#TogetherWeRise

By Jonathan Bash October 27, 2017


Rubicon Programs transforms East Bay communities by equipping people to break the cycle of poverty. 

We believe that no one service is enough to end intergenerational poverty. People are complicated. They can't be reduced to the least common denominator. 

That's why we provide our participants with three years of coaching and opportunities across four core service areas: income, assets, wellness and connections.
 
First, we help our participants get a job and map a long-term career plan. Then, we show them how to grow their savings, build their credit, set a budget and overcome legal barriers. 
 
But we don't stop with these simple economic solutions. 

Physical and emotional health issues, and limited social networks, also keep people in poverty. That's why we offer tailored wellness services and assistance establishing the community networks necessary to build a career, raise a family, and make positive change.

This holistic, flexible approach allows us to end poverty permanently for more than 1,700 people each year. And we all benefit.

Help us build an East Bay without poverty.

Click here to support others like Mario, Angela and John:

"Thanks to Rubicon, I’ve overcome some serious obstacles. All the workshops – and all the coaches – challenged me and helped me grow, allowing me to use my community connections to get a good job." - Mario

"To look at where I am now is a delightful feeling. I was running from my credit for so long, but now I just want to see it grow." - Angela

"I had headaches and didn’t know why. Now, thanks to Rubicon, I know it's hypertension and I’m able to make it better. Rubicon connected me with everything I needed." - John

Read More

One Walks 500 Miles for Change, the Other Builds Peace at Home

By Jonathan Bash October 5, 2017

Forging Connections and Fostering Wellness in East Contra Costa County

East Contra Costa County is one of the fastest growing communities in California, yet it is greatly under-resourced. According to Contra Costa Health Services, for every $8 dollars in social services available to a low-income person in West County, an East County resident has access to just $1 dollar of those services.

That’s why Rubicon Programs opened an Antioch branch in 2012. In the piece below, we hope to shine a light on poverty in Pittsburg, Antioch, Oakley and Brentwood, CA, and amplify two stories of hope in the face of adversity.

 

Sieur, a young man with high hopes and a good sense of direction, has traveled twelve miles each day – by foot – for nearly a month so that he can take advantage of every resource available to him at Rubicon Programs’ office in Antioch, CA.

“I’m the type of person that beats the bus,” he says with a grin.  “It only takes an hour to walk from Pittsburg to Antioch. If you take the bus, it could take even longer. I’d rather be walking than waiting at the stop. It’s exercise after all.”

But his reasoning runs deeper.

Fostering Wellness

“The walk gives me time to think. To have peace. To learn about myself and think through my problems. It makes me feel better because I know I’m getting up and doing something positive.”

This is a skill he learned at Rubicon Programs, where mindfulness is taught as a part of its Wellness curriculum, and every participant gains a new growth mindset.

“Everyone likes to be comfortable. But you can only change when you let yourself be uncomfortable,” he says. “Rubicon taught me to smash my fixed mindset and adopt a growth mindset. Now I know things don’t have to stay the same.”

John, a participant from Pittsburg who has spent a year with Rubicon, echoes the sentiment.

“Over the last twenty years – most of which I was in and out of prison – I’ve had a closed mind,” he says. “When I got in trouble…that was life. When I landed in a gang…that was life.  When I got on drugs and became homeless…that was life.”

John never thought there was another life for him. Then Evelyn, a coach from Rubicon, changed his perspective. “Now, if a door closes, I just wait for the next one to walk through.”

He attributes much of this transformation to the people in his life, both old, new – and returning.

Forging Connections

When John hit rock-bottom, his ex-wife, mother, and daughter cut contact with him. That shook him.

“I woke up one day and realized that I had lost all the people most important to me. My mother became sick from the stress I caused her,” he says. He decided that he had to make change. “I quit drugs and dropped out of the gang that same day.”

After he was released from prison, his probation officer told him about a program that seemed to be working for his clients. “It’s funny looking back. I spent most of my time between prison sentences being homeless out on the river, two blocks away from Rubicon’s office in Antioch. I never knew that everything I needed was right around the corner.”

John went through the program and didn’t miss a day. He grew close to the other men in his Foundations Workshop series and learned networking skills from the connections component. He became good friends again with his mother, father, wife and daughter. “They saw the changes I made. My mom is always telling me how proud of me she is. She knows I’m not going back.”

John finally found peace and productivity in his relationships.

“Oddly enough, the parenting class taught me how to have real relationships with people, not just my daughter. Now I know how to talk to people. How to listen. How to stop, think or walk away before giving in to anger.”

John thrived with this new support network and transformative mindset. Soon enough, Rubicon offered him a transitional job as an Ambassador screening new participants and welcoming guests into the program.

“Out on the streets, it’s not a team game. Here, I learned to work on a team for a shared goal. It was the best thing to ever happen to me. I got to join a group of people with a like mind and a like heart – with a desire to help people.”

Inspired by his coaches’ passion, he hopes to become a drug and alcohol counselor someday. He has already enrolled in college and is working on his accreditation. In time, he would like to start a nonprofit that helps homeless teenagers and runaways. “I want to catch them before they get to the point I got to in life,” he says.

Tying Loose Ends

Both John and Sieur learned the value of connection. But that’s not all that they gained at Rubicon Antioch.

“I had headaches most of my life and didn’t know why. I only got treatment in the ER. Then, Rubicon connected me with health care and a doctor. Now, I know the headaches happen because I have hypertension. I’m able to make it better with a pill. Rubicon connected me with everything I needed.”

Sieur was able to apply for benefits he didn’t know he was eligible for, including CalFresh, the state program that helps pay for groceries.

“I thought Rubicon was just one of those programs where they help you get a job, and that’s it,” Sieur says. “But they do so much more.”

John agrees. “There’s no other place you can go to get a driver’s license, food, clothes, gas, legal assistance, help writing a resume, you name it, and for free,” he says. “This is the place to be if you want to change any – or every – aspect of your life.”

This is Rubicon’s strength. They take everything into account. They believe that it’s the only way to break poverty permanently, especially when society has constructed an environment that fosters it.

Bringing Community into Focus

“It’s how neighborhoods are designed,” John says. “If you go into a poverty-stricken neighborhood, you see a liquor store on every corner and a gun shop on every side. It’s like cities are begging for poverty to turn into crime – which then brings more poverty.”

Sieur also notices that poor regional planning and limited public transportation exasperates poverty for those who live in East Contra Costa County.

“There’s jobs here in Pittsburg and Antioch, but the good jobs are further away,” he says. “You have to drive two hours in traffic to make a good living.”

“I’ve been offered good jobs in Livermore, but I can’t get there. I don’t have a car…yet.”

Sieur has hope though. His Finance Coach has promised to help him apply for a low-interest auto loan once he lands on his feet. Then, maybe, he’ll be able to get off of them.  

“If you stay with Rubicon, you’re going to get the help you need. You just got to stick with it. You gotta make life, don’t let it make you.”

Help us break poverty by donating today.

Read More

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.” 

Help us continue to break poverty by donating today.

Read More

Trading the Dark Side for the Light Side: Mario’s Story

By Jonathan Bash August 7, 2017

Mario, a member of Rubicon Programs' July 2016 cohort, always intended to live a good life, but the things he wanted always seemed out of reach. Entering adulthood in a resource-deprived community, Mario felt that the only viable path to success came from “the dark side.”

“I got caught up dealing drugs,” he says.  He was able to make enough to pay the bills and get what he thought he wanted. “I was feeling pretty content. But I began to stagnate, physically, mentally and spiritually. And in the end, I became my own best customer.”

He spent more than a decade in and out of jail, fell behind on his child support and lost touch with his family. When he hit rock bottom, his life until then came into focus, and he thought about all the time he lost not being a productive citizen. That day, he made a decision to learn from his mistakes, grow as a person and embrace the “light side, the good side.”

His neighbor, a former Rubicon client, suggested he look into Rubicon Programs. At first he was skeptical, “what could happen in just a few weeks?” But soon, he crossed the threshold and realized that he could turn his life around, and that Rubicon’s staff would be sticking with him for the foreseeable future.

“All the workshops challenged me and helped me grow. Each day I chipped off a bit of the block of what they offered. I met with all of the coaches. Jessica stayed on me and made sure I followed through. Mr. Alexander, Pat, Reggie, Max, Dalia, Ken, Porschea, Lila, even the office staff, all were instrumental to my success. ”

Now, one year later, Mario works with LiUNA!, the laborers union in San Francisco. The job, which he secured after capitalizing on a few community connections — including one with Aboriginal Blackmen United (ABU), a local labor advocacy group — earns $30 an hour.

He now has enough to move closer to his mother and his kids, own a reliable car and save for a rainy day, while also enjoying the good things in life. He has paid off his child support, rebuilt relationships and found stability for the first time in decades. In particular, his strengthened relationship with his mother, Mary, has helped him thrive. "I couldn't have done this all without her support. She believed in me when few people did."

He’s proud of the work that he does, building public parks, sidewalks and hospitals. And he hopes to continue to grow in his career. He plans to learn how to use new types of modern equipment and develop brand new skills in his field. “I want to be a real asset to a company,” he says.

He also wants to give back. He’s joined Rubicon’s Men’s Group, where he meets every week to share his success with new participants. “I’m glad I am able to be an inspiration to others.” He tells everyone he runs into, especially if they’re down on their luck, “go over to Rubicon.”

He says that he keeps coming back because it keeps him focused, and keeps him grounded. “I’ve been able to get everything I need with Rubicon. And if they don’t have it, they know how to help me find it.”

“I’m proud that I am able to be where I am at this stage in my life. I’ve overcome some serious obstacles. It’s been a struggle. But I’ve conquered them all, thanks to Rubicon.”

Help us break poverty by donating today.

Read More

Lending Circles build credit, community, and help make dreams a reality

By Lisa Dyas February 27, 2017

After completing Rubicon's intensive two-week Foundations Workshop, and Financial Boot Camp, Angela was committed to building her assets to better support her family. She had already found employment at a local food company, but she still lacked the cash and credit score necessary to secure stable, permanent housing for her family. 

In October 2015, Angela decided to enroll in Lending Circles to help build her credit through a no-interest loan that would help her achieve her housing goals. Angela and seven other Rubicon participants each agreed to contribute $50 a month over the course of seven months and in turn, each would receive a $350 disbursement. Lending Circles at Rubicon are a partnership with Mission Asset Fund (MAF) to help people who do not have access to mainstream banking products build their credit. As with a credit card or traditional installment loans, payments to the circles are reported to the credit bureaus, and can help to significantly improve or establish credit.

Angela was the first member of her group to receive the disbursement. Because she had learned to manage and monitor her money closely, Angela noticed that an extra $350 dollars had been deposited into her account before her Rubicon Financial Coach even had the chance to call her. Certain that there had been a banking error, she said, "there was no way I was touching that money, I'm trying to build my credit!"

The disbursement made an immediate impact on Angela and her family. Working with Rubicon's Senior Housing Coach, she was able to find an apartment she could afford, and thanks to her Lending Circles loan, she had enough cash on-hand to cover her moving expenses. She and her family have now been stably housed for over a year. "To look at where I am now is a delightful feeling," she said. "I was running from my credit for so long, but now I just want to see it grow." Angela's long-term goals now include becoming a homeowner in the near future.

Angela's newfound credit stability has also opened many other doors. When her daughter enrolled in college in Los Angeles to study fashion design, she was able to co-sign the lease on an apartment that enables her daughter to live close to school in a safe environment. "Before I was always the one asking my mom or friends for help," Angela said. "To be able to do that was a pleasure." She is also passing along her knowledge of budgeting and credit building to her daughter in hopes that she will start her adult life on solid financial footing. 

Lending Circles also build community, and Angela and the other members of her group continue to stay in touch. As the first person to receive the disbursement and use it successfully to achieve her goals, she became the groups’ inspirational leader. "We were like a family," she said of her experience, "and took inspiration from each other’s successes." 

She also encourages members of her community who are struggling to try Rubicon's services and Lending Circles. One friend recently reached out to Angela to thank her for encouraging her to stick with the program. Hearing Angela's story encouraged her to stick with Rubicon's intensive two-week Foundations Workshop.  "Once I let her know my story, she stayed," Angela said. "She just told me that she is going to be joining Lending Circles soon, too." 

About Mission Asset Fund

People around the world lend and borrow with each other when bank loans aren’t an option. With technology and credit reporting, MAF’s Lending Circles transforms this traditional practice to help borrowers access affordable loans, build credit history, and set them up for a financially stable future. This unique social loan program has rapidly proved its ability to help people open bank accounts, avoid predatory lenders, and quickly and safely build their credit history.

Help us break poverty by donating today.

Read More