Points of Pride

Winter Session Attendees Explore Homelessness in Paradise

Posted on Mon, Feb 10, 2014

Fielding tours Santa Barbara Housing Facilities

By Marianne McCarthy

National Sessions provide a great opportunity for Fielding students to get a practical view of social change in action. As our community gathers in one geographic area, we often dedicate a day to investigate first-hand how agencies within a local community address issues such as worker’s rights, poverty, and other social issues.

This January, during the Winter Session, Fielding’s School of Human & Organizational Development (HOD) organized a day-long field trip and evening symposium called “Homeless in Paradise.” Approximately 20 Fielding students and faculty members visited shelters and low-income housing projects and learned how local agencies and nonprofits tackle homelessness in a city that is considered by many to be paradise. Later that evening, a panel of local officials and agency directors addressed the general public on innovative policies and partnerships that lead to effective and transformative programs. They were joined by recent HOD graduate, Michael Wilson, PhD, whose work with The Phoenix Centre in British Columbia exemplifies the benefits of building a socially innovative community that can respond to the complex and interconnected issues of homelessness.

Developing Transitional Opportunities

Despite its reputation for locals with wealth and fame, Santa Barbara surprisingly ranks in one of the lowest categories for affordable housing. Rob Fredericks, deputy director of the Santa Barbara City Housing Authority, attributes this to the community’s high rental prices and low vacancy rates.

“The need is not only to provide shelter to those on the streets, but also to house seniors and a work-force that can’t afford to rent at market rates,” explained Fredericks, who cited a waiting list of over 7,500.

Fredericks led the Fielding group on a tour that progressed from shelters and supportive housing programs to low-income residences, demonstrating how a local in need might transition from homelessness to greater independence.

At the 200-bed Casa Esperanza, we learned how the struggling shelter has had to change its model to survive. According to Executive Director Mike Foley, the nonprofit recently merged with the Community Kitchen and changed from an open shelter to one that mandates sobriety, to keep dollars flowing.

Our next stop was Transition House, an emergency shelter for victims of domestic violence which also provides long-term housing and supportive services for individuals and families. By offering mental health, case management, and career development services, the nonprofit works to address the issues that lead to homelessness.

Executive Director Kathleen Bauske expressed that since “children of the homeless are more likely to be homeless as adults,” it’s important to break the cycle.

“Combining services with housing helps get people to integrate back into society,” added Fredericks.

Artisan Court, Santa BarbaraThis type of model is also proving successful for Peoples’ Self-Help Housing, a regional nonprofit that provides affordable housing to 5,000 low-income children, adults, and seniors.  By providing constituents with supportive services such as youth education, skill development, and income counseling, its programs are helping marginalized individuals gain greater self-sufficiency.

But these agencies can’t do it alone. They rely heavily on federal redevelopment dollars (which area disappearing), in-kind donations, and thousands of volunteers to make ends meet.

Overcoming the NIMBY factor

According to Fredericks, one of the challenges that cities around the country are facing is “Not In My Back Yard.”

As we toured these facilities, scattered throughout the downtown area, it quickly became evident that design matters. All the residences are clean, quiet, and well-kept. Low street-front profiles and groomed landscaped help them blend into their neighborhoods, many of which are residential.

As he reiterated throughout the tour, it's important to landscape and maintain properties to keep public support. "If you give people a nice place to live, they're going to take care of it. If they take care of it, the public is going to support it.”

Making a Difference Takes Collaboration

If there was a theme for the day, it was collaboration. And on this, the panel at the evening symposium all agreed.

Homeless in Paradise Panel

Panel participants included (Left to right) Michael Wilson, Kathleen Bauske, Mayor Helene Schneider, Rob Federicks, and Supervisor Doreen Faar. They all agreed that creating effective and enduring partnerships between public and private agencies and garnering community support are the essential ingredients to building successful and innovative programs that help people transition out of homelessness. You can view the entire presentation online.

“If we can produce socially beneficial initiatives on the community level, we can do the same on a global level,” said Wilson.

Special Thanks

Fielding would like to express its gratitude to everyone who took time away from their busy schedule to provide us with an informative and meaningful exploration of their city’s approach to homelessness. In particular we thank Rob Fredericks, City of Santa Barbara Housing Authority; Micki Flacks, County of Santa Barbara Housing Authority;  Mike Foley, Casa Esperanza; Kathleen Bauske, Transition House; Kristen Tippelt, Peoples’ Self-Help Housing; Doreen Farr, Santa Barbara County 3rd District Supervisor; Helene Schneider, Santa Barbara Mayor; Michael Wilson, The Phoenix Centre; and The Santa Barbara Trolley Company

Tags: social justice, fielding graduate university, human rights, human development, habitat

A Life of Activism and Advocacy: Supporting Exiles and Survivors of Sexual Violence

Posted on Tue, Nov 26, 2013

By Marianne McCarthy

Indira K. Skoric, PhD

Few people can say they were on the front lines of societal change, especially if it dealt with a cultural taboo.  Yet, humanitarian Indira K. Skoric (HOS ’12) proudly witnessed the alteration of a long-standing sentiment about women subjected to sexual violence during the Yugoslav Wars and a system that tolerated such abuses.  A victim of sexual violence herself, she has consistently advocated for those subjected to systematic rape and torture during the war. It took over a decade, and the work of countless other advocates, but finally women survivors were legally labeled “civilian victims of war in Bosnia and Herzegovina.”

Indira was living and studying in Belgrade during the Yugoslav National Movement when she first became involved with feminist groups. In 1991, she helped establish the Belgrade Women in Black, an antimilitarist peace movement protesting the war in Serbia and all forms of hatred, discrimination, and violence.  According to the group’s website, it has organized more than 500 protests throughout the former Yugoslavia since its founding.Belgrade Women in Black

After the war started, Indira joined the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies as an information officer.

“I wanted to do something tangible for people who were survivors and victims of the war,” she said.

Many of these victims were the unacknowledged sufferers of sexual violence. Years later, Indira would write in her dissertation that post war reports estimated that 10,000 to 60,000 women had been submitted to sexual violence during the war, although the European Commission settled on a figure 20,000.

While one part of her felt devoted to working with people who were minorities like herself or those who were working on gender issues, another wanted to escape the violence and the intense political climate of ethnical and territorial conflict.

In 1994, Indira found her way out of Yugoslavia after winning a fellowship at the New School for Social Research in New York. She continued her activism with the American Friends Service Committee and a New York branch of Women in Black. But pressure was building from the war in Kosovo, and she received threats to her life. Many of her Women in Black colleagues had been forced into hiding. Eventually, she was granted political asylum and was able to complete her master’s degree in International Relations, writing her thesis on “Understanding War Rapes.” It was a topic she would continue to explore during her time at Fielding.

In the meantime, Indira focused on survivors of sexual violence and refugees of the former Yugoslavia. She consulted on the documentary film, Calling the Ghosts. The Emmy-award winning documentary reveals the torture and humiliation of women in concentration camps in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Directed by Mandy Jacobson in 1996, it also won the Human Rights Watch Int'l Film Fest and Nestor Almendros Award for best documentary.

Indira also co-founded the Reconciliation and Culture Cooperative Network (RACOON, Inc.), an organization she would eventually direct until 2011, raising over $1.5 million to assist in community-building programs for an estimated 250,000 Western Balkan refugees and exiles in the New York and tri-state area.

Indira Skoric and staff of Reconciliation and Culture Cooperative Network (RACOON, Inc.)

“We were mostly political activists,” said Indira, “but early on, we realized that these refugee populations not only needed a conflict resolution program, but they also needed someone to help them navigate complexities in the system and advocate for them.”

Indira describes how things became especially difficult for immigrants after 9/11. “People couldn’t get social security numbers, and so they would end up in the category of aliens, or illegals,” even if they were awaiting a “legal” status.

Her organization began working on issues such as advocating for health care and ensuring her constituents could get the care they needed in their native language. In 2004, RACOON, Inc. received the Union Square Award for grassroots activism that strengthens local communities.

Reconciliation and Culture Cooperative Network (RACOON, Inc.)“The organization that started as a conflict transformation group, thinking how do we reconcile in exile, ended up providing advocacy and networking,” said Indira. “As part of the leadership, I was pushed in a place that I needed to learn how to navigate, not only practically but also strategically. Fielding provided that place for my own learning and growth, to be able to lead this small organization.”

Intrigued by women, like herself, who used their experiences to “transform their lives and even emancipate themselves from the horror that haunts them,” her Human and Organizational Systems research focused on the life stories of nine women survivors of and advocates against sexual violence. In a way, it was her way to seek greater understanding of her own growth.

Then, in 2007, the Law on the Protection of Civilian Victims of War in Bosnia and Herzegovina was amended to include victims of rape. By essentially garnering women who had been raped during the war status of civilian war victims, they became eligible for disability, health care, and professional rehabilitation. It was a “huge” moment for Indira.

According to her dissertation committee chair, Richard Appelbaum, "Indira's life and work bear witness to Fielding's concern with social justice—with putting theory into practice. Her dissertation was a powerful exploration into the lives of women who were severely traumatized, yet who used their pain and sorrow to devote their energies to helping other women similarly afflicted.”

A recipient of multiple Fielding scholarships, Indira’s research contributes to the literature on “emancipatory learning by revealing how these women created the conditions for their own survival, and adds to the literature of feminist studies.” Indira has organized and presented at numerous international seminars, conferences and United Nations meetings. During her doctoral studies, she was a fellow in Fielding’s Institute for Social Innovation and was named Revson Fellow by Columbia University. Her article “Advocacy and Survivors of Sexual Violence” is set for publication in Canadian Oral History in the spring of 2014.

In addition to being assistant professor at Kingsborough Community College, Indira currently sits on the board of the Women’s Refugee Commission, a research and advocacy group that accomplishes life-changing improvements for vulnerable displaced populations. 


Tags: change agent, social justice, diversity, women's issues, graduate fellows, violence, human rights, scholar activist

Living Donor Advocates for Better Organ Donation Policies

Posted on Tue, Oct 08, 2013

Vicky Young, PhD

Alumna describes “ripple effect” that changed her life

By Marianne McCarthy

In the midst of working on her PhD in PhD in Human and Organizational Systems, Vicky Young (HOS ’07) made a life-altering decision to donate one of her kidneys to a long-time friend and colleague. While she doesn’t regret her decision, she was unprepared for the personal consequences of the procedure and has since become a powerful advocate for living donors’ voices—a commitment that began with her doctoral research.

A self-proclaimed non-traditional student who preferred independent study, Vicky entered the HOS doctoral program because the Fielding model worked with her style of learning. In 2004, she was struggling with her health at the same time she was working on her dissertation. While refining a completely separate research question, her mentor suggested she study what was already shaping her life—her recent kidney donation.

“I was searching for ways to cure my depression, when I found out that I had very low kidney function,” she says. 

Vicky wanted to examine how organ donation affects people, so she based her dissertation research on the experiences of 12 other living donors. As she interviewed her subjects, she realized that they, like herself, felt disenfranchised by the process.  

“There are informed consents forms when you go through the process of trying to donate. You’re supposed to be interviewed by a social worker. You’re supposed to have an independent donor advocate. You’re supposed to be told about the possibility of complications, but not everybody has the same understanding of things,” says Vicky.

Four years after donating she was diagnosed with stage 3 chronic kidney disease, which is characterized by moderately reduced kidney function, the most severe being stage 5. Yet, complications like depression and reduced kidney function were never discussed as possible consequences. Because of this, it’s been her mission to get more information into the hands of potential donors before they make that crucial decision as well as to advocate for research on the psycho-social, health, and financial consequences of organ donation.

After working on the Living Donor Committee of the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) for three years, Vicky was appointed in March 2013 to the board of directors. UNOS is contracted by the federal government and is the only organization that oversees the transplant industry in the United States. As a voting member, Vicky will partake in organ transplant policy decisions, such as a proposed policy allowing an HIV-positive donor give to an HIV-positive recipient.

“I’ll try to look at policy issues from the professional manner of being an academic, being somebody who teaches human development, who looks at social systems, and of course, bring in my voice as living donor and the voices of the other living donors that I know across the country,” says Vicky who continues to monitor her lowered kidney function.

Currently a faculty member of Prescott College in Arizona, Vicky weaves her experience into the classroom.

“I try to bring in race, ethnicity, power, privilege, all of those things, and give people examples of disenfranchised and under-represented groups,” says Vicky, adding that Native Americans, Hispanics, and African-Americans in our country have a high rate of kidney disease, often as a result of diabetes. “So we look at socio-economic issues, poverty issues, education issues, all of those things have these ramifications.”

While Vicky remains devoted to ensuring that the voices of living donors are more prominent despite her own health struggles, she has no regrets.

“I’m a spiritual person. Did all of this happen for a reason? It changed my life and changed my direction. It was like throwing a pebble in the pond and getting the ripple effect,” says Vicky.

Tags: social justice, higher education, healthcare, human rights, graduate education, research

Alumnus Uses Organizational Skills to Improve Quality of Life for Native Americans

Posted on Wed, Feb 22, 2012

Dr. John CastilloI come from Apache heritage on my father’s side. I grew up in Compton, but my family moved to Orange County during the Watts riots when I was in second grade. I went from a black community to a white community. This transition was a defining moment in my life, influencing my choice to use my organizational skills to help the Native American community.

John Castillo (HOD '00) is the Executive Director of Walking Shield Inc., a non-profit organization based in Lake Forest, CA that is dedicated to improving the quality of life for American Indian families.

"While I was a graduate student, Fielding’s unique learning opportunities supported my efforts to create and sustain these successful collaborations—and continue to influence my work at Walking Shield," said Dr. Castillo.

John's goal is “to work on a statewide initiative to build a pipeline for Native American students to attend college.

"For Native Americans, there is a 50% high school dropout rate. My vision for the future is to improve that statistic and work on a statewide initiative to build a pipeline for Native American students to attend college," he added.

Dr. Castillo, works closely with tribal leaders to develop and sustain programs that provide shelter, healthcare, community development support, educational assistance, and humanitarian aid to Native American communities.

Walking Shield is collaborative effort that engages American Indians and the U.S. Military in a unique partnership. Through a special program called Innovative Readiness Training (IRT), military personnel applWalkingShieldy their talents to rebuild and strengthen American Indian communities through healthcare assistance and infrastructure support. Since IRT’s inception in 1994, Walking Shield has provided training missions for the military on American Indian reservations where conditions often mimic those in third world countries.

True collaboration is a unique art form. All partners commit to common goals and objectives, work together to achieve these goals, utilize each other’s expertise, and create a win-win situation for all. Our collaboration meets these criteria. Before efforts begin, all parties agree to the goals and objectives to be achieved. Throughout the military deployment, members of the tribe work side by side with the troops, combining their efforts to achieve success. Walking Shield mitigates any problems that arise.

All partners use their talents and skills to meet the goals within a predetermined time frame. Most importantly, everyone wins. The tribe may get new roads, homes, water wells, electrical lines, or much needed healthcare assistance.

The military gets to utilize its skills and talents, which enhance deployment readiness and promotes retention. Walking Shield wins by meeting its mission—to improve the quality of life on reservations.

Dr. Castillo has taught graduate courses in social work as well as undergraduate courses on Indian Studies at California State University, Long Beach. He has published several articles about American Indians and is a sought out speaker at functions across the country. With decades of experience in program coordination and a Ph.D. in Organizational Development (Fielding), Dr. Castillo is fully dedicated to improving the quality of life on American Indian reservations. For more information about John's work, please visit www.walkingshield.org

 

Tags: social justice, multicultural, adult learning, healthcare, human rights, graduate education