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Western Center Roundup – November 2022

New Blog Post: Voices From the Holiday Strike Line

Western Center’s Outreach and Advocacy Associate, Abraham Zavala-Rodriguez centers the voices and testimonios of workers on the frontlines of current labor strikes, as he joins their picket lines and bears witness to the organizing work of Starbucks and University of California employees in this latest blog post.

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Tomorrow Is Giving Tuesday: How You Can Support Our Work  

GIVING TUESDAY TOOLKIT



12/13 Meet the Advocates: Mike Herald Career Retrospective Conversation

Join us at noon on 12/13 for a special Meet the Advocates, featuring a career retrospective conversation with retiring Policy Director, Mike Herald and Western Center Policy Advocates: Linda Nguy, Christopher Sanchez, Cynthia Castillo, and Tina Rosales. You won’t want to miss out on this conversation exploring the major milestones of Mike’s advocacy career in Sacramento, the biggest wins, the bills that “got away,” the future of advocacy work to end poverty, and much, much more. Join us as we send Mike off to retirement with this special event to honor his transformational impact on California’s policy landscape.

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12/6 You’re Invited: Celebrate Mike Herald’s Retirement with Us!

Join Western Center on Law and Poverty as we celebrate the upcoming retirement of Policy Advocacy Director, Mike Herald! We will be toasting to Mike’s 19 years of service at Western Center and his decades of trailblazing work to transform California’s policy landscape.

December 6th 5:30-7PM at
Mix Downtown
1525 L St, Sacramento, CA 95814

RSVP TODAY


Join Our Growing Team

As Western Center expands to position itself for greater reach and impact in 2023, we have several new positions open: Director of Policy AdvocacyPublic Benefits AdvocateHealth & Public Benefits Policy Advocate or Senior AdvocateHousing Staff or Senior Attorney; & Senior Communications Specialist.

We encourage you to explore these opportunities and share them widely with your networks!

Western Center Roundup – October 2022

55 Years of Building a More Just California 

Western Center Kicks Off 55th Anniversary Year at Garden Party 2022 

On October 11th, Executive Director Crystal Crawford and event emcee Michael Tubbs kicked off Western Center’s 55th anniversary year of building a more just California at our annual Garden Party fundraiser. Paying homage to the Founders and past Executive Directors of Western Center (including the late Professor Derrick Bell) – the trailblazers upon whose shoulders we stand, Crystal shared, “We take very seriously our responsibility to challenge and transform broken systems. We are leaders and leaders challenge systems to say: ‘we can do better.'” In light of the Los Angeles City Council controversy, Crystal and Michael both addressed the need to stengthen alliances to address and root out racism.

We stand in solidarity with many of our partners, including Community Coalition in the call to do better in building the power and partnerships necessary to disrupt anti-Blackness in policies, laws, and institutions. In our milestone anniversary year, we will be spotlighting the ways in which we and our partners have transformed and dismantled oppressive systems and the accomplishments we have secured together to build a California where health care and housing are affordable, food is secure, and systemic racism is addressed. We invite you to follow us on social media to learn more about our history and mission to ensure all Californians have access to secure housing, quality affordable health care, and a strong safety net. 

As our team continues to grow, please share our open positions as we look for new folks to join us in this critical work. Also – we need your help to reach our Garden Party fundraising goal – click here to donate!

2022 Legislative Wins for Californians 

Western Center had an outstanding end to the 2022 legislative session, with 13 of our co-sponsored bills signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom. Among the highlights were (SB972), a bill modernizing street vending licensing (SB 972) and (SB 923), a first in nation bill on gender affirming health care. We also passed bills to repeal failure to appear (FTA) license suspensions and repeal the use of license suspension for low-income parents in arrears on child support. Other wins included mandating counties waive work requirements for domestic violence survivors and expanded protections for low-income debtors from wage garnishments. READ MORE about these WCLP co-sponsored bills, two additional bills we provided support on: AB 2594 and AB 2746, what bills we opposed, and what bills we’ll be bringing back next session.

2022 Housing Summit: Keeping Californians Housed 

On October 20th and 21st, Western Center and California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation hosted our biannual Housing Summit, bringing together housing advocates from legal services, organizing, and policy groups for the first time since the start of the pandemic to discuss regional housing issues, strategize on our collective work to keep Californians housed, and to build policy ideas and solutions to address our State’s housing crisis. Brandon Greene from ACLU Northern California provided a special address on California’s history of redlining and how the State’s Reparations Task Force is working to repair the harms of this history through housing policy advocacy.

Western Center Executive Director Crystal Crawford Joins CalNonprofit Board of Directors 

We are honored to announce that our very own Crystal D. Crawford was elected to serve on the board of directors of the California Association of Nonprofits – the leading voice of California’s nonprofit community. Two thirds of board members are elected by members, providing a statewide endorsement of leaders equipped to skillfully and thoughtfully advance our sectors’ needs. Crystal is joined by incoming board members: Le Ondra Clark Harvey, CEO, California Council of Community Behavioral Health Agencies (CBHA) (Sacramento) and Malcolm Yeung, Executive Director, Chinatown Community Development Corporation (Chinatown CDC), San Francisco.

Organizing for Vendor Justice in California: New Blog Post 

Abraham Zavala, Western Center’s Outreach and Advocacy Associate shares about the history of community organizing for street vendor justice that led to the recent passage of SB972. “On the last Friday night of September, Mariachi Plaza was bursting with beautiful music and enticing aromas. It’s always bustling on a weekend, but this night was different. Hundreds of cheerful street vendors, advocates, and supporters were gathered to celebrate the signing of SB 972 by Governor Gavin Newsom, which modernized the California Retail Food Code to be inclusive of street vendors. This moment was special for street vendors in California. They made history by organizing, mobilizing, and fighting for their rights. This is a victory that will be retold alongside other stories of social justice movements, like the Justice for Janitors campaign and the United Farm Workers movement.” READ MORE.
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Western Center Roundup –September 2022

Ending Poverty and Advancing Healing and Justice 

2021-2022 Legislative Session Wins 

With just 2 days left for Governor Gavin Newsom to sign hundreds of bills on his desk, we are buoyed by the recent signing of several of our co-sponsored bills and the budget and administrative advocacy wins secured for Californians with low incomes. These latest advances move Californians closer to new, viable pathways to higher education and entrepreneurship, increased safety in their homes and places of work, and more economic security through an expanded safety net and reduction of oppressive fines and fees. Below are a few highlights –

SB972 (Gonzalez) – this bill modernizes California’s Retail Food code to be more inclusive of small scale sidewalk vending operations, making the permitting process more accessible for food-specific street vendors.This bill was shaped by street vendors, community leaders, and policy advocates, aligning the work of economic, racial, and food justice movements. Come celebrate this win with those who made it possible, this Friday from 5-9PM at Mariachi Plaza in Boyle Heights.

AB 2004 (Garcia) – this bill strengthens the California Dream Loan program ensuring undocumented students receive the same financial education and loan assistance options that federal loan programs offer every other student to help achieve their higher education goals.

SB1017 (Eggman) – this bill closes a housing loophole that allowed survivors of domestic violence to be evicted due to incidents of violence in their homes. Two years in the making, this bill ensures survivors can stay in their homes while healing from trauma.

AB 2300 (Kalra) – this bill that allows CalWORKs recipients to leave their workplace and not lose their benefits if their employer violates state labor laws including the Crown Act, sexual harassment, and many other labor provisions.

Health4All Medi-Cal coverage for people ages 26 to 49: As a result of a groundbreaking advocacy campaign, Medi-Cal will begin covering undocumented adults ages 26 to 49 starting January 1, 2024. This is the final immigrant group that Medi-Cal will cover, as children, young adults (19-25), and adults older than 50 were included in prior Medi-Cal expansions.

Implementing AB 199: In our work to address Civil Assessments: The Hidden Court Fee that Penalizes Poverty, this year, our budget advocacy resulted in several important victories: (1) discharging all unpaid civil assessment debt from prior to July 1, 2022 (which is hundreds of millions of dollars); (2) reducing the maximum civil assessment that can be imposed from $300 to $100; and (3) restructuring the use of civil assessment funds so that they go directly into the general fund.

Inspired by what we are working on? With the upcoming retirement of Mike Herald, our legendary Director of Policy Advocacy, we’ve opened the search for his successor. View the Director of Policy job description and please share widely with your networks. More Western Center employment opportunities can be viewed HERE.

Housing Justice and Trauma Informed Lawyering

As the housing crisis continues, eviction protections sunset, and the pool of available rental assistance winds down, housing attorneys and advocates are facing a historic demand for eviction defense and related services. In order to address the vicarious trauma the field experiences in representing tenants faced with the prospect of losing their homes, we developed a new partnership with Trauma Informed LA to provide a series of trainings focused on trauma informed lawyering, vicarious trauma and the impact of frontline housing work, and the tools available to promote regulation and self-care. The first session offered this month set the foundation for understanding trauma informed approaches to our work, how we hold trauma in our bodies, and the ways we can care for ourselves so we can care for others through our legal and advocacy practice. Future sessions will focus on vicarious trauma, integrating tools for regulation into daily work, and working with clients with trauma responses.
 

Garden Party 2022 is Just Two Weeks Away – Ticket Sales Close Next Week!

Join us on October 11th at the Wilshire Ebell for an indoor/outdoor event format as we celebrate our 55th Anniversary and our work to build a more just California. We are honored to recognize this year’s honorees: Maya Wiley, Tatyana Ali, Mayra Jimenez, Sarah Steinheimer, Richard Rothschild, and Robert Newman and toast Mike Herald’s upcoming retirement at a pre-event reception. It’s not too late to purchase a tribute ad or ticket! Ad sales close on September 30th and ticket sales close on October 6th. 

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Western Center Roundup – August 2022

Making History, Meeting the Advocates, Mike’s Milestones & The Search for His Successor


Opening the Search for Western Center’s Next Policy Advocacy Director

After 19 years of leading Western Center’s trailblazing policy work, Mike Herald is preparing for his retirement at the close of this year. We are in awe of what Mike has accomplished during his tenure – from tackling unjust fees and fines that place a high price on being poor – to securing historic budget and policy wins to expand public benefits for families – Mike has advanced some of the most pivotal policies to end poverty in CA.

“We are so grateful for Mike’s impact and legacy after nearly 20 years of faithful service to Western Center and those we serve. As we prepare for Mike’s well-deserved retirement, we look forward to celebrating him and our policy team’s accomplishments under his leadership.” – Crystal Crawford, Executive Director, Western Center on Law and Poverty

We invite you to learn more about Mike’s Milestones and the many accomplishments made by the Policy Team during his tenure. Stay tuned for more information on Mike’s retirement celebrations to be held in October in Los Angeles and December in Sacramento.

We’ve opened the search for Mike’s successor. View the Director of Policy job description and please share widely with your networks. More Western Center employment opportunities can be viewed HERE.


Meet The Advocates: CA Street Vendors and Access to Healthy Food 

Did you miss Monday’s Meet the Advocates webinar? Don’t worry, you can watch the recording HERE!  The webinar featured a conversation with Rudy Espinoza, Executive Director of Inclusive Action for the City and Western Center Policy Advocate Christopher Sanchez, facilitated by Abraham Zavala, Western Center Outreach & Advocacy Associate. Panelists shared about the decade long history of organizing to expand rights for street vendors and how SB 972 can eliminate barriers to licensing by updating CA’s retail food code. The bill provides a clear pathway for food entrepreneurs to grow their businesses, which is key to expanding access to healthy food and produce to communities across the state. Learn more about how you can support CA Street Vendors and see SB972 to the finish line.

The evening before standing with street vendors to testify at the Capitol, Christopher Sanchez was recognized with the California Latinx Capitol Association Foundation’s Advocate Champion Award. You can watch his inspiring acceptance speech HERE.


Monkeypox: Your Rights to Testing, Vaccines, and Treatment

The federal government declared a public health emergency for Monkeypox on August 4, 2022. California declared a state of emergency for Monkeypox on August 1, 2022. These declarations allow the federal and state governments to work quickly to provide testing, vaccines, and treatment. Senior Attorney David Kane provides critical information in Western Center’s August Health Care Tip: Monkeypox: Your Rights to Testing, Vaccines, and Treatment


The Inflation Reduction Act Passes, Expanding Healthcare Access and Affordability

We applaud the passage of The Inflation Reduction Act, which includes the most historic health reforms since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, providing California families with much needed relief from skyrocketing prescription drug prices, capping costs in Medicare, and preventing major health premium spikes in Covered California. Western Center Senior Policy Advocate Linga Nguy weighs in on how the Act’s passage will translate into expanded health access and affordability for individuals, seniors, and families with low incomes.⁠

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Western Center Roundup – July 2022

A Summer of Advocacy: Protecting Tenants & Securing Budget Wins


Judge orders CA HCD to stop denying Emergency Rental Assistance until further review

Last month, we told you about our second lawsuit against California’s Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) on behalf of tenant groups over the lack of transparency and due process for applicants to the state’s COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP). This month brought good news for California tenants in need of assistance in the form of a court injunction ordering HCD to stop denials for rental assistance applications until the court can determine if HCD’s process meets constitutional due process standards.

In the meantime, HCD can continue to approve applications to get assistance to those who need it, but they cannot deny pending applications. Tenants with pending ERAP applications or applications the court decision might make eligible for appeal should continue to contact HCD and fight eviction attempts. We will keep you posted as the process continues, but for now, we are celebrating with a sigh of relief.


Protecting Californians from housing price-gouging after disaster 

The Sacramento team is gearing up for the end of the legislative session in August, which includes pushing for the passage of this year’s Western Center sponsored bills as well as making sure harmful bills don’t pass. Western Center housing policy advocate Tina Rosales has her eye on a problematic bill, SB 1133, that would undo decades of price-gouging protections during disasters and green light landlords who would capitalize on emergencies by hiking rents.

Tina wrote a blog post outlining the spate of problems with the bill and calls on readers to help stop price gouging after disaster by contacting state legislators to urge their NO vote on SB 1133.


California Assembly Holds Inaugural Select Committee on Poverty & Economic Inclusion Hearing  

Western Center and community groups were honored to join conveners Assemblymember Isaac Bryan and EPIC (Ending Poverty in California) for a powerful event centered on shaping California’s roadmap to ending poverty. Western Center’s Director of Policy, Mike Herald provided committee testimony addressing the high costs of being poor, tackling the State’s burdensome CalWORKs requirements and unjust interception of child support that should be benefitting low-income families on CalWORKs. You can read more from EPIC’s Executive Director, Former Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs on the organizing and policy work to secure this year’s historic antipoverty investments in the State budget and watch a video of the hearing and rally.


Save the Date: 8/15 at 12PM Meet the Advocates Webinar 

Join us for a free webinar focused on Senate Bill 972 and the advocacy efforts to support California’s street food vendors by removing barriers to accessing food vending permits. Community organizers and policy advocates will lead a discussion on food justice, highlighting street vendors’ role in expanding access to healthy food in California’s food deserts and beyond. REGISTER HERE.


Final 2022-23 California Budget 

Finally, in case you missed it, we published Western Center’s overview of the final 2022-23 California Budget at the tail end of June. You can read it here!


 

Western Center Roundup – June 2022

The ups and downs of June…


Freedom & Roe v. Wade

June is a month to celebrate progress and the pride that comes when people have the freedom to be their true, whole selves. Pride month and Juneteenth are celebrations of hard-fought freedoms. That is what June is supposed to be about…

With the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, it’s clear who is most impacted – people with low incomes and people of color, as with most harmful policies cast down from ideological, top-down “leadership.” In a blog post this month by Dalyn Smith, Western Center’s undergraduate intern, Dalyn discusses the intersections between abortion and poverty as well as California’s lesser known access issues. Californians are fortunate that abortion is mostly protected here, but accessibility is still a problem for many people in this state, and it may get worse as people from other states come for help.

Dalyn’s post also points to Western Center’s continued advocacy to address racial disparities in maternal health and morbidity – specifically our work to implement California’s new maternal and infant health laws (SB 65: the California Momnibus Act), which we helped pass last year. That work includes efforts to ensure parents have access to resources like midwives, doulas, and culturally competent care. And of course, we are always working to make sure parents in California have the resources they need to care for their children.


Faster food assistance in LA & our second lawsuit against CA HCD

In Western Center litigation news, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted this month to enter into a permanent injunction to stop the processing delays for emergency food benefits that we and our partners sued the county for back in November. This marks an important win in the fight against hunger in Los Angeles. Find out more here.

This month Western Center and our partners also filed a second lawsuit against California’s Department of Housing and Community Development on behalf of tenant groups (we filed the first last month). The latest suit accuses the department of discrimination and denying Californians due process in the application process for the state’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP). Learn more about the case here.


Good news! New Western Center staff

Fortunately, we have more good news to share from the Western Center front: the addition of new staff members on our development team! In the past month we welcomed our new Director of Philanthropy, Heather Masterton, our first Associate Director of Strategic Partnerships, Lawrence Haynes, and our Development Coordinator, Cinthya Martinez – all based in Los Angeles. We are beyond excited to have them on Western Center’s team ushering us into a new season with a spirit of collaboration and ethical stewardship. Learn more about Heather, Lawrence, and Cinthya here!


 

Western Center Roundup – May 2022

Light in the dark: acknowledging pain as we celebrate AAPI heritage.


This month was hard. Violence at every corner of the country – Buffalo, Orange County, Uvalde, at the store, at school, at church. The words to express the sadness and loss are few, but our Interim Director of Development, April Walker, penned a poignant expression of anguish after what happened in Buffalo, worth a close read. We do not have a call to action for you – there are too many that need to be taken. The guns, the hate, the racism, the unacknowledged history, the isolation, the anger, the normalization of violence, the adherence to a pathological status quo – there is so much to overcome. Right now we remember the beautiful humans lost in New York, in California, babies in Texas. We grieve and we yearn for an awakening that can heal this country and our humanity.

We also acknowledge the simultaneous impact of the ongoing pandemic, which continues to harm communities of color more than others. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health released a report this month to “document the equity-driven strategies used to respond to the needs of communities most impacted by COVID-19… strategies implemented in service of LA County’s Black/African American residents, one of several racial/ethnic groups who have experienced disproportionate rates of infections, hospitalizations, and deaths throughout the pandemic.” We hope such continued, targeted care continues for people in the communities most impacted by this country’s deeply imbedded inequality.

As we mourn alongside the loved ones who lost John Cheng, killed protecting his community from yet another shooter motivated by irrational beliefs, we lift him up as part of the incredible tradition of Asian and Pacific Islanders who fought, toiled, lived and died to create a place for themselves and countless others in this country and state. This Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we celebrate the incalculable and diverse contributions, wisdom, language, and cultures of AAPI communities in our shared histories and future.

In the first in a pair of blog posts for AAPI Heritage Month, Western Center senior attorney Helen Tran reflects on the legacy and future of Cantonese, her first language, and explores how government policies influence both its preservation and disappearance. In the second post, Helen walks us through a bit of Cantonese history in the U.S. and its impact on landmark civil rights victories. And in exciting 2022 history in the making, Western Center senior attorney Nisha Vyas was recognized by the LA County Bar Association as an AAPI Heritage Month honoree for her advocacy rooted in the belief that everyone should have access to safe and affordable housing of their choice.

Finally, for something lighter for these heavy times, we suggest RISE: A Pop History of Asian America from the Nineties to Now. “RISE is a love letter to and for Asian Americans–a vivid scrapbook of voices, emotions, and memories from an era in which Asian American culture was forged and transformed, and a way to preserve both the headlines and the intimate conversations that have shaped the community into what it is today.”


Western Center Roundup – April 2022

Our opposition to CARE Court, an opportunity to meet our advocates, and Black maternal health resources


Why Western Center Opposes “CARE Court” 

You may have heard about Governor Newsom’s “CARE Court” proposal, billed as a way for the State of California to help people with severe mental health challenges get off the street. Western Center, alongside 40+ organizations, submitted an official opposition letter to the legislative version of the proposal and we are vocal about our many concerns, which are mentioned in The Los Angeles Times (twice), The Sacramento Bee, and this blog post by our Director of Policy Advocacy, Mike Herald. The bill, SB 1338, passed out of its first hearing this week, which means much more debate to come.

With its lack of necessary interventions like guaranteed housing, we believe the framework of the proposal is fundamentally flawed and will lead to the unnecessary institutionalization of people with disabilities and unhoused people, and likely create a chilling effect that will prevent people from seeking services for fear of being institutionalized. Additionally, by involving the court system the proposal will perpetuate institutionalized racism and exacerbate existing disparities in health care delivery since Black, Indigenous and other people of color are significantly more likely to be diagnosed with psychotic disorders than white people. All evidence shows that adequately-resourced, intensive, voluntary outpatient treatment — not court-ordered treatment — is most effective for treating the population CARE Court seeks to serve.

For more information about the CARE Court proposal and others meant to address California’s homelessness crisis, we invite you to join Western Center policy advocate Cynthia Castillo and senior attorney Helen Tran at 12:30 pm PT on Monday, May 16th for our virtual Meet the Advocate event.


Uplifting Black Maternal Health

Black Maternal Health Week (BMHW) was April 11 –17th, but one week is not nearly enough to cover such an important issue. As you may recall, last year Western Center co-sponsored California’s Momnibus bill package to reduce birth disparities that too often prove deadly for Black people in our state. This year marked the 5th anniversary of Black Maternal Health Week, which was founded by the Black Mamas Matter Alliance (BMMA) to increase awareness, activism, and community building around the issue. You can watch the Black Mamas Matter Alliance’s 2022 Black Maternal Health Week national call here.

Kudos to our partners at the National Birth Equity Collaborative (a BMMA founding member) for their rich 2022 BMHW programming!


Western Center Roundup – March 2022

“It is not enough to teach our young people to be successful…so they can realize their ambitions, so they can earn good livings, so they can accumulate the material things that this society bestows. Those are worthwhile goals. But it is not enough to progress as individuals while our friends and neighbors are left behind.” -Cesar Chavez


Look California in the eye with Western Center’s 2021 Annual Report 

As we celebrate Cesar Chavez today, and as we wrap up Women’s History Month, we recognize and uplift the trailblazers who laid the groundwork for history being made today – like the impending confirmation of this country’s first Black woman Supreme Court Justice, Ketanji Brown Jackson, and by the Dolores Huerta Foundation and its Executive Director Camila Chavez, a 2022 recipient of the James Irvine Foundation Leadership Award for their work “strengthening underrepresented communities by training and inspiring the next generation of leaders.” Judge Jackson stands on the shoulders of many, like Jane Bolin, Constance Baker Motley, and Julia Cooper Mack, all of whom helped set this stage for her to take, as well as community members who provide constant, often quiet support, like those mentioned at her confirmation hearings. Camila Chavez, daughter of civil rights leader Dolores Huerta with whom she co-founded the Dolores Huerta Foundation, and niece of Cesar Chavez, continues to build on their legacies of fierce community activism and leadership in California.

We are grateful for the people – the many women – who form the supportive backbone of our communities: workers, caregivers, and everyone whose labor is regularly undervalued but fundamentally essential. Until we bring parity to our value systems, inequity, discrimination, and poverty will continue to threaten our shared futures. In spite of the two-year health and economic crisis caused by the pandemic, California has the world’s 5th largest economy, 189 billionaires, and a steadily increasing state budget surplus. A lot of “success.” But as Chavez pointed out, it is not enough. In the midst of its success, California has not addressed the unsustainable and ever-rising cost to live here, and more people are going unhoused.

Our 2021 Annual Report highlights Western Center’s work throughout 2021, and presents portraits from photographer Gale Filter, captured through his relationships with unhoused communities in Sacramento – specifically via the organizations ShowUp Sac and Mercy Pedalers. We hope that by viewing this report, you will look at our collective responsibility to make things better for our neighbors most impacted by poverty and other systems of injustice.

Western Center’s efforts to protect people from eviction, increase pay for low wage workers, expand access to health care, and get more money into people’s pockets is in service of one quest – economic dignity for all and its direct correlation, racial justice. We will not stop until we get there. Please join the fight by getting to know and supporting our work, seeking service opportunities in your own community, and getting to know all of your neighbors.


Western Center Roundup – February 2022

Western Center’s Legislative Agenda and Celebrating Blackness This Month and Every Month!


Our 2022 Legislative Agenda 

The bills are in, and Western Center’s policy advocates are hard at work in Sacramento to pass this year’s slate of bills to make California better for everyone. Here is our full 2022 Legislative Agenda, and here are a few of the highlights:

AB 1816 (Bryan): Reentry Housing and Workforce Development Program (co-sponsored with Housing California, Corporation for Supportive Housing, Californians for Safety and Justice, People Assisting the Homeless (PATH), and Los Angeles Regional Reentry Partnership) — This bill will establish a funding source for permanent affordable housing and workforce development for formerly incarcerated people at risk of or currently experiencing homelessness. This bill is necessary to support people reentering society after incarceration to reduce recidivism and homelessness — 70 percent of people experiencing homelessness in California have a history of incarceration.

AB 1995 (Arambula): Eliminating Med-Cal Premiums (co-sponsored with Children Now) — Medi-Cal premium requirements place an undue economic burden on families living on very limited incomes, and create barriers in access to care and unnecessary breaks in coverage for eligible individuals. This bill will ensure pregnant people, children, and people with disabilities can access the health care services they need to stay healthy by eliminating their monthly Medi-Cal premiums.

SB 972 (Gonzalez): Street Vendors (co-sponsored with Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA), Community Power Collective, Inclusive Action for the City, Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, Public Counsel) — Street vendors are a part of California’s culture and have been for decades. In recent years, street vendors became part of the formal economy with the decriminalization of street vending in 2018. However, many street vendors who sell food are unable to obtain health permits from their local county health departments, so this bill will modernize the California Retail Food Code to reduce barriers for street vendors to obtain local health permits. Creating this pathway will allow street vendors to further enter the formal economy and put an end to fines issued to these entrepreneurs with limited incomes. Additionally, as the Los Angeles Food Policy Council points out, street vendors also “provide communities with delicious foods, including fresh fruits and vegetables. In food desert communities – and particularly in the absence of healthy food retail development – fruit and vegetable sidewalk vendors can help to fill a void by providing fresh food to the local community that may struggle to access them otherwise.”


Black History All Day Every Day

As we come to the end of Black History Month, we want to reiterate that the celebration of Blackness does not end with February! We are here to celebrate, honor, and uplift Black people at all times, in all of our work. This country and state would not be here without the contributions of Black people, and as we head into March, we want to leave you with some Black excellence and history to explore!

  • First, in a historic moment for this country, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson has been nominated by President Biden for placement on the Supreme Court, making her the first Black woman ever nominated.
  • In a huge step for racial justice in California, Bruce’s Beach, which was once a Black beach resort owned by Willa and Charles Bruce but was seized by the Manhattan Beach city council a century ago, will finally be returned to the Bruce family.
  • The Sacramento Bee published its ‘Top 25 Black Change Makers’ roster as part of its Equity Lab project, in partnership with the Nehemiah Emerging Leaders Program. “These individuals stand out as innovative problem-solvers. They find solutions for critical issues in our communities through their respective lines of work. They are dynamic leaders who infuse history and culture in the work they do.”
  • Visit California shared ‘Black History in California You Don’t Know About,’ where you can learn about “lesser-known California tours, businesses, and stories that have played a momentous role in U.S. history and Black culture.”
  • The California Health Care Foundation recently released a report, “In Their Own Words: Black Californians on Racism and Health Care,” which is the result of phase one of its three-phase Listening to Black Californians study designed to better understand the health and health care experiences of Black Californians. The research was designed, conducted, and analyzed by EVITARUS, a Black-owned public opinion research firm in Los Angeles. Along with our community partners Dr. David Carlisle of Charles Drew University, Dr. Noha Aboelata of Roots Community Clinic and others, Western Center’s Executive Director, Crystal D. Crawford, is a member of the advisory group for this powerful study.

And In Case You Missed It…    

We love leaving you with a good Western Center read to round out the month, and today is no exception. In case you missed our latest blog post by Kathryn Evans, Western Center’s Associate Director of Individual Giving, check it out! Kathryn wrote the piece for World Day of Social Justice on February 20th, reflecting on the need for Californians to look close to home and explore the many ways to fight for justice and equality here in our own state.