A team of organizations in San Diego County will receive $1.9 million over the next two years, to build upon efforts to empower the region’s most vulnerable residents. In a competitive process, San Diego was one of three locations selected to receive the grant from the Open Society Foundations. The other awardees were groups in Puerto Rico and Buffalo, New York.

“This is really about making San Diego more open, just and democratic. It is time that we bring in those who have been marginalized in our community, as a means to make San Diego a more productive and thriving region,” explained Clare Crawford, Executive Director of the Center on Policy Initiatives.

Efforts funded by the grant will focus on the full integration of immigrants and people impacted by the criminal justice system into the region’s civic and economic life through increased access to key services, improvements in the workplace and better access to middle class careers.

“When you are an immigrant it is hard to meaningfully participate in the civic life, if you aren’t making a fair wage or you are afraid to speak up. This grant will help us build the infrastructure to include more residents in rebuilding San Diego in a more equitable and inclusive manner,” said Gloria Morales, a San Diego Organizing Project leader.

“This grant presents a new and exciting chance to expand the opportunities available to those impacted by the criminal justice system. By ignoring these individuals' rights to participate in society, we don't just harm the individuals, but we harm their families, friends, and the communities they are a part of. This grant allows us to create spaces for which those impacted by the criminal justice system can grow, learn, and give back to their own communities,” stated Paul Alexander, President and Founder of Pillars of the Community.

The Open Places Initiative was launched in response to profound changes in U.S. demographics, the economy, technology, and shifts in federal and state funding. These changes have dramatically affected local conditions, dynamics, and opportunities and impact how low-income families and communities of color are able to access political, economic, and civic opportunities.

“We hope that our investment in these places, over the years, will encourage people from diverse sectors – policymakers, residents, academicians, advocates, and business people – to come together to bring about positive transformational change,” said Ken Zimmerman, director of U.S. Programs at the Open Society Foundations.

The local team’s proposal was based on three substantive goals:

  • Increasing access to key services that help immigrants and people impacted by the criminal justice system integrate fully into civic and economic life.
  • Decreasing workers’ rights abuses and improving workplace conditions.
  • Reducing barriers that prevent immigrants and people impacted by criminal justice system from having access to middle class occupations.

Organizations in the San Diego team include Employee Rights Center, Center on Policy Initiatives, San Diego Organizing Project, ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties, Christie’s Place, San Diego Youth Development Office, Pillars of the Community and SEIU/Service Employees International Union, Local 221 and United Domestic Workers, Local 3930.

Foundation partners include The California Endowment, The Ford Foundation, The San Diego Grantmakers, The California Civic Participation Funders (The California Endowment, Color of Democracy Fund, Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, James Irvine Foundation, Kapor Center for Social Impact, McKay Foundation, PowerPAC Foundation, Rosenberg Foundation, Women’s Foundation of California) and The Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation.