Pleasanton Weekly

Opinion - February 28, 2014

New tactics will serve Pleasanton's needy better

To meet the increasing numbers of needy families -- yes, in Pleasanton -- the city's Human Resources Commission this week adopted new tactics on how it can best use the $1 million in tax money it allocates each year to help our community.

In its "Needs Assessment" strategic plan for 2014-16, the commission notes that some of the organizations that benefit from the annual allotment may not provide the services most urgently needed by those in Pleasanton who live below the poverty line, who are single mothers with children to support, who are unemployed and who lack basic health care benefits.

A survey showed, for instance, that of those who responded, 30% have no access to dental care nor do any of the organizations currently receiving tax dollars provide it. Another 21% said they don't have primary health care, and 12% said they lack child care resources, food and nutrition help, and specialty health care, such as orthopedics.

The commission's assessment of public needs started in 2011 in a joint effort with Alameda County and the Tri-Valley cities of Pleasanton, Livermore and Dublin. Recognizing that the bulk of our countywide tax dollars go over the hills to Oakland and Bay-side cities, the group focused on needs in the Tri-Valley, which tend to differ.

While there are a few homeless here, it's much less of a problem than, say, families who have lost their homes due to foreclosure, abused women who have to seek temporary shelter with their children at Tri-Valley Haven, or families whose primary breadwinner loses a job -- and the health insurance that went with it -- and now are dependent on Axis Community Health and Open Heart Kitchen. A number of these people also lack transportation to Berkeley and Oakland, even Hayward, where more services and facilities are available to serve the needy.

The Human Services Commission's new strategic plan will focus on this needs assessment as it realigns the procedures it follows to choose which organizations to include in its annual disbursements.

This year, the commission received 27 applications from nonprofits, including Axis Community Health, Spectrum Food Services and the Tri-Valley Food Bank. Some have been recipients for years and all do good work in their specialized areas.

Next year, the commission plans to be more thoughtful and perhaps more efficient in how it allocates its resources, and not just rely on historical trends. Because one group has asked for and received allocations every year no longer will be the qualifier on how tax money is allocated.

We applaud the commission for the long hours it has spent developing the voluminous and detailed "Human Services Needs Assessment," which is now in the form of a bound booklet available at City Hall.

Its work, in conjunction with a local consulting firm specializing in strategic planning and evaluation for local government and nonprofit entities, addresses the significant and increasing disparity between a growing need for human services and a generally stagnating supply of services available.

The commission makes recommendations to the City Council on the human services needs of the community and methods of fulfilling these needs, with particular emphasis given on the needs of the socially and economically disadvantaged, the elderly and the youth of Pleasanton. Its members are chairwoman Joyce Berger, Varsha Clare, Prashant Jhanwar, David Nagler, Brock Roby, Theresa Rowland, Rosiland Wright, Susan Hayes and Alison Boswell.

It meets at 7 p.m. the first Wednesday of each month in the City Council Chambers, 200 Old Bernal Ave.

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