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Author: Courtney McKinney

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Meet Western Center’s Newest Staff Members!

We are excited to welcome Heather Masterton, Lawrence Haynes, and Cinthya Martinez to Western Center’s development team!

“As Western Center works to adopt community-centric fundraising principles, our new Philanthropy/Development Team will build on our strong foundation and lead the expansion of our donor community to be even more aligned with our commitment to equity, inclusion, and justice. The members of this fundraising team are champions for racial equity whose approach to philanthropy centers a racial justice and equity lens. I am confident in their ability to help take Western Center to higher heights as we continue to positively impact the lives of our sisters, brothers, and gender expansive community members with low incomes and/or low wealth across California.”

-Crystal D. Crawford, Western Center’s Executive Director 


Heather Masterton is Western Center’s new Director of Philanthropy. Heather is the driving force behind Western Center’s fundraising — planning and organizing Western Center’s development activities, and ensuring clarity and collaboration between the development team, leadership, advocates, and the finance department. She is based in Los Angeles.

Heather is a seasoned fundraising and communications professional with 26 years of experience working in the nonprofit field to ensure safe housing and a strong safety net for survivors of gender   based violence. She holds a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) certification and has successfully secured over $40M to support transformative programming and policy change in the areas of gender, racial, and economic justice.

Prior to joining Western Center, Heather served as the Chief Strategic Engagement Officer at YWCA Glendale and Pasadena where she oversaw the Mission Advancement and Community Engagement teams, directed the organization’s fundraising and communications work, and co-led local policy initiatives, which included drafting and mobilizing support for the unanimous passage of Glendale’s historic Sundown Town Resolution and the establishment of the City’s first Tenant Landlord Ad-Hoc Committee. Her past leadership roles include: Vice President of Development for Mariska Hargitay’s Joyful Heart Foundation, a national nonprofit focused on ending domestic violence and sexual assault, Executive Director of South Valley Sanctuary, a 57-bed domestic violence shelter program in Utah, and Director of Development for Peace Over Violence, LA’s first rape crisis and domestic violence support center.

Heather holds a Master’s degree in Women’s Studies and a Bachelor’s degree in Women’s Studies with a Minor in Public Policy from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Heather is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) and is a founding board member of the nonprofit, The Good Deed Corps, which works to eliminate barriers to voting through wrap-around voter registration and education campaigns in Texas and Georgia


Lawrence Haynes is Western Center’s first Associate Director of Strategic Partnerships, based in Los Angeles. In his role, Lawrence develops and implements strategic partnerships with corporations, foundations, and major donors on behalf of Western Center.

Lawrence is an experienced practitioner in advocacy, strategic partnerships, and program development. Driven by a passion for bringing people and purpose together, he takes pride in helping people actualize personal and professional growth. Lawrence’s passion for advocacy can be traced back to when he spent significant time assisting nonprofit organizations with structural changes, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), and programming that amplified the need to address systemic disparities.

Before joining Western Center, Lawrence served as the Development and Community Engagement Coordinator at the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. He worked directly with clients to forge new partnerships and served on the grant writing team, which helped to secure grants of up to $300,000. Lawrence also worked in financial services, where grant management was essential to his work, and spearheaded DEI initiatives for the company.

Lawrence has a Bachelor of Arts in Communication from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, a Master of Arts in Business Administration from the University of Maryland, a Master of Science in Nonprofit and Association Management from the University of Maryland, and an Engineering Certification from the Conservatory of Recording Arts & Sciences.


Cinthya Martinez is Western Center’s Development Coordinator, based in Los Angeles. Cinthya leads donor stewardship initiatives, manages vendor relationships, and provides event and graphic design support.

Cinthya is a resourceful and creative development and design professional with 15 years of experience. She has been in love with technology for as long as she can remember and is passionate about championing the vision of organizations and the stories of their clients, donors, and staff.

Prior to joining Western Center, Cinthya served as the Events and Development Coordinator for YWCA Glendale and Pasadena where she was instrumental in the promotion, donor management, and programming of their signature events: the Women for Racial Justice Breakfast and the Heart and Excellence Awards. She also worked to establish and maintain brand identity, develop social media content, ensure data integrity, and develop donor stewardship initiatives.

She began her career at Cal Poly Pomona’s MediaVision production studio where she worked for 7 years and discovered her love of video and audio production and editing. During her tenure at YWCA Pasadena-Foothill Valley, she evolved from volunteer to Social Media and Marketing Coordinator to Operations and Marketing Manager, and took on a leadership role in the transition to the strategic partnership with YWCA Glendale.

Cinthya holds a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from California Polytechnic University, Pomona.

 

A third of Californians live in or near poverty. Advocates say the budget must do more

“Mike Herald, director of policy advocacy for the Western Center on Law and Poverty, said CalWORKs was originally based in the belief that if the government didn’t force people to work, they wouldn’t know “what was good for them.” The program has been reformed over the years, Herald said, but tens of thousands of families are still sanctioned from the system due to the work requirement.”

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Up-to-date COVID-19 information

OVERVIEW

  • June emergency allotments for CalFresh food benefits will be issued on July 17th for CalSAWS and July 24th for CalWIN. May allotments were issued on June 12th for CalSAWS and June 19th for CalWIN.
  • COVID-19 vaccines are free. Click here for more information.
  • Rapid COVID tests are also free, and can be shipped to you. Click here to order
  • Diagnostic testing for COVID-19 is covered at no cost for all Californians.
  • California’s eviction moratorium has ended, but you should still apply for rent relief if you need it! If you receive an eviction notice, do not ignore it. Seek local legal help right away.
  • California’s COVID-19 Rent Relief program can be accessed here, or call 833-430-2122.
  • Federal Child Tax Credit payments are not considered income for any family, and will not change receipt of public benefits.

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Food and Financial Security

  • Federal Child Tax Credit payments are not considered income for any family, and will not change receipt of public benefits, including unemployment insurance, Medicaid, SNAP, SSI, SSDI, TANF, WIC, Section 8, or Public Housing. Find out more about California’s Golden State Stimulus payments — if you qualify, and how to get it. También en español.
  • Restaurant delivery service is available for older Californians. Information and sign-up details for interested participants and restaurants are available here.
  • California households receiving SNAP food stamp benefits (CalFresh) can now purchase groceries online through a USDA pilot program.
  • Here is a Distance Learning Student Resource Guide from the California Department of Social Services. The guide includes information on free or low-cost internet, English language learning, adult education and workforce skills, video conferencing resources, and more.

Health Care

  • Keep your Medi-Cal contact information current. Make sure your county has your current address, phone number, and email address – especially if you moved since 2020. Later this year, counties will start contacting people to help them renew their Medi-Cal. If they cannot contact you, your Medi-Cal may end so you want to make sure they have your current information. Find your local county at this link.
  • COVID-19 vaccines are free. Click here for more information. All health plans must cover vaccine administration for free, and Medi-Cal covers vaccine administration for free.
  • Diagnostic testing for COVID-19 is covered at no cost for all Californians. You will need to go to a state testing site, one run by your county, or get a test at a medical provider that can enroll you in a special Medi-Cal program for people without insurance. You can contact your county public health departmentlocal clinic, and medical provider to receive information about your options for free testing.
  • There is a conflict between the California regulation governing health plans for COVID-19 diagnostic testing and federal testing requirements under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and the CARES Act. This conflict in current law might result in a health plan billing you for testing. If this happens and you want assistance with reviewing the bill, please contact Helen Tran at htran[at]wclp.org or (213) 235-2638.
  • Everyone is encouraged to seek care if they are sick, regardless of income or immigration status. For more information about your right to health care, visit the Health Consumer Alliance’s COVID-19 information site.

Housing

  • Here is Western Center’s Know Your Rights toolkit for California tenants. Inquilinos de California: Conozca Sus Derechos.
  • California’s COVID-19 Rent Relief program helps eligible renters and landlords with unpaid/future rent and utility payments due to COVID-19, regardless of immigration status. Get info, check eligibility, and apply here, or call 833-430-2122.
  • The fact sheet below explains the current protections and financial assistance available to California renters and landlords. Versions are also available in SpanishChineseRussian, and Vietnamese.

(Click image below to access PDF – Español aqui – Tiếng việt ở đây – Русский здесь – 这里的中国人)

  • The Eviction Laws Database captures state, territorial, and local laws covering the eviction process — from pre-filing to post-judgment, as of January 1, 2021. The database was launched by the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) in partnership with the Center for Public Health Law Research, and consists of two datasets:
    • State/Territory Dataset – covers eviction laws, regulations, and court rules that were in effect as of January 1, 2021 in all 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and eight U.S. territories
    • Local Dataset – covers eviction laws, including those at the county and local level, in 30 local jurisdictions in effect as of January 1, 2021

Additional Resources

 

 

 

 

The high costs of reproductive freedom 

At the beginning of May, a leaked draft of a Supreme Court opinion informed the public of the court’s position on overturning Roe v. Wade, the landmark case that has been used to protect the reproductive rights of birthing people across the country since the 1970s. Protests began to erupt throughout the nation as the fear of losing reproductive protections became real and the urgency of the situation more apparent.  

The chances of Roe v. Wade getting overturned became real for me on October 26, 2020, when the U.S. Senate confirmed Amy Coney Barrett to become a Supreme Court Justice. Justice Barret is clear about her political beliefs, specifically her position on Roe v. Wade. For decades, many states have pushed the Supreme Court to overturn this historic human rights case. With the addition of Justice Barrett to the bench, I knew the likelihood of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade increased exponentially. 

While Barrett’s confirmation was upsetting for many people, I found it terrifying. I am from Louisiana, a state well known for its conservative politics. I distinctly remember voting on a 2020 amendment that would add language to our constitution stating that the “right to abortion and the funding of abortion shall not be found in the Louisiana Constitution.” Much to my dismay (but not surprise), the amendment passed with 62% of the vote and is now part of the Louisiana Constitution. Legislation such as Louisiana’s amendment are referred to as “trigger laws”– laws that automatically ban abortion in the first and second trimesters if Roe v. Wade is overturned. As of today, 13 states have passed trigger laws. 

In response to the public’s concern and the growing fear of losing federal abortion protections, states like California strengthened protections for reproductive rights in their constitutions. California, specifically, is also reinforcing its ability to be a “safe haven” for those who come from states with trigger laws. Recent legislation in California is focused on expanding access to abortion and protecting individuals from legal liability if they travel to the state to get an abortion. Theoretically, that’s progress. Unfortunately, California residents often struggle with restricted access to abortion services, which presents a challenge. 40% of California counties don’t have a clinic offering abortion services, rendering them unaffordable and inaccessible for many.  

Given soaring gas and plane ticket prices, travel within and to a state like California is a luxury not equally accessible to every person, and consequently, the promise of California as a safe haven is only available to those who can afford it.  

It’s no shocker that like most bad policies, the overturn of Roe v. Wade will have a disproportionate impact on people living in poverty. Research shows that nearly half of those who have sought an abortion live below the poverty line. If they are residents of states that have restrictive access to reproductive services—such as only having one clinic in the whole state—people dealing with financial struggles often must consider additional factors when assessing their ability to travel to a reproductive health provider. These factors often include finding childcare, their ability (or inability) to take time away from work, and securing transportation. 

As we consider the future of reproductive rights post Roe v. Wade, it is crucial that people with lower incomes are explicitly considered and protected. That’s why Western Center continues to actively advocate for the maternal and reproductive rights of marginalized birthing people. 

Last year, Western Center worked alongside coalition partners to get SB 65 signed into law. SB 65 aims to improve data collection on race and economic-based factors that lead to higher rates of maternal and infant mortality in Black and Indigenous communities. It also creates a fund to support midwives and guarantees the option of obtaining a doula as a Medi-Cal benefit. While SB 65 does not address abortion, its passage expands reproductive protections for many Californians and reinforces the ability of birthing people to have agency in their reproductive journey. It also brought important dialogue to the forefront of the birthing rights conversation about the medical vulnerability of people existing in the intersection of non-whiteness and poverty. 

Bodily autonomy is a fundamental right that should not only be accessible to those who are better off financially. Until the reproductive rights of all people are protected, regardless of their economic status, we have work to do. 

Dalyn Smith is an intern at Western Center. She is a junior at the University of Southern California and is part of USC’s Agents of Change Program. 

 

PRESS RELEASE: LA County Agrees to Stop Delaying Food Assistance to Neediest Applicants

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Court injunction will require county to process all emergency CalFresh applications in three days

Los Angeles, CA – In a major victory in the fight against hunger, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted today to enter into a permanent injunction for a case filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, Hunger Action Los Angeles, et al. v. County of Los Angeles, et al., requiring the county to process and approve emergency CalFresh applications in a timely manner. The injunction will impact thousands of vulnerable families experiencing dangerous food insecurity in Los Angeles County each month.

“We wouldn’t tolerate it if the fire department took a day to respond to a fire, and we shouldn’t waste time when people are hungry,” said Frank Tamborello of Hunger Action Los Angeles, one of the organizational plaintiffs in the lawsuit. “The county has the resources, provided by the federal government, to respond immediately.”

The State of California requires counties to expedite food assistance applications for people with extremely low incomes who are homeless or whose housing costs exceed their resources or monthly income. But for more than a year, LA County consistently failed to process emergency applications for CalFresh—formerly known as food stamps—in under three days as required by law.

“We are heartened the county, in entering this agreement, acknowledges that hunger cannot wait,” said Lena Silver, an attorney with Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County (NLSLA). “These are applications for emergency assistance, and the county must treat them with an appropriate level of urgency.”

Two organizations fighting hunger in Los Angeles—Hunger Action Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Community Action Network—along with an applicant affected by the delays, sued the county in November, demanding that it comply with its obligation to grant expedited access to critical food benefits.

“The county’s blatant disregard for people living in extreme poverty, who tend to be Black and Brown, was exacerbating racial inequities in disadvantaged communities like Skid Row and South Los Angeles,” said Todd Cunningham of the Los Angeles Community Action Network. “We sued to force the county to follow the law.”

Represented by NLSLA, Western Center on Law and Poverty, Public Interest Law Project, and pro bono counsel from Sidley Austin LLP, the groups presented the court with data showing the county had violated both state and federal law for months leading up to the lawsuit. In one month alone, the county failed to meet the state’s three-day timeline in 53 percent of eligible applications, leaving 7,600 individuals and families who qualify for expedited benefits without access to CalFresh. Some applicants had to wait more than a month to receive emergency food assistance.

“Following the filing of the lawsuit, the county’s processing of applications has improved – but not nearly enough,” said Lauren Hansen of Public Interest Law Project. “Each and every one of these emergency applications must be processed immediately.”

Peter, a CalFresh applicant named in the lawsuit, was 17 years old when his father suffered a severe stroke that left him partially paralyzed and unable to continue his work as a day laborer. Peter should have received access to CalFresh in three days. Instead, the family heard nothing from the county for 17 days, at which time someone called and left a message. When Peter’s father tried to return the call, he got a “high call-volume” message and was disconnected. Then he received a letter stating Peter’s application had been denied.

A November 2021 report from the county Department of Public Health warned of the “devastating consequences” of food insecurity, which significantly increases the risk of type 2 diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and psychological distress or depression. In childhood, food insecurity is associated with delayed development, diminished academic performance, anxiety and depression, and early-onset obesity.

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Hunger Action LA (HALA) works to end hunger and promote healthy eating through advocacy, direct service, and organizing.

The Los Angeles Community Action Network (LA CAN) consists of extremely low-income and homeless people, primarily those living in Downtown LA and South Central LA. LA CAN recruits organizational members and builds indigenous leadership within this constituency to promote human rights and address multiple forms of oppression faced by extremely low-income, predominately African-American and Latino, residents. LA CAN focuses on issues related to civil rights and preventing the criminalization of poverty, women’s rights, the human right to housing, and healthy food access. LA CAN also has projects focused on economic development, civic participation and voter engagement, and community media.

Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County (NLSLA) is a steadfast advocate for individuals, families, and communities throughout Los Angeles County. Each year NLSLA provides free assistance to more than 100,000 people through innovative projects that address the most critical needs of people living in poverty. Through a combination of individual representation, high impact litigation and public policy advocacy, NLSLA combats the immediate and long-lasting effects of poverty and expands access to health, opportunity, and justice in Los Angeles’ diverse neighborhoods.

Public Interest Law Project (PILP) advances justice for low-income people and communities by building the capacity of legal services organizations through impact litigation, trainings, and publications, and by advocating for low-income community groups and individuals.

Sidley Austin LLP is a premier law firm with a practice highly attuned to the ever-changing international landscape. The firm has built a reputation for being an adviser for global business, with more than 2,000 lawyers worldwide. Sidley maintains a commitment to providing quality legal services and to offering advice in litigation, transactional, and regulatory matters spanning virtually every area of law. The firm’s lawyers have wide-reaching legal backgrounds and are dedicated to teamwork, collaboration, and superior client service.

Western Center on Law & Poverty fights in courts, cities, counties, and in the Capitol to secure housing, health care and a strong safety net for Californians with low incomes, through the lens of economic and racial justice.

 

 

 

Lawsuit Says California Discriminated Against Tenants In Emergency Rental Assistance Program

Western Center senior attorney Lorraine Lopez was on KPFA Radio in the Bay Area to discuss the lawsuit Western Center and our partners filed on behalf of tenant groups, accusing California’s Department of Housing and Community Development of discrimination and denying Californians due process in applications for the state’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP).

Listen Here (Interview starts at one hour 34 minute mark)

 

Lawsuit accuses California of denying tenants due process in Emergency Rental Assistance Program

Western Center senior attorney Madeline Howard was on KPFA Radio in the Bay Area to discuss the lawsuit Western Center and our partners filed on behalf of tenant groups, accusing California’s Department of Housing and Community Development of denying Californians due process in the application process for the state’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP). As of June 1, 2022, the department denied 31% of ERAP rental assistance applications without meaningful explanation or a transparent appeals process.

Listen Here