Desert Sun (California), August 1, 2008: Top issue, according to the poor, is literacy

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By Denise Goolsby
The Indio Sun

Homeless people living at Martha’s Village & Kitchen in Indio have been asked for their thoughts on how the Community Action Partnership for Riverside County can better meet their needs.

The Community Action Partnership is the official anti-poverty agency for Riverside County. The agency, in partnership with the community, is focused on ending poverty by offering opportunities for the poor through education, wealth building and advocacy.

The query came during a recent community meeting at the shelter, where county officials released the results of a countywide survey of low-income residents living in pockets of poverty across the valley.

The results of the survey showed that employment, education, housing and health care were major priorities for low-income residents.

Those attending the meeting were asked what kind of barriers they faced when looking for a job or trying to gain access to education and housing.

“Single guys without kids can’t get housing,” said Martha’s Village resident Jason Chandler. “You’re at the bottom of the list.”

Cecilia Zafra, community ambassador for the Community Action Partnership, kept track of the comments on a large white board facing the group.

“Childcare is a major barrier,” said a woman who asked to remain anonymous. She attended the meeting with her 6-year-old daughter. “A lot of jobs I got offered are at night, (but) I don’t have childcare at night.”

Transportation, the cost of gas, felony background checks (required for employment), lack of low-income housing, non-responsive resources/agencies and casinos were among the barriers identified by the group.

Zafra and Lyn Garcia, program specialist for the partnership, are conducting meetings across the county to find out how social services and other supportive agencies can better serve the needs of the low-income community.

Chandler, 35, lives in the emergency shelter facility at Martha’s Village. He attended the meeting earlier this month to get more information about how to access help. At the time, he had only been homeless for four days, he said.

“I just want to get back on my feet,” said Chandler.

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