Updated: May 16
West Valley Community Services (WVCS) exists to serve our clients. But how do we ensure we are serving them as best we can? How can we understand how to meet our clients’ evolving needs? How can we go beyond the services we provide and help them advocate for themselves and their families? How can we work together to make lasting change that ends hunger and homelessness?
These questions led us to launch the Client Advisory Committee (CAC), a work group made up of folks with lived experience, current WVCS clients, Below Market Rate housing residents, and WVCS team members. This committee brings together staff and clients on a regular basis to share feedback about our programs and services, and to work closely with one another to advance social change that positively impacts our clients, our organization, and our community.
One of the CAC's primary tasks is planning Advocacy Action Hours. During these hour-long meetings, WVCS clients are invited to participate in a collective action around a policy or issue. In April 2022, twelve staff members and clients came together to advocate for San Jose’s Community Opportunity to Purchase Act (COPA). This policy would protect renters and create pathways to home ownership by giving qualified nonprofits and tenants the first opportunity to purchase a rental property when it goes up for sale. During the Action Hour, the group wrote to and called all ten San Jose City Councilmembers and the Mayor. Clients were able to write and speak personally from their lived experience of struggling with homelessness and housing insecurity, making it possible for elected officials to hear directly from the people who would actually benefit from this policy. So often, these perspectives are not a part of important policy discussions.
On June 9, 2022, the CAC will be hosting a new event called Community Conversation. This will be a powerful convening of WVCS clients, board members, volunteers, and staff, coming together to take collective action as a community. Additionally, this will provide the rare opportunity for everyone who makes WVCS the beautiful organization it is to interact with one another. The Community Conversation will be focused on food insecurity, and more details will be sent out soon.
In social service work, we often think of the relationship we have with our clients as solely one way in nature. But we view the engagement we have with our clients as a two way relationship, with our clients sharing their knowledge, insight, power, perspectives, kindness, and strength with us. The Client Advisory Committee seeks to harness this exchange between the clients, WVCS, and our community, as we work together to create a world where every person has food on the table and every person has a roof over their head.