For John Lahip, getting into fights was almost a pastime when he was a young teen. His life at the time revolved around violence, drugs and alcohol, the now 19-year-old said.
That lifestyle caught up with him when he was jumped in front of his mom and brother after school one day. But his rivals didn’t take out their beef just on him — they attacked his mother and brother, too.
Instinctively, the first thought to cross Lahip’s mind was revenge. Before he could retaliate, a friend told him about and their youth programs. A visit to the organization changed his life forever, Lahip said.
He enrolled in counseling at FAJ, received support and joined their Pilipino Youth Coalition community organization group.
“FAJ took me in and showed me revenge and violence was not the answer,” Lahip said. “FAJ and the people that surround FAJ took me in and showed me a new path in my life.”
But others just like him today may no longer benefit from the organization’s services.
Having source from Alameda County’s Behavioral Health Care Services department, FAJ may shut down as soon as March 30.
Lahip was one of a dozen to speak in support of FAJ and just one of about 100 community members who attended Tuesday night’s City Council meeting to urge officials to provide the 20-year-old center with a financial lifeline.
Because the FAJ rally was not on the Council’s agenda, the Council was not able to make any decisions at the meeting. However, Mayor Mark Green and city staff agreed to look closely at the situation to see if any additional funds could be provided and place an action item on the March 27 meeting agenda.
“It’s very exciting and promising,” said Chris Cara, youth services director for FAJ, after the Tuesday meeting.
The City of Union City currently provides $20,000 a year to the nonprofit organization, according to Cara. He said anything the city could give would help.
The bulk of FAJ’s $100,000 annual budget is provided by the county, which has given close to $60,000 a year for the last 15 years, with Kaiser Permanente grants making up the remainder.
But FAJ isn’t giving up on the county, said Lillian Galedo, executive director of FAJ.
The organization filed an appeal with the county Tuesday and has a meeting scheduled for next week with county health officials.
In addition, Alameda County Supervisor Nadia Lockyer’s office is recommending a $25,000 grant for FAJ, according to Anissa Basoco Villarreal, deputy chief of staff for Supervisor Nadia Lockyer. The grant will need to be approved by the Board of Supervisors at a yet undetermined date.
“Supervisor Lockyer has always been supportive of Filipino Advocates for Justice,” Basoco-Villarreal said. “It’s a resource that’s definitely needed in Union City.”
is also helping out and announced Tuesday night that it would give a $5,000 donation to FAJ.
FAJ’s abrupt financial dilemma comes after a yearlong battle for county grants.
According to Cara, last year the county reduced their funding for alcohol and drug prevention programs such as FAJ’s. As a result, funding for some programs was cut.
FAJ was initially selected last April to receive a renewed grant but an appeal from competitors claiming there were biases in the selection process caused the county department to reopen and review the bidding, according to Cara. FAJ was given bridge funding through March 30 of this year in the meantime. Last week, the community advocacy group learned their grant renewal was reversed.
With such a tight deadline and so much uncertainty in the air, FAJ decided to plead with the City of Union City for assistance.
Among the mass of FAJ supporters Tuesday night were current and former program participants, along with teachers and community groups who have partnered with the organization.
“This organization continues to make fundamental change in our schools, in our community,” said Jessica Lange, a house principal at where FAJ runs a support group and provides one-on-one counseling. “We as an administrative team have come to rely on the services they offer.”
Among the services FAJ provides are a young men’s group at , a ninth grade group at and a support group at . FAJ’s office also serves as a meeting space for youth empowerment and leadership development programs like the Pilipino Youth Coalition, community organizing actions and health education projects.
Over the years, FAJ has served about 1,500 Union City youth. To lose it would be a critical blow to the city, supporters said.
Mary Schlarb, an organizer with Congregations Organizing for Renewal, applauded FAJ for its work with youth and their efforts to curb violence, alcohol and drug use in the community.
FAJ, along with COR and other community leaders, helped push for Measure UU and advance the city’s , Schlarb said.
Like Lahip, Nico Martinez, a 16-year-old Logan student, said FAJ dramatically changed his life.
“I’ve been able to express myself in way I could never imagine,” he said Tuesday night. He said FAJ gave him creative alternatives, such as music, poetry and community organizing.
As many others who spoke before the Council, Martinez said he couldn’t imagine life without FAJ.
“To see this place taken away like that, it’s like losing your own home,” he said.