Over 80 tenant-leaders and organizers from around the Southern California region including Santa Clarita, Glendale, Pasadena, Los Angeles, Long Beach, Santa Ana, Anaheim, San Diego, Palm Springs and more gathered together for a two-day bootcamp on tenant counseling and how to integrate counseling and organizing. Facilitation was led by Tenants Together staff and hotline counseling volunteers, as well as member organization Strategic Action for a Just Economy (SAJE) and allies Disability Rights Advocates and Latino Health Access.
The material covered included tenant movement history, basics on tenants rights, the practice and principles of counseling, special presentations on protections for tenants with disabilities as well as undocumented tenants' rights, and how peer counseling is a basic practice of showing up in solidarity and strengthening our organizing campaigns. We also engaged in deeper conversation on how we work with secondary trauma and the process of navigating through our own trauma in order to help our communities sustainably and for the long-term.
Our counseling model is derived from local volunteer peer-counseling models where tenants themselves are the "experts" instead of over-reliance on legal expertise from attorneys. Since our statewide hotline launched in 2009 it has been staffed by volunteer counselors, most of them tenants themselves. We seek to understand the situation each tenant is facing, ask questions about what they want, don't presume to know what is best for each person, empower people to advocate and make decisions for themselves, and show up in solidarity with all challenges tenants face as we do not live single-issue lives.
The weekend's training is a testament to the fact that alone, we do not know everything, but together we know a lot. The coordination team Sara, Ana, Seun, Aimee, Jake, Jorge, and Eduardo are all in such deep gratitude for the time we spent thinking, dreaming, learning, talking and growing alongside you all in Santa Ana this past weekend.
Thank you to everyone for your strength, curiosity and wisdom! To more continued collaboration towards collective liberation!
1) Translocal Counseling Network Program- join us!
If you are part of a newly forming tenants group, or are interested in joining a conversation with other tenants' unions who are building know your rights & counseling programs, please email email@example.com to join the network. This year we are piloting the network and hosted the regional bootcamps in Northern California (this past April) and SoCal in order launch next year with local groups starting their own counseling programs.
2) Statewide Forum for CA Tenant Counselors
During the breakout groups on Sunday, a number of counselors came up with the beautiful idea that we should create an online forum for counselors to share resources, skills, and complex questions. If you are interested in supporting on creating this resource, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
A special thanks to the incredible tenants in Santa Ana for hosting us - without you this weekend wouldn't have been possible. Thank you to Latino Health Access for the use of their space, and El Centro Cultural for support on getting snacks and food. Thank you to the incredible interpretation team - Melody, Javier, Luis, Gema, Hilda, Mextli, Edna and Veronica for building a bridge for us to speak, learn and dream on. Thank you to all of the incredible facilitators - Sarai Arpero, Natasha Reyes, Edna Monroy, Jorge Rivera, Aimee Inglis, Eduardo Torres, and especially to our stellar volunteer counselors Jake Jimenez, Seun Omotunde, Ana Torres, who drove down to socal to share their wisdom. Thank you to Anel Hernandez for holding down the registration on both days. Thanks to Teresa Garrido , Luis Alberto, The Mill Bakery, and Estela Salas for keeping us nourished and energized with coffee and food. Thanks to the childcare support team for taking care of our loved ones. And to everyone who helped clean set up, take photos, coordinate, and all the other things that you each did to make this thing possible. TOGETHER WE ARE STRONG AND RESILIENT!
And finally an ENORMOUS thanks to each of you being present, and carrying the work on the day-to-day. I am so excited to continue working to expand our capacity, our knowledge sharing, and our community.