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Spring 2021 Strategic Update

April 1, 2021

Dear Friends,  

The impact that Canal Alliance makes in our community would not be possible without the support of many generous individuals, funders and partners. With this communication, we are launching a new effort to share strategic updates with our key stakeholders about our efforts to help Latino immigrants and their families break the generational cycle of poverty:  

Canal Policy Working Group 

In August 2020, Canal Alliance along with leaders from Community Action Marin and Legal Aid of Marin joined with local government, nonprofit and foundation leadership to form the Canal Policy Working Group (CPWG) to call for the protection of Marin County residents who are hardest hit by the Covid-19 pandemic. The ultimate aim of the group is to position the community and the county for sustainable and equitable recovery. Through efforts led by the CPWG, and with support from many local residents, the Marin County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution on January 12th that continues to bar evictions through June for people who are economically impacted by the coronavirus. The San Rafael City Council also passed an ordinance on January 19th enacting a temporary moratorium on rent increases (“rent freeze”) for tenants residing in certain residential units through December 31, 2021. You can read about the action taken by the City of San Rafael in this Marin Independent Journal article.  

In forming the CPWG, we have built a multi-sector collaboration capacity that allows us to act quickly to analyze, create, and implement policies that provide protections for residents, families, workers and businesses that are hardest hit by the financial impacts of the pandemic. By responding collectively and inclusively to support recovery, we believe this is a model that can be effectively replicated in other areas of the county and the region. 

Housing Affordability 

Even before the pandemic, the lack of affordable housing was the number one challenge facing Marin’s Latino immigrant community. In 2020, with the support of Marin Community Foundation, San Francisco Foundation, and Kaiser Permanente, Canal Alliance launched an Affordable Housing Landscape Feasibility Study to identify the best strategies for Canal Alliance to begin to tackle the complex challenges facing the Canal neighborhood, which include Marin’s housing crisis, climate change and sea level rise, and gentrification and displacement. To support the project, we engaged two consulting partners, Nonprofit Finance Fund (NFF), which completed an enterprise-wide financial diagnostic, and Street Level Advisors, which provided a completed Housing Program Design Report.  

At its September 2020 meeting, the Board of Directors voted and provided staff with the direction and support to begin formal development and implementation of two strategies: 1) small-scale acquisition and rehabilitation of existing multifamily housing, and 2) education and advocacy for broader climate resilience. Since then, we have been working to identify properties located in the Canal neighborhood to add to our existing portfolio, which consists of 12 apartment units in three buildings. We have also had discussions in recent weeks with various institutions, including foundations, city and county agencies, and two Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) to evaluate financing opportunities. We are also exploring the creation of an LLC entity, 100% owned by Canal Alliance, to manage all properties in our housing portfolio. 

By focusing on affordable housing conversion and preservation as a strategy to stem displacement and alleviate severe rent burdens, our efforts will ensure that people of color and low-income families remain rooted in our community.  

Workforce Development 

Our Workforce Development Program, launched in Fall 2018 as a partnership with College of Marin and the Marin Builders Association, is achieving remarkable outcomes. Despite the pandemic, the program boasts a one-year retention rate of 87% and an average wage increase of 41% for students who completed the 1st cohort. At the same time, we face many challenges in attempting to grow the program to offer more training pathways, identify more partners and support more students. While Latinos are the youngest and fastest growing demographic group in the county and comprise the backbone of the county’s workforce, Marin’s overall workforce development environment is not conducive to successful outcomes for our clients. 

To represent the needs of low-wage workers and advocate for a culturally appropriate workforce development system and program design that is truly accessible to Latino immigrants, I have recently joined the Workforce Alliance of the North Bay (WANB), which oversees the distribution of Workforce Investment and Opportunity Act funds for the region. In this capacity, I can also play a role in ensuring that the federally-funded system delivers on its promise to provide a network of career centers, and employment and training initiatives, that result in a regional talent pool that drives economic growth for businesses and social mobility for workers in the North Bay.   

UCSF Partnership 

Through an exciting partnership with UCSF, Canal Alliance is participating in the development of more effective measures for COVID-19 testing, and resource and vaccine distribution in under-resourced, Latino-immigrant communities. This partnership, called Aliados por la Salud (Allies for Health), also includes the United Way of Merced County, and is funded by an 18-month grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The goal of the partnership and the research project is to understand factors that have led to the disproportionate burden of the pandemic on underserved populations and to support improved access to SARS-CoV-2 testing.  

This effort builds upon others in which Canal Alliance has been engaged since March 2020 as a member of the Covid-19 Outbreak Response Team, a county coalition made up of various non-profit organizations, businesses, and local government agencies. In collaboration with Marin Community Clinics and the Department of Public Health, Canal Alliance is leading efforts to provide equitable testing and vaccination access for residents of the Canal neighborhood. In March, we began offering rapid-testing for Canal residents and have tested 692 individuals, with a positivity rate of only 3%. We have also registered more than 1,000 community members for vaccinations. 

DACA  

In January, our Immigration Legal Services (ILS) team resumed offering initial application consultations for DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) after creating a unique COVID-safe screening and consultation process. This was implemented after the policy change was announced that US Customs and Immigration Services began accepting initial DACA applications again in December 2020 (the processing of new DACA applications was suspended by the Trump administration in September 2017). We are also paying close attention to the US Citizenship Act of 2021 (the “Biden Immigration Bill”); while no portion of this bill has been signed into law yet, if enacted, it would change much of how we operate. For now, we continue to assist those clients who are eligible for DACA and to advocate for immigration policies that provide humane paths to residency and citizenship.  

None of these initiatives would be possible without the dedication and investment of partners like you. We are truly grateful for your commitment to supporting the immigrant community.  

Gracias, 

Omar Carrera

Chief Executive Officer

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