Unfortunately, the legislation on wage theft “The Fair Wage Recovery Act”, SB 718, that Voice of the Poor has been following and advocating for did not make it out of the committee. This was an important piece of legislation, which would have put in place stronger rules, making sure that workers would receive at least the minimum wage. I hope that the legislation will be resurrected in the future.
Salem VOP Vincentians, Sue Woodford-Beals, Carl Beals and Shari Crawford, attended the Vincentian Formation Training that was conducted by Stan and Len Miller at Catholic Community Services in Salem. There were 15 Vincentians present from various Oregon conferences.
The training curriculum included Our Founders/Our History, Vincentian Spirituality, What we do, What we don’t do. How to bridge from spirituality to our actual work, Charisms/Home Visits, Structure and Basic Principles and information on Bridges out of Poverty. Vincentians present participated in the group discussions, describing efforts in each of their parishes and conferences. Stan and Len Miller did an outstanding job of presenting the training.
Contributed by Sue Woodford-Beals
Six Vincentians attended the Interfaith Advocacy Day in Salem on February 11. We joined members of other faith communities in what was the largest gathering ever for this advocacy event. We heard from leaders of the Christian, Jewish and Muslim communities. Then, we divided into groups to hear presentations on the three focus issues for the day.
The themes of this year's gathering were "Confronting Poverty", "Promoting Economic Equality" and "Preventing Gun Violence". Maureen Sloan, VOP Portland, reports that she attended the presentation on economic equality, which dealt with proposed legislation to increase the minimum wage and prevent wage theft. Carl Beals and Sue Woodford-Beals attended lectures on “Confronting Poverty” and on “Housing and Hunger.”
After listening to these presentations, attendees visited their legislators; armed with the information they had just heard at the presentations, hopefully all were able to make a fine case for their support of these various issues.
A highlight of the Interfaith Panel was the delivery of Rev. David Knapp, St. Luke Lutheran church. He spoke at length about the difference between Direct Service and Advocacy, the individual skills required for each of the two, and how some people may be well suited to one but not the other.
A representative of the Catholic Sentinel Newspaper was present and interviewed the Catholic group from Portland, including Maureen Sloan, for a follow-up article in the newspaper.
Following the event, Ms. Sloan continued her work with committees, making the case for legislation on housing and abolishing wage theft. The Fair Wage Recovery Act was scheduled for a public hearing on March 9. Voice of the Poor’s contacts were encouraged to email testimony to the committee hearing.
Contributed by Maureen Sloan, Sue Woodford-Beals, Carl Beals
VOP will participate in the Interfaith Advocacy Day in Salem on February 11, 2015. They will join several hundred Oregonians of many religious traditions for a day of interfaith worship, dialogue, education, and advocacy on behalf of Oregonians facing hunger, homelessness, or lack of access to affordable health care. Theme of the Advocacy Day is “Raising Diverse Voices of Faith to Strengthen Oregon Communities”.
Key issues to be addressed are:
*Confronting Poverty: Hunger & Homelessness
*Expanding Health Care: Medicaid & Healthcare for All Children
*Preventing Gun Violence
*Promoting Economic Equality: Wage Theft & Increasing the Minimum Wage
The program will include:
-Training in advocacy skills
-Meetings with our legislators
-Keynote address by Nichole June Maher, MPH, president and CEO of Northwest Health Foundation
Unfortunately, Ballot Measure 88, which would have provided Oregon resident "driver card" without requiring proof of legal residence in the United States, was badly defeated despite the faith community's efforts and Archbishop's support.
2015 State legislature
Maureen Sloan is planning to attend a program on Nov. 22 to look at upcoming legislation for our State Legislature in 2015. Information will be relayed to Council President and possibly brought-up to a Council meeting.
Reported by Maureen Sloan, Portland, OR
On September 11, the Mid-Willamette Valley Society of SVDP had its annual dinner, with a very nice turnout. At the dinner, I was asked to speak and give an award to our SVDP Director of Emergency Services. My portion of the program and VOP comments were favorably received.
The Woodburn conference, primarily of Latino member, was well represented at the dinner. They offered to host the annual meeting next year, featuring ethnic foods from their culture. It will occur on Sunday noon, instead of Saturday night. We were pleased with the change, because many of our members are older and do not drive at night so daytime functions are better for us in Oregon, where it is dark and rainy in the evening.
In September our council signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Society of St. Vincent DePaul of Lane County in Eugene, OR to initiate stores, recycling and manufacturing operations in the Linn, Marion and Polk County areas to develop jobs for those most in need. We are excited about this new opportunity to assist families in our community. Terry McDonald, the Executive Director of the St. Vincent DePaul Society of Lane County, is famous nationwide for its outstanding recycling programs.
Reported by Sue Woodford-Beals, Salem. OR
On April 4 and 5, the Archdiocese of Portland and Catholic Charities USA organized a Regional Parish Social Ministry Training in Tualatin, Oregon. The theme of the encounter was “Opening a Horizon of Hope: Transformed by Christ to Love All”. Numerous Vincentians from Oregon, Washington and Idaho attended and enjoyed lectures by Sheila Gilbert, our National Council President, Candy Hill of Catholic Charities, Joan Rosenhauer of CRS, among others.
Here are comments and impressions from some of the Vincentians, who attended:
From Maureen Sloan, VOP, St Helens, Oregon
This ranks as one of the most inspiring, meaningful, and practical series of sessions I can ever remember attending. All the presenters I heard were excellent and they raised the consciousness of us all regarding Catholic social teaching and how our work should reflect these values.
Sheila Gilbert spoke on the topic of Poverty and Economic Inequality. She challenged us to see how the poor - the people we serve - are caught in a web of stress and chaos, which often leave them with few good choices. Each day there is a new crisis - water bill one day, electric the next. We need to understand, for example, why they barter their food stamps for other goods or services that they need. We need to bring hope, not just food, money, etc. Even if we have no material goods to share, we can walk with them: God is there, and we are there, for them.
She talked about systemic change as a way we can think outside the box and try to bring about some meaningful change to those who come to us for assistance. It gave me something to think about - not that we have to stop doing what we do, but that in some cases we could do more, and actually move a family out of poverty. For instance, temporary poverty, such as job loss, seeking a first job, etc. may require our concentrated assistance for several months, but at the end, we have an individual, or family, who are no longer in poverty, and can make their own way in the world.
Sheila Gilbert talking to a meeting participant (Photo by Debbie Fisher)
Another session gave us advice on forming a community: Community needs communion, and in church, we already have communion! Community is an illumination of Communion; Communion is the equalizer of the diversity among the multitude of the Church. This speaker is a community organizer, and led us through the steps necessary to form a community to achieve a particular purpose. In the same session, a parish priest explained how his new parish formed a community in the years before their church was built. One decision they made - to set aside 5 per cent of every collection for the poor - allowed them to build, furnish, and then operate a food pantry on the parish land, before their church was even built.
In addition, there were displays from the sponsoring agencies, and an opportunity to purchase free trade items including wonderful handcrafted items, chocolate, and coffee from Equal Exchange, who work with Catholic Relief Services to ensure a fair wage to those bringing these goods to market.
From Kathy Iberle, Vancouver, WA
I attended the Parish Social Ministry Gathering for the Portland/Seattle area on 4/5/2014 in Tualatin OR. There were workshops and keynotes on Friday evening and all day Saturday, attended by about 150 people, mostly from the Portland
Our National President, Sheila Gilbert, addressed the cycle of poverty and the difference between situational and generational poverty, and other speakers shared insights on collaborating with other organizations and on involving youth.
My biggest take-away came from Candy Hill, Executive Vice President for Social Policy and External Affairs for Catholic Charities USA, who spoke about how our government programs deal with poverty. Ms. Hill pointed out that poverty can be changed. The 50-year-old War on Poverty initially cut the poverty rate in the U.S. nearly in half (though the rate has since risen again). The War on Poverty also vastly reduced abject poverty such as outright malnutrition.
However, the War on Poverty combined with changes since 1964 have resulted in a “system” which can easily trap people in poverty. Once a family is dependent on government assistance, a small increase in income disqualifies the family for large amounts of aid, making it impractical to get out of poverty gradually. Instead, a sudden dramatic jump in income is necessary, larger than that possible with part-time minimum-wage work. Job-training programs, which used to make these jumps possible, have mostly been eliminated in recent years, and living-wage jobs are scarcer than ever.
This dynamic was an eye-opener for me. I was encouraged to hear that ten major U.S. non-profits (including both Catholic Charities and St. Vincent de Paul) who recently convened for a Poverty Summit agreed that this dynamic is a major problem, along with the Cycle of Poverty we’ve been discussing in St. Vincent de Paul. I’m hoping we will soon hear more from these organizations about lobbying or legislation or programs to somehow change this situation. This would be a great place for Voice of the Poor to be involved.
From Stan Miller, Portland, OR
I did attend the Parish Social Ministry Training on Saturday and participated in the workshop entitled "Poverty & Economic Inequality" which Sheila co-presented along with Candy Hill, Executive Vice-President of Catholic Charities. Sheila, within the framework of Systemic Change, focused on how group mission can be modified to include activities, which address a wider range of client needs. Candy provided info on the role of advocacy in addressing issues of poverty. About a third of the participants in that particular workshop were Vincentians. The focus for the day included a nice blend of organizing for Social Action at the parish level, which included some ideas and approaches for inclusion and plurality, plus ideas and factual info regarding poverty and economic inequality. The general context for the day was putting Catholic Social Teaching into action. The blend of Vincentians, Catholic Charities staff, and Social Action groups from around the Northwest made for a nice mix of ideas and experiences.
I was asked by a teacher at Queen of Peace Catholic grade (1-5) school to speak at an assembly of the student body about St. Vincent de Paul Society on Thursday, February 27.
The children will be receiving their "Rice Bowl" boxes before Ash Wednesday. They will put their own money into the small boxes. Part of the money collected will go to the Queen of Peace St. Vincent De Paul Conference.
We have two great grandchildren who are students at the school in kindergarten and 5th grade. Our shy great grandchildren did not want me to mention their names in my talk.
I was to talk to the student body about the history of St. Vincent, the history of Frederic Ozanam and his formalization of the SVDP Society, its introduction into America in St. Louis Missouri and spread to Oregon.
Since my 11-year-old great granddaughter had accompanied my husband and me on two visits with our clients, I was able to describe how important her being with us was to our clients. She helped us pack a bag, including her favorite stuffed toy for a woman whose husband had been deported to Mexico, while she was in a Salem Hospital. When she got home, she had been evicted. Her husband owned a home in Mexico and called to have her join him there, so we bought her a bus ticket and accompanied her to the bus depot and waited with her until she departed.
On another visit, we were asked to meet a woman and her husband at the Department of Motor Vehicles to purchase an ID card for the woman who was developmentally disabled and needed the card for benefits. We were told in advance that her behavior might be unpredictable, so we gave our great granddaughter a "heads up". The woman was wearing high heel shoes on the wrong feet and immediately showed them to our great granddaughter asking her, "How do you like my shoes"? Granddaughter said, "They look nice". The lady said,” I have them on the wrong feet”. Granddaughter said," Are they comfortable?" The woman said, "Yes, that's why I wear them that way".
While I obtained the lady's birth certificate from the DMV clerk, my husband and our granddaughter chatted amicably with the woman and her husband until it was time for her to have the photo taken. The husband thanked us for assisting them.
We told the student body that 100% of the money we receive goes directly to assist people in need. Also described how sometimes children go home to find the electricity shut off with, no lights, and no TV until the parents can find assistance.
Our great grandchildren thought the talk was well received and that the kids were more inspired to donate.
Many of our Vincentians have incidental teaching moments where we can influence others to have a better understanding of the needs of the Poor. This opportunity that we were given was a blessing to us.
Reported by Mary Beal, Salem, OR