By Tom Myers, Executive Director
Here in California, we are seeing the biggest period of extreme change since the Gold Rush, and it is every bit as intense and harried as that period in time. In Mountain View alone, we are seeing the largest exodus of low-income people in our city’s history. Because of this, and the staggering effects upon our community, we knew we had to be bold and innovative in the way we approached service delivery to our clients.
The strategic planning process took the better part of a year to complete and involved every level of the organization in the process – clients, staff, volunteers and other agencies. We encouraged “pie in the sky” thinking, with some of the best ideas coming from outside the management team and the Board of Directors.
While very little surprised us about the data uncovered during this process, we were shocked by the number of people leaving the area and the ensuing loss of socio-economic diversity. We are about 9 months into implementing the plan so it’s still a bit early to tell how well we are doing.
One key area where we have made progress is in adapting our service delivery to meet people where they live, literally and figuratively. We are accomplishing this through such initiatives as boots-on-the-ground outreach to vehicle dwellers, taking nutritious food to low-income families at their children’s schools (as well as to older adults at Buena Vista Mobile Home Park in Palo Alto and students at Foothill College) and on-site case management support at Hope’s Corner.To support these efforts, our volunteers and staff are working at a level that is pretty remarkable, going well beyond the call of duty to meet changing client and community needs.
Continuing housing and food insecurity, along with the changing political landscape, remain our biggest challenges going forward. Meeting daily living needs is getting harder and harder for anyone who is not making a significant salary. A healthy society is defined by the diversity of individuals participating in its economy. Being able to support the diversity of our community by providing a safety net is where CSA comes in. We are the community’s safety net.