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 residents earning less than $22,000 / year. 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 commitments from private developers and local municipalities 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.
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.
There is also a lack of bi-lingual front office staff to inform parents of resources. Only two of twelve schools in the system have bi-lingual front office staff, in a system that is over 20% Latino that serves a growing number of immigrant families.
SOLUTION: Justice United calls on the Orange County Board of Education to develop a continuing education course to train guidance counselors to help immigrant youth navigate complicated higher education bureaucracy, and to hire bilingual front office staff for every school.
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.”
Along with being a key institution that shapes the lives and opportunities for over 7,400 young people in the county, the school system is also the largest employer serving rural Orange. The racial disparity in the teaching staff suggests that not all people have equitable access to jobs with OCS.
SOLUTION: Justice United calls on the Orange County Board of Education to hire 33 new African American teachers and 111 new Latino teachers to increase the diversity of the teaching staff to match the student body.