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Sometimes You Get What You Need: Drummond’s Story

By Jonathan Bash September 1, 2017

Sometimes, you endeavor to accomplish one small goal, and it snowballs into a life-changing event. As the Rolling Stones once said, “you can’t always get what you want, but sometimes you get what you need.” 

In Drummond’s case, he – a Rubicon participant from the first cohort under our new model – got both.  Just one year ago, someone told him that Rubicon could reinstate his suspended license, and help him get his life in order, find a job and build a career.

“But all I heard was that I could get my license. I needed my license back, so I went to Rubicon,” he says. “At first, I sat in the Foundations Workshop with my ears shut, just waiting for the coaches to show me how to fix my situation. But then something amazing happened. I truly listened for the first time in my life. The coaches got to me. And, man, talk about a transformation!”

Before Rubicon, Drummond didn’t really care about the world around him. “I had a lot of street in me, and a lot of the potholes that come with it. I always had to pull to the side to change tires.” One detour resulted in 5 years of incarceration. “It felt like I was roaming with hyenas.”

Things changed. “After a few days with Rubicon, I was striving to be on time every day. I was engaged, asking questions.” He says, “Rubicon’s coaches are like your ol’ grandma. She’ll give you all the love you could want, but if you don’t do what you’re supposed to do, she’s not going to defend you. You want your grandma to fight for you, so you do what you’re supposed to do.”

Soon enough, Rubicon brought him on to their team as an ambassador, a transitional employment position for people interested in bolstering their job skills and pursuing careers in social service. “I became Mr. Rubicon – the first point of contact for new participants.”

“That was the first time anybody trusted me with that sort of responsibility. That’s empowerment.” Drummond soon leveraged this new confidence – and job experience – to get a position as a counselor at a shelter for families experiencing homelessness. “I became a caregiver.”

Long term, he wants to continue to give back and care for those who need help. It’s something he learned from his coaches. “When I come through Rubicon’s doors, I get hugs. I get a family. I get encouragement. They do something for people. I want to do something. Paying taxes isn’t enough.”

Drummond is a man who is fueled by hope and, as a result, can’t help but glow with pride. He overflows with enthusiasm for life and for what he now knows is possible when people come together to support each other.

“Society can’t keep putting all of these band aids on all of these minor problems.” Drummond thinks there’s a better approach to solving poverty than what conventional wisdom has prescribed over the last fifty years.

“What you need is a big bandage to cover up the whole cut and lets it heal. Rubicon heals. It brings you back together. It breaks the cycle of poverty. I just don’t understand why Rubicon isn’t everywhere! What they do works.”

Learn more about how Rubicon works here.

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East Bay Times Op-Ed: AB 1250 is a vivid lesson in unintended consequences

By Jonathan Bash August 31, 2017

BY JANE FISCHBERG & DAN GEIGER

August 31, 2017

In government, good intentions frequently have unintended consequences. Unfortunately, many of these unintended consequences can have irreversible impacts, costing lives, chilling innovation and disintegrating community institutions that have reliably served our neighbors for decades.

That’s the case with AB 1250. This legislation has a purportedly noble goal: to protect employment security for public employees.  But in actuality, it constructs an elaborate system that locks out the nonprofits and medical specialists that ensure that some of our community’s most vulnerable residents receive care.

The bill would require all county contractors — many of whom are nonprofit Community Benefit Organizations (CBOs) — to spend a significant portion of their modest budgets on expensive audits, burdensome paperwork and administrative overhead.

In the short run, this would divert critical resources from vital services.

In the long run, it could force hundreds of community organizations to shut their doors, leaving tens of thousands of people with limited resources — including survivors of domestic violence, those living with mental illness and families who are homeless — out in the cold.

Almost 65 percent of Contra Costa County’s mental health services are contracted out to provide much-needed additional capacity to the county’s health delivery system. Partnerships between these organizations and the Health Services Department ensure that residents benefit from the cultural responsiveness, expertise and skill they have to offer, while remaining flexible enough to continually innovate and improve their practices.

Outside contracting is particularly necessary in situations where labor is scarce and few people have hyper-specialized expertise. If a disease is relatively rare, why have the county hospital hire a full-time doctor just to serve a handful of people? It makes much more economic sense for a few counties to contract one shared doctor to serve an entire region.

AB 1250 would make it cost prohibitive for a doctor or health group to choose that arrangement. On top of that, there are many emergency services that must be contracted out to protect public safety. The simple truth is that no health department can employ enough professionals to staff and manage the entire system on its own.

Other organizations, such as Rubicon Programs in the counties of Contra Costa and Alameda, deliver services that help the unemployed find jobs. Due to its nonprofit status, Rubicon is able to pool varying sources of funding to maximize its impact. It also can build close, active partnerships between local businesses and community groups, allowing them to develop comprehensive supports that help individuals find a job, establish a career and achieve economic mobility. This holistic, hands-on approach is not one that a government agency could manage effectively.

It all comes down to this: AB 1250 is an existential threat to our local health care delivery systems. It’s a one-size-fits-all policy that solves no real problems and creates new ones.

The 21 members of the Human Services Alliance of Contra Costa – in partnership with the county – serve more than 360,000 residents. Millions more are served in Alameda, San Francisco and across the state. These organizations already face potential cutbacks instituted by the federal government. They cannot afford to further jeopardize their ability to provide high-quality services.

No one wins when you decrease quality and access to services.

We urge you to contact your State Sens. Nancy Skinner, Bob Wieckowski, Bill Dodd and Steve Glazer. Ask them to vote no on AB 1250.

Dan Geiger is the director of the Human Services Alliance of Contra Costa. Jane Fischberg is the president and CEO of Rubicon Programs, a nonprofit serving Contra Costa and Alameda counties. 

Read the original op-ed at www.eastbaytimes.com.

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Rubicon Programs Partners with Travis Credit Union To Help Contra Costa ‘Crave 2 Save’

By Jonathan Bash August 15, 2017

47 Percent of All Americans Have Less Than $400 in Their Savings Account 

 

RICHMOND, CALIF., AUGUST 15, 2017 … In an effort to bring financial stability to Contra Costa County’s low-income residents, Rubicon Programs, a nonprofit fighting poverty in the East Bay, Sparkpoint Contra Costa and Travis Credit Union have partnered to launch their new “Crave 2 Save” challenge for Contra Costa County residents.

“At Rubicon, our job is to support our community in building financial, social and human capital,” said Jane Fischberg, President and CEO of Rubicon Programs. “You can’t break the cycle of poverty without saving for the unexpected. For many families, one car repair or dental emergency can be the difference between economic stability and debilitating debt.”

A savings account can save much more than money. 47 percent of all Americans have less than $400 in their savings account and are unprepared for life’s emergencies. Without a savings account, many people must turn to high-interest payday advance loans and credit cards for relief. The small debt eventually balloons to be unmanageable thanks to outrageous 450 percent APRs.

“Travis Credit Union exists to create value in the communities we serve and we believe a family’s ability to save for their future is the foundation of financial success,” said Barry Nelson, President and CEO of Travis Credit Union. “Through the Crave 2 Save program with partners like Rubicon we will break the cycle of poverty.”

So what’s the challenge? Eight nonprofits in four counties across the Bay Area will compete to enroll as many people into savings accounts as possible by December 31, 2017. The two nonprofits from the winning county will split a $75,000 prize that will fund each of the organization’s work to end the cycle of poverty.

To earn points for the two nonprofits, Crave 2 Save participants must open a free new Travis Credit Union savings account, mention the Crave2Save Challenge using the tracking code “CCC1,” meet savings targets that add up to $400, and attend a free financial education seminar. All participants will be entered to win a $100 giveaway at their local branch.

For more information on Crave 2 Save, visit www.traviscu.org/crave2save or call Rubicon Programs at 510-412-1725.

Rubicon Programs is a 501(c)3 nonprofit whose mission is to transform East Bay communities by equipping people to break the cycle of poverty. The organization serves the people of Contra Costa and Alameda counties, and provides services that help low-income individuals enter the workforce and develop fulfilling lives.

Travis Credit Union, headquartered in Vacaville, California, is a not-for-profit cooperative financial institution serving those who live or work in Alameda, Colusa, Contra Costa, Merced Napa, Placer, Sacramento, San Joaquin, Solano, Sonoma, Stanislaus, and Yolo Counties. Currently, Travis Credit Union is the 14th largest credit union in California with more than 189,000 members and more than $2.8 billion in assets. As one of the leading financial institutions in Solano, Contra Costa, Yolo and Merced Counties, Travis Credit Union’s strength lies in its faithful commitment to its members and the community; its solid, secure history; and its long-standing track record of dedicated service.  

CONTACT: Jonathan Bash  |  jonathanb@rubiconprograms.org |  (510) 231-3993  

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Rubicon Stands with Charlottesville Victims, Against Hate and for a Growing Movement

By Jane Fischberg August 14, 2017

It is our collective responsibility to call out and dismantle injustice and inequity in our fractured system when we see it.  Rubicon Programs remains committed to acting on our responsibility to represent the people we serve and fight for their interests – and what we agree is basic human decency.

I would like to share with you my personal experience and reflections on this past weekend’s blatant show of armed Nazism, white supremacy and unfettered fascism in Charlottesville, and the death and violence that followed.  Frankly, I was horrified and angry.

Last night’s vigils sprang up organically throughout the country, with at least a few right here in the East Bay.  Personally, I attended a gathering in Latham Square in Oakland. So many thoughts ran through my mind. 

People from the ages of 15 to 90 spoke from the heart, and many families brought their young children.  I found high school age speakers to be especially eloquent, expressing both their resolve to be united against hate wherever they see it, and also their hope for the future.

On the other end of the age continuum, someone who attended a vigil in El Cerrito told me about a 93-year-old man who spoke. The man said that he had fought at Iwo Jima, and never thought he would still be struggling against fascism more than 70 years later. He didn’t want to die with the struggle still continuing. 

My friend made a sign, “400,000 US military died fighting fascism during World War II.  Never again.” 

White supremacy is a disease, as well as a system, and it remains a threat.

I then wondered if this immediate and widespread outpouring of anger, grief and dismay by white people was, in part, due to the fact that a white life was lost. Would the national response have been the same if Heather Heyer were black or brown?

Toward the end of the vigil, Oscar Grant’s uncle spoke, introducing himself as Uncle Bobby, and asked how many of us at the vigil had been there eight years before, when his unarmed nephew was shot dead by a BART police officer.

I was one of those who was not.  Only about a quarter of the crowd raised their hands.  

Nonetheless, he found comfort in this, and did not express bitterness. He took this as a sign of advancement. The number of people who are aware of the deep, gnarled roots of systemic racism in America has multiplied exponentially. People are talking about it and acting to end it.

Unfortunately, our nation still has a ways to go. Hundreds of white men are still marching with swastikas on their arms and torches in their hands. Our President remains silent. And more complicated issues like poverty and implicit bias remain ever-present.

We should hold onto Uncle Bobby’s words and embrace his message of hope.

The nation is awakening.  Let’s shine a light on injustice and fight for change one heart and mind at a time.

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East Bay Times: Landmark settlement offers some relief from crushing traffic ticket fines

By Jonathan Bash August 14, 2017

By TAMMERLIN DRUMMOND | Bay Area News Group
August 14, 2017

Jesse Austin, a 39-year-old Antioch resident, owed more than $1,800 in unpaid tickets stemming from a traffic stop last September in Benicia. He couldn’t pay that high an amount on the $800 he earned every two weeks at a store that sold men’s grooming products. When he didn’t pay or show up in court, Solano County put a hold on his driver’s license. That in turn, he said, stopped him from getting a job as a delivery driver, better-paying work that he had done in the past.

“Not having a license has really hindered my earning ability,” said the father of six who works as a bicycle messenger in San Francisco. “You have to have one for a lot of jobs.”

Last week, Solano County Superior Court agreed to a first of its kind settlement in California that offers low-income people like Austin some relief from crushing traffic ticket debt and penalties that so often lead to a license suspension. The county now must notify drivers about alternatives to paying the full amount. Qualifying low-income residents are able to fill out a declaration of financial need and ask to pay in installments, seek a fine reduction or request community service. It’s also retroactive, which means drivers can petition the court for financial relief to get a license suspension lifted. The new policy applies to non-criminal violations.

“When you suspend a person’s license there is supposed to be a finding of willfulness,” said Sarah Williams, a staff attorney with Rubicon Programs, a Contra Costa County-based nonprofit that led a coalition of Bay Area legal aid organizations in filing a class action lawsuit last year.  “When someone doesn’t pay a ticket that doesn’t mean it’s willful if they can’t afford to pay it.”

Story continued at www.eastbaytimes.com.

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