The Isla Vista Youth Projects — a local nonprofit providing educational programming and social services to families in the Goleta area — requested funding to hire another family advocate at the Isla Vista Community Services District board meeting on May 10.
The family advocate would work to alleviate the effects of poverty within the Isla Vista community by connecting families to financial, social and parenting resources, according to the proposal. The Isla Vista Youth Projects (IVYP) requested up to $46,475 to cover the first year’s salary of an employee working up to 25 hours per week on family advocacy.
The Isla Vista Community Services District (IVCSD) board directors unanimously motioned to send the proposal to its finance committee for further consideration at the end of the discussion.
According to IVYP, the family advocate would attend all child and family-focused classes and events held at the Isla Vista Community Center, complete casework to assist families on an individual basis and manage case referrals. They would also provide education about available resources, including CalFresh, California’s Women, Infants & Children program, Medi-Cal, unemployment support, vaccination assistance and affordable housing.
IVYP currently employs two family advocates — Azucena Lopez and Miguel De La Cruz — who both work within the organization’s Family Resource Center. According to the proposal, the center experienced an overwhelming increase in demand for its services since the onset of the pandemic, and the additional hire would help address the needs of underserved community members.
“Demands for Family Resource Center services have increased by almost 400% since the COVID-19 pandemic began. More and more families in our community are experiencing extreme hardship and need supports,” the proposal read. “In order to support these families, IVYP has the opportunity to develop new and more creative ways to partner with IVCSD, and connect with vulnerable families.”
According to IVYP Executive Director Lori Goodman, roughly 3,000 families solicited an average of two services each in the 2019-20 fiscal year. In the last year, the number of families in need increased by 15%, but the number of services requested surged — an average of five to six services utilized per family.
“We know we need more family advocates. This would make sure that one was truly focused on Isla Vista,” Goodman said during the board meeting.
Isla Vista families make up around 20% of the current family advocates’ clients, Goodman said. Thus, the position would not necessarily aim to provide new services but rather to strengthen existing community relations.
Goodman described the ideal candidate for the position and said IVYP identified a strong candidate for the role.
“The ideal candidate is bilingual,” Goodman said. “We do have someone in mind, who is a senior currently at UCSB and will be graduating in June, that has been working for us as a work-study and showing tremendous passion and promise. What we find with our family advocates is there needs to be a really deep belief in community work and value of the community.”
Goodman pitched the position as a collaborative effort between the two entities — funded by the IVCSD and supervised by IVYP — with a vision for the family advocate to partner with Community Spaces Program Manager Myah Mashhadialireza on projects servicing, supporting and engaging local families. The worker would also report to the IVCSD quarterly under the proposal.
IVCSD Director Jay Freeman said he saw community value in the proposal but took issue with the structuring of the potential partnership between the IVCSD and IVYP. He said that having IVCSD fund the family advocate position while allowing IVYP to provide supervision and training would produce logistical problems counterproductive to the role’s efficacy and ability to seamlessly operate alongside other staff.
“By having people in-house, we’re able to better organize how they interact with other staff members; they’re able to coordinate better,” Freeman said.
He encouraged a workshopping of ideas around the role’s structure, adding that he could “easily see” developing alternative models that he would be amenable to.
Freeman, along with IVCSD Director Kirsten Deshler, shared concerns over the district’s financial capacity to fund the position, especially in considering other priorities for the upcoming fiscal year.
“This is actually my deepest concern. I don’t think this is the time to do this. If we’re going to do this, I would like to wait another two years,” Freeman said. “I look at the things we have on deck to accomplish, and I look at the amount of funding we have available, and I am very concerned about hiring people that we’re going to be essentially trying to either fire later … because we stretched our boundaries in what we could do with helping families.”
IVCSD Director and President Spencer Brandt said the benefits of funding the position would be twofold: embedding someone in the IVCSD staff with a bilingual background to coordinate with the Family Resource Center, and having a person dedicated to building relationships and increasing the use of the I.V. Community Center.
“I think the statistics really speak for themselves in terms of how necessary this is. To see it doubling in the services that are required of Isla Vista families in just a year’s time is really astonishing, and the fact that your staff and you have been so dedicated to connect our residents with those services is so crucial,” Brandt said. “While those services are incredibly valuable, we, of course, on the board have to think about what need does it fill for our operations.”