2021 All-America City Finalist - Livermore, CA

Livermore has never shied away from addressing difficult issues. The community has been creating awareness of and identifying solutions to mental health concerns, racial tension and homelessness for over a decade. It approaches these issues through an equity lens, seeking to provide a safe place for all residents to reside, feel heard, participate in decisions, and thrive. The community’s mantra is “keeping our community safe from the inside out.”

Safe from E-Cigarette Use and Mental Health Stigma

During a regularly scheduled meeting with student representatives from Granada Peer Health Educators, the Superintendent of Livermore Valley Joint Unified School District (LVJUSD) was made aware of the student’s urgent concern on the rising use of e-cigarette products among peers.

Superintendent Dr. Kelly Bowers helped facilitate a series of meetings where students offered data-informed presentations to parent leaders, school faculty, the school board, and city council. Following these meetings, and with the support of the school board, the Livermore City Council unanimously supported an ordinance banning the sale of flavored tobacco and electronic delivery devices citywide. This ordinance also instituted a 1,000-feet buffer zone between tobacco retailers and sites serving youth, such as schools and libraries. Students continue raising awareness of the issue through PSAs and presentations to inform students of the risks associated with vaping early.

Understanding the direct connection between substance abuse (including e-cigarette abuse) and mental health, the city has increased its focus on addressing the youth mental health crisis. With the help of three federal grants, mental health awareness and response training through the Mental Health Awareness Training (MHAT) curriculum has been offered to students, teachers, and the community at-large. Youth were involved in the curriculum design, which was also offered in Spanish.

Grant funding also supported school violence prevention equipment and training, the formation of a Mental Health Advisory Committee, and the development of mental health referral pathways with seven partnering community agencies. A coordinated partnership with these agencies established a link between students in need and services to help them.

Five years ago, Livermore parents, students, and staff rated behavioral health as their top concern. The same survey conducted in 2020 revealed that lack of resources is no longer a concern among residents, showing the effectiveness and availability of these efforts.

Safe in their Own Skin

With the horrific events of 2020 highlighting the need for racial equity and healing, Livermore responded to residents’ concerns by forming the Council Subcommittee on Equity and Inclusion which established a working group made of volunteer community members to address racial health and equitable social justice.

Working group members self-divided into four subgroups: Culture, Policing and Human Services, Youth, and Economics (Housing, Work, and Transportation). The goals of this group are to:

  1. Develop a vision for the future that ensures equitable public safety.
  2. Develop and implement short-, mid-, and long-range plans, focusing on completing high priority action items in a timely manner.
  3. Measure and report on progress regularly and transparently.

The working group will assist the City Council Equity and Inclusion Subcommittee to refine the scope of work, define objectives and establish measures for success for city council approval.

Additionally, young alumni of color met with the superintendent and campus leadership for several days to establish norms and a create a safe space to share their experiences, reveal their uncomfortable truths, and generate solutions to improve the experiences of current and future young people of color. A Wellness Center focused on social-emotional wellbeing was established at the high school, along with new clubs: People of Color, Culture Doctors and Students for Social Change. All LVJUSD staff received implicit bias training prior to the start of school.  A consulting group provided ongoing professional development to all staff on “How to Be an Anti-Racist.”

Additionally, the local college and various community organizations offer programming and education to promote equity and social justice.

Safe from Housing Instability

Homelessness and lack of affordable housing is not unique to Livermore, the community’s robust response to housing inequity is the difference.

Pictures4People is a nonprofit art movement, dedicated to “painting a brighter future, one painting at a time.” Paintings of Livermore residents experiencing homelessness are sold at local auctions with all proceeds going to local organizations helping community members in need.

The city, coordinating with the park district and social services providers, opened a park facility to provide a place for those experiencing homelessness or housing instability to park and shower.

Las Positas College (LPC) also helps students with housing security, as well as hosts a Housing Resources webpage that directs students to community resources and has a section specifically for COVID-19 Housing Resources.

The city is working on ensuring residents have an affordable place to live through four affordable housing projects. Additionally, a Tiny House Homeless village will provide 31 temporary and permanent housing units as well as wrap-around services to local community members experiencing homelessness.

In addition to creating new housing units for persons experiencing homelessness, the Vineyard Housing and Services project will expand an existing food and homeless services site to provide permanent infrastructure for emergency and safety net services.

The school district has also tackled the crisis facing families in transition and homeless youth. Efforts have focused on better and earlier identification and tracking, implementing periodic check-ins by Child and Welfare Attendance Specialists and Counselors, increased training in engagement strategies, continued referrals to community resources and social services, development of Individualized Learning Plans, implementation of alternatives to suspension, provision of free local transportation, increased after school support and extended summer school opportunities, and provision of Chromebooks and Wi-Fi hotspots to ensure equitable access to distance learning.

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