West Valley Community Services (WVCS) has been serving the community for 49 years. In that time, and with the support of our community, we have become the go-to source for west valley residents who are struggling to find housing, pay rent, put food on the table, and access critical resources.
While WVCS has always been a community-oriented organization, we have a vision of working more closely with residents that have lived experience with housing challenges and food instability, and working together across a broad coalition of individuals and organizations to address some of the upstream challenges that create hunger and homelessness in our region.
This process began with the formation of the Client Advisory Committee, a group of WVCS clients and staff that meet regularly to identify ways to advocate for programmatic and systemic change that meets the needs of folks facing food and housing insecurity - both inside our organization and throughout the broader community. As the scope of our work expanded, drawing more people around the table, we realized that we were attracting not only current WVCS clients, but a broader coalition of community members united around the vision of a community where every person has food on the table and every person has a roof over their head. With this in mind, the Client Advisory Committee evolved to become the Lived Experience Advisory Committee (LEAC).
The LEAC meets once per month to discuss topics that are meaningful to our community, including homelessness in the west valley, affordable housing, and healthcare. Committee members with lived experience share the challenges they have encountered and what they think needs to change based on their own story. From there, the LEAC plans monthly Action Hours, which are opportunities for community members, in particular those served by WVCS, to come together to advocate for change. This includes writing and calling legislators in support for bills and policies that will improve their quality of life. These interactions are particularly meaningful, as folks with lived experience are often not included around the table when laws or policies are drafted.
There is a saying in community organizing: nothing about us, without us. The WVCS LEAC was assembled with this vision in mind, and the idea that any substantive, long term change to address food and housing insecurity must include the wisdom and expertise of people with firsthand experience. In order to do this, we need to assemble a broad coalition, and it will require everyone’s voices to make change possible. If you are interested in learning more about the Lived Experience Advisory Committee, and how you can get involved in advocating for change, please contact Kylie Clark, Assistant Manager of Advocacy and Public Policy, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 408-471-6122.