JERICHO: Education for Justice
JERICHO: A Voice for Justice
After two and half challenging years of planning, JERICHO: Education for Justice and JERICHO: A Voice for Justice, the first Interfaith public policy agencies in the United States and which were founded by Sister Sheila Walsh, SSS, opened their doors on March 1, 1987. During these past years, JERICHO has made some important contributions in the public policy arena. JERICHO is known as “A Voice of Conscience for the California Legislature”. JERICHO has become a moral compass for the California State Legislature.
JERICHO calls legislators and others involved in public policy to address issues NOT in terms of politics and money but rather in terms of social morality—in terms of social justice. JERICHO speaks with and for the needs and civil rights of those without health insurance, of those who are homeless, of children, of low income, working people, of farm workers, the elderly, immigrants, those coping with mental illness, and those who are hungry.
JERICHO has credibility because it is non-partisan and without a personal agenda—and approaches issues and legislation from these perspectives. JERICHO as an Interfaith organization does not take positions on single issues, on personal morality or on one’s religion’s issues, but rather, JERICHO looks at the common good, societal problems and issues and addresses the State Budget and Legislation from this perspective. Some of the legislation for which JERICHO has actively lobbed during these past years and which has contributed to the common good of the people of California includes:
Universal Health Care
JERICHO has sought a Universal Health Care system in California (hopefully we will soon have a federal Universal Health Care program throughout the United States) and to the end supported all efforts which lead to that objective, including:
- The provision of prenatal care to uninsured pregnant women not eligible for public healthcare
- The establishment of the Healthy Families Program which provides health care to children of uninsured families and, subsequently, to their parents
- The establishment of programs providing incentives to small business employers to offer health care insurance to their employees
- Enactment of Proposition 99, which provides tobacco company payment monies to cover a range of healthcare services to uninsured low-income individuals and families.
JERICHO actively supported a number of measures that would have provided Universal Health Care to all Californians, but which failed to be signed into law.
Welfare Reform & Welfare Assistance
The United States Congress enacted major changes in public assistance for families in 1996.
JERICHO worked to ensure that California’s response to the new Federal law—the 1997 Cal-WORKS program—would do the least harm to families livening in poverty.
JERICHO has continuously supported all efforts to ensure the adequacy of welfare benefits to eligible low-income people, including:
- The continuance of full cost-of-living increases to benefits for persons and families living in poverty including aged, blind, and disabled persons and their families
- The continuance of Food Stamp services to all low-income people, including immigrants.
Housing for Low-Income Families,
Individuals and the Homeless
One of JERICHO’s major objectives is seen in bills that secure adequate, safe, healthful housing for low-income persons, including:
- Tax credits to build low-income housing
- Preserving low-income housing units
- Increased funding for development of farmworker housing
- Funding for increased homeownership for low-income families
- Extension of a variety of services to mentally-ill, homeless persons to provide living arrangements and mental health care
- Enactment of the Joe Serna, Jr. farmwork housing fund.
JERICHO has strongly supported all efforts to extend health and welfare benefits to immigrants both legal and undocumented–many whom were precluded from essential services by the Federal Welfare Reform Act, including:
- The extension of SSI/SSP and Food Stamps to legal immigrants by means of state funding
- The provision of resident tuition rates at California’s higher education systems for all immigrants who have graduated from state high schools.
A Just and Equitable Budget
California has gone through a number of State Budget crises during the years of JERICHO’s existence. JERICHO has consistently supported a budget, and the revenue to support it, which provides adequate support for California’s people living in poverty. JERICHO helped form a Religious Coalition For A Just Budget whose purpose is to actively call for an increase in revenue rather than cuts in human services.
JERICHO’s Mission will always continue as part of and in concert with social morality and the Mission of Social Justice—to assist children, families, and people living in poverty.
Written by Sister Sheila Walsh, SSS