Scroll through the slideshow below to see information about the day and contact information for presenters, sponsors, and breakout facilitators.
Briefing – Compassionate Community
Mayor Ron Nirenberg
Ann Helmke, Faith Liasion, COSA
“We’re all in this together. Moments like the walk a couple of weeks ago with our refugee neighbors from Afghanistan are important because we demonstrate the essence of what it is to be a human being, which has to be compassionate for our neighbors in need. ” — Ron Nirenberg
“When we do things like the equity budget where we’re reducing, in some ways, simplifying, our policymaking and the system of government resource allocation to its essence, which is that we should we should provide resources where they’re most needed, where they needed the most, and we should make sure that we’re addressing the systemic or historic inequities that have resulted in people having fewer opportunities to get a quality education or get a living wage job, which addresses those inequities by how we allocate our public resources. The equity budget, the walk with our neighbors, the Afghan refugees, and even the words that we use when we were broken down to our very foundation during the pandemic, ‘we’re all in this together’ all come from the same essence of what it is to be a human being and that is compassion.” — Ron Nirenberg
“I do appreciate, and that you recognize my intention for my first document to sign as Mayor in 2017 was the city’s Charter for Compassion. We didn’t create a compassionate city by signing the document, we recognized that was the essence of San Antonio. It was here before we called it out and we have to continue to work towards demonstrating that.” — Ron Nirenberg
Briefing – Housing Security
Mark Carmona, Chief Housing Officer – COSA
Wyndee Holbrook, Interfaith San Antonio Alliance
The Chief Housing Officer is tasked with working at a systemic level to impact housing and housing availability both within the city and with external community partners. Mark’s specific charge is the implementation of the Homelessness Strategic Plan and the Affordable Housing Plan.
“There is no one organization that can take on complex social issues and achieve them in a way that benefits the community. We have to be in collaboration, we have to be in communication, we have to be in connection with each other to do that in a compassionate way.” – Mark Carmona
“95,000 households in our community are vulnerable and coast burdened. They spend more than 30% of their take-home pay on housing. So they have to make hard decisions around food and or prescription medication or tools for education for their kids.” – Mark Carmona
“If my son is out-priced, because of the inflationary situation that’s happening with housing, then he and his wife are going to be moving in with me, That impacts me. You know it’s not some esoteric thing that only influences somebody in another neighborhood. It’s something that impacts all of our lives all the time.” – Wyndee Holbrook
Briefing – Houselessness
Morjoriee White – COSA Homelessness Administrator, Gavin Rogers – Corazon Ministries
City Council offices have homelessness outreach staff assigned to help people in each district. Find out which district you are in and how to contact your representative at https://www.sanantonio.gov/council/find-my-council-member.
“In the 2020 Point in Time Count, a total of 2932 individuals identified as being homeless on a given night, 1274, were not sheltered, these are our neighbors experiencing homelessness that are probably the most visible. They’re the ones you’re seeing under the bridges, underpasses, etc.” – Morjoriee White
“The most recent thing that we’re doing is our Corazon Harm Reduction Program. It’s a holistic version of harm reduction. You might think harm reduction is just passing out needles and safe needles and that’s one of the things that we do, but we also so make sure that they exchange needles.” – Gavin Rogers
“We have peer recovery coaches that are experts that we’ve hired from all over the state. Corazon now has a staff of 22 people, and six of those work for the Harm Reduction Program, which goes out all over the city providing recovery options for those who are on the most low barrier option because of maybe addictions, and they go out there and it’s peer support recovery coaching. The Peer Support staff I hired had to have used heroin in the past. So it’s a very weird question to ask in an interview.” – Gavin Rogers
Briefing – Domestic Violence
Patricia Castillo – San Antonio Peace Initiative, Rabbi Natanel Greenwald
Express News article – Nowhere to Hide
“We have a significant opportunity presented to us to positively influence the way that children learn what masculinity is and that it is not to be a controlling or dominant force. Having a healthy male role model in their lives, capable of healthy relationships, relationships based on mutual respect for the individual not based on ruling power utilizing fear, and by standing up to abuse and empowering the victims are the very actions already creating new possibilities for a child’s future that simply did not exist in their life before. ” – Rabbi Greenwald
“They say ‘All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing’, the opposite rings true as well – All it takes to defend against evil is to do something about it.” – Rabbi Greenwald
“Some of the specific work that needs to happen in our communities, is that we definitely need for this issue needs to be present in all of the City and County institutions, and the leadership of those Institutions must lead in terms of bringing this topic up and talking about it have that willingness to talk about it. We also some of the specific work to provide legal representation for this vulnerable population and how we can ensure that they have a place to go, to a sanctuary, whether that be immediately after violence or beyond.” – Patricia Castillo
“Are we asking our pastors and our faith leaders to talk about domestic violence from the pulpit? Do we have committees at church who are addressing this issue?” – Patricia Castillo
Briefing – Hunger and Food Security
Michael Guerra – SA Foodbank, Damaris Fike – City Church
The San Antonio Foodbank serves about 90,000 people each week. They hand out about $160 million in food and about $250 million in helping to provide SNAP benefits.
In October, 41% of the households served by the Food Bank were first-time visitors. In November, 36% were first-time visitors. This points to acute need as well as chronic need. Some people need assistance to see them through a specific crisis.
SA Foodbank is building partnerships with partners in housing and workforce development as part of their SecureSA initiative. The program looks for ways to more holistically reduce the occurrence of chronic and acute food emergencies.
Lauren Deal (email@example.com) is the Foodbank’s Faith Liasion. Lauren can help any faith community that wants to be involved in food programs.
FeedSA is a collaborative program of more than 30 congregations, businesses, and individuals. The Program focuses on collecting food for children during the summer months. In 2021, the program collected almost 4 million meals. More information at www.feedsa.org.
Briefing – Immigration and Refugees
Tino Gallegos – Immigration Liasion, COSA, Nadia Mavrakis – Culturingua, Don Larson – Church of Jesus Christ and Latter-Day Saints
Immigrants and Refugees are a large, varied, and complex group. For clarity, we can think of them in three groups.
- Refugees come to a country because they are unable to return to their home country without fear of violence or retribution.
- Migrants in SA are mostly those released from detention centers along the southern border.
- Long Term Immigrants are non-citizens living in the US. Most are here for many years, some will pursue citizenship.
In 2021, 97,000 migrants were provided with humanitarian aid in San Antonio.
Over the last three years, Afghans make up the majority of refugees settling in San Antonio. Over 1,200 since August 2021.
160,000 residents in San Antonio are not US citizens. An estimated 60,000 are eligible to apply for citizenship, which can be a very long and complex process.
“A basic need that I really I think is fundamental to interaction in society is language access, and that’s both being able to receive information in a language that someone is most comfortable in, as well as having English learning opportunities.” – Nadia Mavrakis
“Beyond Spanish there’s quite a diversity of language needs that are not necessarily always understood or accommodated. One example that we encountered was the City and Bexar County effort in collaboration with the US Census Bureau engaged us to help do some outreach in the medical center neighborhood for census 2020 responses where there are huge numbers of Afghans, but Pashto surprisingly was not one of the 59 languages offered by the census.” – Nadia Mavrakis
“There are many skilled immigrants that come to this country, but they don’t necessarily have the means to apply those skills because either their transcripts are not recognized and they need to go through an evaluation process based on the US system, or their certifications are not recognized, or they might not have the soft skills that are necessary in American business culture because soft skills in other parts of the world are different.” – Nadia Mavrakis
Briefing – Mental Health
Doug Beach – NAMI San Antonio, Claude Jacob – Metro Health
“One in four people will experience a mental health disorder each year – In Bexar County, this is 500,000 people. Most people wait 8-10 years before they seek help for a mental health issue… During the pandemic, there has been a 51% increase in suicide attempts by young people… We have a mandate to address this crisis.” – Doug Beach
Bridges To Care is a program that trains wellness champions in faith communities to become behavioral health-friendly and be welcoming, supportive, and inclusive of those with mental health challenges. More than 375 wellness champions are already trained.
“We need to break the stigma of mental illness so that people will seek help earlier.” – Doug Beach
“We have worked closely with The Children’s Shelter, Voices For Children, and representatives from a dozen different sectors to establish the Institute For Trauma-Informed Care, which is run by University Health, and the trauma-informed certifying entity which is run by The Ecumenical Center with funding from Methodist Healthcare Ministries. These organizations are actively working to assist many across San Antonio to become certified and trauma-informed. ” – Claude Jacobs
Briefing – Resourcing
Joe Barber, Pastor, St Luke Baptist Church
SACRD.org – In the community. By the community. For the community.
“SACRD.org saved me from having to carry around my outdated Rolodex” – Joe Barber
“People look to my church first when they have a question or they need something. SACRD.org allows me to effectively point someone in the right direction… With a small staff, I can use SACRD.org to save time finding resources.” – Joe Barber
Briefing – Public Safety
Luu Do, CISA – Homeland Security, Lisa Epstein, Jewish Community Relations Council
The Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Administration is a division of the Department of Homeland Security. CISA offers resources for faith-based communities at https://www.cisa.gov/faith-based-organizations-houses-worship
Luu (firstname.lastname@example.org) can help a congregation learn how to do safety assessments and understand how they can improve their physical security. The process follows a series of steps:
Form a team to participate in the evaluation.
- Conduct a security assessment
- Review and plan for Improvements
- Test the plan to make sure it is meeting your needs.
- Lisa is the liaison to a security committee that has been formed within the Jewish community of places of worship.
“There are things you can do as simple as walking around your building and making sure all your doors are locked and all your windows have locks. Then take the time to really think through security measures such as cameras, all the way to gates around your property and really expensive things like security guards.” – Lisa Epstein
This multi-faith symposium was coordinated by the City of San Antonio’s Faith-Based Initiative and web-hosted by the University of the Incarnate Word in partnership with the Interfaith Youth Core and with respect for people of all faiths working together toward more compassionate and civically engaged services.