Tough balancing act for Schenirer

eugene willisJay Schenirer is a Sacramento City Councilman with sound, consistent principles, as evidenced by the creation of his highly lauded “WayUp” program. WayUp establishes a partnership between the health and education sectors in Sacramento and focuses on a distinct and underserved geographic area of South Sacramento communities.

Contrast Oak Park with Schenirer’s constituents in the Curtis Park and Land Park areas, neighborhoods that can be described as upper middle class. One can surmise that the residents in the aforementioned areas do not experience the crippling shortage of access to home loans, healthcare and healthy goods that many Oak Park Residents experience.

The key question hovering over the WayUp venture is whether it is truly sustainable. Many programs enjoy outstanding beginnings – only to suffer an absence of sustained success. As the architect of this program, Schenirer truly has a difficult job.

For starters, the majority of residents in Oak Park are not homeowners. Many do not have access to capital or education to pursue the goal of home ownership. The Recession and housing crisis of 2008 had a chilling effect on underserved communities as the threshold requirements to qualify for home loans essentially excluded them at the outset.

It’s important to point this out: WayUp focuses on “sustainability.” In reality, the economy and job creation have remained alarmingly stagnant for underserved communities. Similarly, qualifying for home loans and saving money requires two fundamental components: higher education and wages above the poverty line.

Here, WayUp posits its success and distinction from other programs on the ability of the partnerships to facilitate sustainability. Yet, many residents targeted by WayUp do not graduate high school. They suffer from institutional roadblocks and continue to have a reasonable fear and trepidation of the partners and institutions aiming to assist them.

As mentioned in the title, Schenirer truly has a difficult balancing act. His ambitious program has focused in many respects on fundraising. Fundraising and “cash on hand” is critical to sustain any initiative. That being the case, funds must be injected directly into the pockets of the residents.

To clarify, they must target certain influential members of the community – putting them through college, vocational programs and certificate programs that can be used as mechanisms to teach others in the absence of future funding.

Many successful programs around the country use the same strategy. For instance, in my background as a counselor, we started teaching and training people in addiction recovery from a technical standpoint, coupled with their personal experience to create highly competent counselors that had the requisite “street cred” to immediately pique the interest of others and gain respect.

As a result, fundraising became less important. If not already implemented in this program, these suggestions may go a long way.

WayUp appears to be a creative program with core principles that empower and educate the community. For the reasons listed above, Schenirer has a difficult balancing act and many challenges ahead. And to the councilman’s credit, after four years, WayUp appears to be a success.

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