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Fall 2022 Stakeholder Update from Omar Carrera, CEO

October 26, 2022

Dear Friends,

The impact that Canal Alliance makes in our community would not be possible without the support of generous people like you. As a key partner and funder of our efforts to help the Latino immigrant community to break the generational cycle of poverty, I am proud to share the following updates with you in the areas of immigration legal services, social services, health services, and civic engagement. I am grateful for your continuing support and commitment to our mission. 

Meeting the needs of unaccompanied immigrant youth

Andrea Rivas, Case Manager

Last spring, I reported on our response to the unprecedented number of unaccompanied minors who are arriving in Marin County. Over the past 10 months, 358 children were released to sponsors in Marin County, a much higher per capita number of minors compared to surrounding counties. These are children fleeing violence and unrest in their countries of origin who are coming to the U.S. seeking safety and opportunity.

Our immigration legal services team currently represents 262 unaccompanied minors, most of whom are in removal proceedings and require a lawyer to avoid deportation. They either qualify for asylum or for an immigration classification called ‘special immigrant juvenile status’ (SIJS), which is available for victims of abandonment, neglect or abuse. While the need remains high, I am pleased to share that we have increased our legal staff capacity by forming a dedicated team to serve these young people, and since January 2021, we have assisted 153 youth to become legal permanent residents.

Some of these young people are also part of our newest program, Opportunities for Youth (OFY). Through OFY, they are connected to volunteer mentors and case management services, ranging from education to behavioral health. Helping these young people build community is another priority for this program, and we foster connections through soccer, field trips, and a weekly game night. While we rarely share stories of these youth in order to respect their anonymity, we know them to be resilient and eager to learn.

New partnerships expand access to healthcare careers

Since we launched our workforce development program in 2018, we have expanded our workforce efforts through direct services, partnerships, and advocacy efforts. This fall, we celebrated the graduation of the 12th cohort of our construction certificate course and launched the pilot for a new transit worker program.

We are also partnering with other leaders in government, philanthropy, and industry across the county and the Bay Area to identify regional economic trends and develop workforce training opportunities for high-demand industries. Recently, we partnered on the launch of an emerging initiative called Marin Healthy Partnership. As a coalition of hospitals and clinics, government agencies, nonprofit partners, and Marin Community Foundation, Marin Healthy Partnership is designed to improve equitable access to healthcare careers by creating new training pathways for quality jobs in the healthcare sector that target people of color, immigrants, and other job seekers who experience systemic barriers to employment.

CPUC grant funds adult digital literacy tools and instruction 

Members of the Adult Education/ESL team

Our programs work to close the digital divide that has historically limited access to technology and digital literacy for Latino immigrants. As an example, our English as a Second Language (ESL) classes incorporate a digital literacy component that provides adult students with Chromebook laptops and the skills-based technology training they need to participate in and complete their coursework, which also benefits them in navigating their jobs and daily lives. We are pleased to have recently received a two-year grant to support our digital literacy efforts from the California Public Utilities Commission.  

Formalizing a health services program to meet the community’s evolving needs

The pandemic revealed the depth of the systemic inequities in our public health system. In response, we partnered with health experts to launch a pioneering, community-based Covid-19 outreach program. 

To meet the evolving needs of the community, we have formalized a new Health division, under the umbrella of our Social Services Department, to provide public health and behavioral health services. As part of this new program, our Covid-19 outreach team will continue to provide free testing and treatment options, make vaccination appointments, and connect the Latino residential and small business communities to the latest resources and information. Our licensed Bilingual Behavioral Health Clinicians will also continue to provide no-cost, holistic, trauma-informed therapy services to youth and adults who face tremendous stressors and impacts from trauma. Flexibility and adaptability remain the hallmarks of our public health response, and strong public and private partnerships are essential to our success.

Protecting tenants’ rights

Housing is the most important issue facing low-income communities, including immigrants, in Marin County. As we work to expand our affordable housing in the Canal, we are also committed to advocating for tenants’ rights. 

As an example, our policy and civic engagement team is working to empower residents and prevent evictions for tenants of a 99-unit apartment building located at 400 Canal Street. These tenants are faced with the potential loss of their housing, having received ‘buy-out’ letters from the building’s new corporate ownership. To support these residents and build grassroots advocacy power, we are organizing forums, knocking on doors, and getting the word out to people about their legal rights and options regarding housing. Our work in this area is being done in partnership with Legal Aid of Marin, Tenants Together, and Voces del Canal, and in coordination with Supervisor Rodoni and the City of San Rafael. 

Canal Community Lighting Project is underway

I conclude with news about progress on another important front: thanks to an initial public investment of $100,000 by the City of San Rafael, public lighting is being installed in the Canal neighborhood based on the organizing efforts of Voces del Canal, with support from Dominican University of California and Canal Alliance. This represents the culmination of a project over several months during which community members identified seven routes in need of adequate public lighting to improve safety, reduce crime, and enhance the quality of life in this densely populated area. The city’s installation of public lighting is underway and will continue into 2023.

*****

The initiatives here and the progress we are making are possible because of the dedication and investment of generous partners like you. If you would like to learn more about the programs or advocacy efforts outlined here, please contact Jen Caynan, Senior Manager of Leadership Giving at jenniferc@canalalliance.org.

Thank you for your commitment to supporting the immigrant community and making Marin a place where everyone can live, learn, work and succeed.

Omar Carrera, CEO of Canal Allinace.

Gracias,

Omar Carrera Signature
Omar Carrera
Chief Executive Officer

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