Medi-Cal website. Despite this, Sacramentans are doing what they can to help undocumented residents receive the care that they need.
In recent years, the State of California has passed laws to provide drivers licenses to undocumented residents. It has also passed the Trust Act, making it harder for the Federal Government to detain and deport illegal immigrants who are not criminals.
“Sacramento County has complied with these laws, but it has done little on its own to support undocumented families,” states Annie Fox, Lead Organizer, Sacramento Area Congregations Together. “For example, in 2009 Sacramento County passed a law saying the county would only provide healthcare to those who could prove lawful residency status, meaning any families including children were cut off from county health services.”
With 100,000 undocumented residents in Sacramento County, this type of legislation may put a strain on Sacramento’s quality of life.
Half of all undocumented youth in California delay seeking necessary medical treatment states researches at the UCLA Labor Center’s Dream Resource Center
”County Supervisor Phil Serna has stood firmly that the county should reverse its stance on providing healthcare to the undocumented, and newly elected county supervisor to be Patrick Kennedy has also championed the issue,” says Fox. “The Sacramento News and Review has done some excellent reporting on the issue though other media outlets have largely ignored it.”
A recent report by the California Housing Partnership Corporation and the Sacramento Housing Alliance indicates a need for legislative change on a local and state level. According to the report, “90% of all very-low income households in Sacramento County pay more than 30% of their income in rent.”
In 2009, over 25% of Sacramento residents’ incomes were below poverty level. These residents may have found difficulties in finding a home financially suitable to their situation, due to a city-wide lack of affordable homes.
“There is a shortfall of over 52,000 homes affordable to Sacramento County’s very low-[income] …residents. Nearly 70% of very low-income households pay more than 50% of their income on rent, meaning [they are] extremely housing cost burdened,” says Darryl Rutherford, Executive Director of the Sacramento Housing Alliance (see here).
The Sacramento Housing Alliance and the California Housing Partnership Corporation authored the report in order to spread awareness regarding the current state of Sacramento’s housing market, which does not always provide economical housing to local families. Both organizations work to provide residents a more affordable housing market, as scores of people are affected by this issue.
According to the report, “more than 50 percent of ELI [extremely low-income] households are elderly or disabled, while VLI [very low-income] households are more likely to include low-wage workers… in fact, there are 156,455 workers in Sacramento County earning less than half the county’s median income.”
“These households are just one financial emergency (i.e. car breaking down needing repairs, health emergency, etc.) away from losing their homes,” Rutherford says. “Residents should be concerned given the rise of homelessness and there not being enough affordable homes nor financial resources to create new homes affordable to the working class such as nursing assistants, home health aids, preschool teachers, restaurant workers and waiters.”
The Sacramento Housing Alliance urges legislators to improve the housing market by authorizing tax increment financing, strengthening inclusionary housing policies, and supporting Sacramento Steps Forward. For more information, see page four of the original report.
Sage Lauwerys calfresh, Health Awareness, Hunger Awareness Week 2014, NNC Stories, River City Food Bank, Sacramento county, Sacramento Hunger Coalition, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program 1 Comment
Today, as we continue to experience the effects of one of the worst financial crises in U.S. history, many Americans face challenging economic burdens. But in this midst of these financial hardships across the nation, Americans also band together to help ease the struggle of alleviating their financial burdens. The U.S. government has done its part by providing over 40 million people with food stamps in February alone (Food Research and Action Center). Now, in Sacramento, the River City Food Bank has partnered with the Sacramento Hunger Coalition in order to spread hunger awareness by increasing community involvement and reaching out to state legislators.
“Hunger is one of those things in society that we can hide… you can’t walk into a classroom of children and go, ‘Hunger is a problem here,’” says Eileen Thomas, Executive Director of the River City Food Bank. “If you have children who are hungry, they won’t be able to learn in schools. If you have people who are trying to work, and they come to work hungry, they’re not going to be at their best… The community that you live in is only as good as it is healthy.”
Hunger Awareness Week’s aim was to bring community members together in order to end hunger in the Sacramento region. On May 20th, 21st, and 22nd, events designed to increase awareness brought community members closer to this goal.
On the 20th, the River City Food Bank hosted a seminar and discussion revolving around the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, more commonly known to Californians as CalFresh. The seminar provided in-depth information on program, which provides food stamp assistance to millions of families nationwide.
“The goal of Calfresh is to… [provide] supplemental nutrition help,” Thomas adds. “It’s simply meant for those who are at a point when they can’t put food on the table for themselves and others. The goal is to make sure that they have the means to buy fresh fruits, vegetables, and healthy foods until they can [find] a job or go from part time to full time.”
On the 21st, Hunger Action Day at the Capitol provided Sacramentians, food stamp recipients, Food Bank clients and employees, and Sacramento Hunger Coalition members the opportunity to speak directly to legislators. Hunger Action Day reminded assembly-members that all laws have a direct and meaningful impact on citizens.
Finally, on May 22nd, a special showing and discussion of the film American Winter, which “puts a face on the country’s economic challenges and has the potential to humanize the discussion around these issues,” concluded the series of events (American Winter).
A recent article written by the Sacramento Bee’s Loretta Kalb has drawn some attention to cuts in funding for summer school courses. According to the article, close to 150,000 students from the Sacramento and Yolo counties were eligible to receive free or reduced lunch during the 2011-2012 school year. However, when summer hit, “fewer than 10 percent of them took advantage of the free meals available through the U.S. Department of Agriculture.”
One example of this budget reduction is evident in the nearby San Juan Unified School District, where schools that are offering summer school are down to operating only four days a week rather than five like in previous years. This reduces availability of free lunches for students.
As stated on feedingamerica.org, research conducted in 2005 found that ‘food insecurity’ can be devastating to school-age children. According to the study, the reading and math skills of children without steady nutritional meals tend to develop slower than that of other children.
However, some school districts, community organizations and even libraries are doing what they can to make sure that students from low-income families are provided with the meals that they should have to learn and function.
Loretta Kalb’s article also included information about THINK Together, an organization with branches here in Sacramento designed to give schools and their students what they need to enable their full potential, nutritionally and otherwise. The organization has been assisting Woodbine Elementary School in keeping up their summer program (complete with free lunches) as well as other sites in the area.
With the support of parents, teachers, city council members, and organizations like THINK Together, we can provide the children of low-income families with the meals that they require to excel in school.
You can view Loretta Kalb’s article, which includes resources for free-meal sites in Sacramento, here.
According to ChildHelp, five children in the US die everyday from abuse. According to the Child Welfare League of America, in California in 2010, there were 343,793 total referrals for child abuse and neglect and 82,879 children were victims of abuse or neglect.
The Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act defines child abuse and neglect as, at minimum, “Any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation or an act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm.”
In 2012, a 20 year study on child abuse was concluded. This study surveyed child deaths in Sacramento County and the causes from 1990-2009.
According to the study, there were 158 Child Abuse and Neglect homicide deaths from 1990 through 2009, 63% of all child deaths in the county.
Many of those deaths took place in South Sacramento, North Highlands, and Del Paso Heights shown in the map on page 7.
Recently in the Natomas area, a nine year old boy was killed, presumably by his own father.
“It’s horrible,” said Anna McDowell, a Sacramento resident. “No child ever deserves to be abused or killed.”
However, not all victims of child abuse and neglect are killed. These children grow up to become members of society. Children who are abused are more likely to commit crimes, experience teen pregnancy, heavily drink and use drugs, and possibly even abuse their own children.
“Many of the ones who survive are scarred for life,” said Denise Watkins, a preschool teacher. “Most of the time they can’t become functional members of society. Even if they don’t become abusers or drug users, They need a lot of psychological help.”
The horrible cycle of abuse and neglect continues to hurt the children of Sacramento.
For more information about child abuse and how to prevent it, click here.