#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, William, 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

“When I walk into Rubicon, I get a genuine hug and a high-five. That’s for everyone who enters these doors. And it was Sarah, their Staff Attorney, who pushed me to apply for a job I thought I could never get.” - William

"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

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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.

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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 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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