Undaunted and faithfully—with a Biblically-based commitment to mission, Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County (CCSCC) nibbles away at the overwhelming humanitarian issues that air daily in the news: thousands of unaccompanied children from Central America crossing the U.S. border and seeking refuge from homelessness, joblessness and poverty—even in the midst of plenty in Silicon Valley.
“We’re motivated by the Gospel values of serving those most in need—the poor,” says Gregory Kepferle, CEO of CCSCC. “We are the social justice arm of the Catholic church and because of that, we serve everyone in need, regardless of their background.”
“We don’t provide emergency services,” says Kepferle. “We’re a hand up not a hand out organization. We promote self-reliance and help people help themselves. We go beyond teaching people to fish; we stock the pond as well.”
In one example, CCSCC trains clients to be home-care aides who provide day breaks for families that care for seniors or disabled adults. Then it places these aides in jobs that pay the market rate. Any program profits are invested in training and placing more clients.
In 2009 CCSCC initiated the Step Up Silicon Valley Campaign to find innovative solutions to cut poverty in Silicon Valley in half by 2020. The campaign is a collaboration of nearly 90 nonprofits, businesses, educational institutions, faith-based organizations and individuals.
An outgrowth of Step Up Silicon Valley, the 1,000 Out of Poverty initiative is an ongoing pilot program started in 2013. The 15 nonprofits now participating in this initiative will measure the success of their efforts in lifting people out of poverty using a common tool, the self-sufficiency scale. The scale will measure outcomes related to food, housing, healthcare, education and income growth.
The approach of CCSCC is holistic in its efforts to help people “disrupt the cycle of poverty,” not focusing just on one issue. Rather, it offers a broad range of social services to help people become self-sufficient.
In response to the influx of unaccompanied children crossing the U.S. borders from the south – a reported 47,000 this year alone – CCSCC plans to deploy bilingual English- and Spanish-speaking staff to assist, as requested, at the detention facilities, which are located in California, Oklahoma, Texas and Virginia.
“This is a humanitarian crisis and regardless of your view on immigration, these are vulnerable children in need of protection and support,” says Refugee Foster Care Program Director Nira Singh.
Though affiliated with the Diocese of San Jose, CCSCC is a separately incorporated nonprofit agency that is self-funded and operates independently with a CEO and Board of Directors. Seventy percent of its funds come from federal, state and county sources, and 14 percent from individuals, corporations and foundations. Its fee-based services and bequests generate additional funds.
Through its affiliation with Catholic Charities USA, CCSCC is part of the largest social services network in the U.S. It serves 41,000 people in need annually in Santa Clara County. That’s a lot of fishing.