11 Sep 2020

Perspectives: Focus on Equity

Jorge Matos, Director of Safe Streets

Right now we know that people are not working and they are struggling. But we’ve also been seeing that for years. The requirements of job placement programs often don’t fit the populations we serve all the time. It’s so important to understand the hurdles and struggles people have – and not put them up as barriers so they can’t get a job. We need programs and employment to be more flexible so it fits the people in our communities. We know there’s a high dropout rate in Humboldt Park. If an organization that runs an employment program knows that there are high dropout rates, but then they have a program that requires you to have a high school diploma or GED, that makes it tough on a lot of people.

Our staff do a very good job of slowing participants down and saying “If you trust the process, we’ll do our best and try to walk with you.” We share some of our stories, our trials and tribulations, and try to build them up and give them hope. We never give up. I tell participants that I went back to school and now doors have opened. Our stories allow them to say “OK, this person looks like me and comes from the same community.” Maybe they can create a different pathway for themselves. We help plant seeds and can be a model for participants.


It’s been a crazy few months, to say the least. We can’t be everywhere at once, but we can be a pillar in the community and do as much as we can. One reason we can be adaptable is that we have core people who have been around for a while. We’re not new to this work. One of the beauties of our team is that we can utilize the strengths of our team together.

Cristina Damiani, Director of Safe Homes

Inequity as it relates to violence is rooted in socio-economic issues, sexism, racism, classism and other forms of  oppression, and systemic barriers. Underserved populations need to receive services that adequately meet their unique needs. However, historically and at present,  these populations are not on equal footing with other groups in the country, and often are at higher risk of experiencing violence.

The key is “partnership.” The first step with partners, including community members, is always to listen. It’s survivor-centered, survivor-informed, and strength-based and trauma-informed. That’s how we approach our work.

Now that in-person services have been drastically reduced and survivors are increasingly at home with the person who abuses them, advocates have been challenged to find creative ways to keep in touch with clients and continue serving as a life-line to them. Because of concerns over survivors’ safety, however, sometimes they just have to wait until survivors reach them . In terms of our national work, our role at ALSO is about sharing resources and information and providing consultation and guidance to service providers across the country to increase their capacity to effectively serve those most at-risk of violence, including underserved populations. We tailor this work to their particular needs, work that  is developed through relationships and deep understanding about all the factors at play.

Covid has been putting a magnifying lens on all the issues we’ve been working on. Covid has led to increased violence in homes and in streets – but it has also shown that people are interrelated - what affects you, affects me and vice versa. We’re all affected by what is happening now. More the reason for all of us to take action to address social inequities to create a safer and more equitable society.

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