MOH’s economic advancement program brings together legal services, case management, adult educational support, support for transitional age youth, financial literacy and asset building, social capital development, and strategic linkages through neighborhood and community centers to maximize individual and family economic self-sufficiency. Priority is given to those services which help individuals and families overcome barriers and enable them to access services, often those services which other City departments have also prioritized.
Case management services are supported that target the community’s most vulnerable populations, including survivors of domestic violence, homeless residents, immigrants, veterans, and transitional age youth. Educational support is also offered to transitional age youth and adults who need assistance to receive their GED, need English as a Second Language classes, develop life skills, and receive technology training.
Financial literacy and asset building is also crucial element of this program. Financial literacy is a bundle of skills that have to be learned continuously throughout one’s life. As a person’s overall money management tasks become more and more complicated, we as consumers must understand not only how to do the basics, but also understand and master more complex financial transactions. This range of needed money management knowledge includes:
· Opening a credit account – knowing about personal credit reports and “FICO” personal credit scores.
· Setting up a household – basic budget management, checking accounts, electronic banking (such as direct deposits).
· Buying or leasing a car – choice of new or used car, lease or purchase, insurance, registration.
· Purchasing a home – obtaining one or more mortgages, insurance, prime/sub-prime (rate) loans, closing costs.
· Investing your money to build wealth – Certificate of Deposits, saving accounts, money market accounts, investing in mutual funds, or individual retirement accounts (IRAs).
· Protecting yourself against fraud – and the predators that practice predatory lending, pay day lending, identity theft.
Legal problems faced by California’s low-income community involve very basic issues of housing, family, safety, and employment— problems often caused by or exacerbated by the family’s lack of resources. Legal service organizations receive daily requests for critical assistance, such as:
· Victims of domestic violence who need legal assistance to separate themselves from abusive partners
· Veterans who need legal assistance to obtain services and resources they have earned
· Elderly persons who need legal help to escape abuse or neglect by a family member or caregiver, or to undo an illegal foreclosure resulting from home improvement fraud or identity theft
· Families facing a medical emergency who cannot obtain health care
· Individuals transitioning from welfare to work who need legal assistance to reinstate a driver’s license needed for employment, or to ensure access to child care that enables them to work
· Immigrants, who are particularly vulnerable and may need assistance to address unfair and deceptive business practices such as fraud in the purchase and sale of a used automobile, deceptive insurance sales, predatory fringe lending, or illegal debt collection practices
· Families in unsafe housing who need advocacy to obtain critical repairs.
A focused approach to transitional age youth is also needed. Service providers need to develop a set of minimum standards similar to what has been developed for children and youth to ensure consistency across outcomes, improved evaluation, and strategic services.
Finally, social capital is also valued as leveraging the strengths within a community or neighborhood that accrue exponentially to each individual and family within that group. Meaningful economic advancement needs to include the development of social capital as an asset within the communities served. John Putnam has described social capital as “connections among individuals – social networks and the norms of reciprocity and trustworthiness that arise from them…Social capital calls attention to the fact that civic virtue is most powerful when embedded in a…network of reciprocal social relations. A society of many virtuous but isolated individuals is not necessarily rich in social capital.” Putnam went on to say that social capital serves a number of specific functions, including allowing citizens to resolve collective problems more easily; greasing the wheels that allow communities to advance smoothly; and widening our awareness of the many ways in which our fates are linked. The networks that constitute social capital can also serve as conduits for the flow of helpful information that facilitates achieving goals. Neighborhood and community centers are seen as a crucial focal point to build social capital, so priority has been given to strengthen those organizations which serve as gathering places, information forums, and community organizing locations.
Last updated: 7/28/2010 12:43:57 PM