547 members of Justice United institutions and the communities that surround them participated in listening sessions over the summer of 2017, surfacing ten broad categories of concerns.
On September 10, 88 JU leaders voted to prioritize three of the ten concerns: affordable housing, immigration, and jobs. Three teams of leaders were formed to develop these concerns into concrete, winnable issues. Additionally, JU has formed a money team to increase individual donations in 2018.
On February 1, over 85 JU leaders gathered and voted to approve initial proposals for action made by each Team.
ISSUE: Homeless or near homeless residents earning less than $22,000 a year (extremely low income) struggle to find housing.
There are zero units on the private market in Orange County that are affordable to extremely low income residents (under $550 / month). In addition to income, residents are also barred from housing due to reasons including criminal background, poor credit rating and past delinquent rent payment. Funding and constructing permanent affordable housing is a multi-year process, but the demand is immediate.
SOLUTION: Win up to $455,000 to fund a pilot program to master lease multiple units of existing housing, and sublet those units (with flexible subsidies) to extremely low income residents who might otherwise struggle to lease from commercial landlords.
TARGET: Orange County Board of Commissioners (sitting, not candidates).
ISSUE: Immigrant youth within the Orange County School system lack assistance to pursue complicated paths to higher education.
Immigrant youth occupy a diverse spectrum of immigration statuses that influence both what they can study and their access to equitable tuition. The processes they and their families must navigate to secure higher education resources are obscure and complicated. Well meaning guidance counselors are ill-equipped to support youth in this process, and there is a lack of bi-lingual staff to inform parents of resources.
SOLUTION: Develop continuing education course to train guidance counselors to help immigrant youth navigate complicated higher education bureaucracy. Hire bilingual front office staff for every school.
TARGET: candidates for Orange County School Board
ISSUE: The racial makeup of the Orange County Schools teaching staff does not reflect diversity of the student body. OCS students are 59% White, 15% Black, and 20% Latino. However, according to the Department of Public Instruction, secondary school teachers are 93% White, 3% Black, and 4% “other races.”
Additionally, economic development has been effectively barred from rural Orange due to restrictive land use policies, decreasing opportunities for local residents to live and work in their communities.
SOLUTION: Increase diversity of teaching staff, especially primary school teachers, to reflect student body. Address economic development by creating incentives for hiring local teachers such as affordable housing, salary supplements, and forgivable loans for OCS graduates pursuing a career in education.
TARGET: candidates for Orange County School Board.