The West/Southwest Industrial Areas Foundation is a network of broad-based institutional organizations building power to revitalize our democracy for constructive social and economic change. We are part of the Industrial Areas Foundation, the nation's first and largest network of community organizations.
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When Pope Francis told a group of U.S. community organizers that their work was "atomic," Jorge Montiel said, "I thought, 'Oh, you mean we blow things up?'"
But instead, the pope spoke about how the groups associated with the West/Southwest Industrial Areas Foundation in the United States take issues patiently, "atom by atom," and end up building something that "penetrates" and changes entire communities, said Montiel, an IAF organizer in Colorado and New Mexico.
Pope Francis' hourlong meeting Sept. 14 with 15 delegates from the group was a follow-up to a similar meeting a year ago. Neither meeting was listed on the pope's official schedule and, the delegates said, both were conversations, not "audiences."
"It was relaxed, it was engaging," said Joe Rubio, national co-director of IAF. "Often you don't see that even with parish priests," he told Catholic News Service Sept. 15, garnering the laughter of other delegates.
Pope Meets US Leaders Patiently Building Culture of Solidarity, US Conference of Catholic Bishops / Catholic News Service [pdf]
“What I would say to those in Together West Michigan: If your hope was to ensure that homeownership was a priority and focus, you have succeeded.”
Commissioner Stephen Wooden’s comment was one of many acknowledgements Together West Michigan (TWM) won on August 10 from Kent County commissioners as they voted on the rules for the county’s new Affordable Housing Revolving Loan Fund. Because of TWM’s months of work, the fund includes a goal that 10% of the affordable units be owned by families, rather than rented.
10% Ownership Goal Included In County’s Affordable Housing Fund, Together West Michigan
Kent County Launching $58M Affordable Housing Loan Program, MLive [pdf]
Kent County to Launch Affordable Housing Revolving Loan Fund with Initial $58M, Crain's Grand Rapids Business [pdf]
TWM Leader Testimony, Kent County Commissioners Court [video from 02:30]
More TWM Testimony, Kent County Commissioners Court [video from 18:00]
Leaking faucets, holes in the floor, and rats running across children's feet at night. An apartment manager refusing to start repairs without proof of US citizenship. These are just some of the conditions that leaders of Bachman Lake apartments, like Iris Romo and Ericka Ventura, unearthed in a neighborhood conversation campaign.
When tenant leaders at Lumin Bachman Lake Community School began to share these stories, the city didn't take them seriously. However, Dallas Area Interfaith (DAI) leaders knew that this was unacceptable. After all, they had been instrumental in the development of housing standards that were now being violated. In 2016, DAI had compelled the City of Dallas to impose these standards, and the tenant leaders had been a key part of that effort.
The Community Lighthouse Project is equipping churches, health clinics and other community spaces with solar panels and batteries, so they don’t need to rely on grid power and faulty generators to stay open in emergencies. The nonprofit undertaking the project, Together New Orleans, ultimately wants to scatter 86 “lighthouses” throughout the state, so every resident lives within a 15-minute walk...
“We know everyone in the community within a mile or so radius that needs their breathing machine connected to electricity, or they have someone in a wheelchair or somebody that’s bed bound,” said Rev. Antoine Barriere, pastor of the Household of Faith Family Worship Church.
DAI tenant advocacy for improved conditions in low-income Bachman Lake apartment complexes continues to pay off, partly due to increased collaboration with bilingual housing code inspectors. Spanish speaking Dallas Area Interfaith leaders have been at the forefront of action, including meetings with City officials and educational meetings with residents.
COPS/Metro Alliance, the longtime coalition that advocates for working families and is in many ways responsible for the program’s existence, continues to raise concerns.
About six years ago, AMOS asked families what kept them up at night. Parents said they needed services for children in mental health crises.
“Kids were waiting months to see a therapist. They were not getting what they need from a system designed for adults,” said Crystal Loving, of First Unitarian Church. A child in the midst of a mental health crisis would be handcuffed, put in the backseat of a police car, and enter the juvenile justice system rather than get the mental health care that was needed."
North Louisiana Interfaith
leaders erupted in applause as the Caddo
Commission voted 8 to 4 to approve seed funding for two Community Lighthouse
pilot locations. These Community
Lighthouses will serve as beacons of hope during crises, immediately assessing the needs of the community
and providing vital assistance to area residents. Among the services offered are cooling and heating stations, charging stations, food distribution, ice, water, and other supplies and services.
Valley Interfaith and EPISO teamed up to successfully oppose two bills that would have undermined the Model Rules for Development that govern real estate development in counties that border the Texas-Mexico border. The Model Rules for Development have been a critical tool that our organizations fought for over 30 years ago and which have limited the development of substandard housing lacking access to sewer and clean water lines, drainage and roads.
"Senate Bill 261, authored by state Sen. John Montgomery, R-Lawton, and state Rep. Melissa Provenzano, D-Tulsa, in 2021, directed the attorney general to prepare a written statement including an “Oklahoma Student Borrower’s Bill of Rights,” which contains language prohibiting student loan servicers from engaging in acts that mislead or deceive borrowers.
According to the language, servicers are prohibited from misrepresenting or omitting any material information in connection with the servicing of a student education loan, including misrepresenting the amount, nature or terms of any fee...
...Provenzano said the librarian and ACTION Tulsa asked her to see that rights for students require servicers to disclose the consequences of payment plan changes."
[Photo Credit: The Journal Record]
New Law Strengthens Student Borrower's Bill of Rights, The Journal Record [pdf]
"Over a 43-year career across Los Angeles County, the Spanish-speaking Irish immigrant stood up for his working class parishioners against federal and local officials and even his own bosses. Even after Pope Francis appointed him as a bishop in 2015, O’Connell never lost his common touch....
'He had a very fierce passion for justice, for the dignity of people,' said [One LA] lead organizer Robert Hoo, who had known him since 2005....Hoo sent me two video clips, [one] from a Zoom meeting last month, where O'Connell greeted IAF members who had recently met with Pope Francis about their organizing efforts. In it, the bishop stood in his office and beamed.
'God bless you for all you’re doing,' he said. 'You’re our best hope — not just for your own communities, but for the church and our society. For America, right now.'"
[Photo Credit: Wally Skalij, LA Times]
‘He Brought Us In Closer’: The LA Journey of Bishop O'Connell, Los Angeles Times
It is with great sadness that we inform you of the sudden and tragic passing of Bishop David O’Connell. He was a beloved bishop, an extraordinary pastor, and a close friend of our network. Bishop Dave (as he was known) was a true shepherd to his flock -- embedded in the lives of his parishioners and teaching thousands of One LA-IAF leaders to love their neighbor and fight against injustice.
Fr. Alfonso Guevara, a long-time clergy leader with Valley Interfaith, passed away on February 10. He was worked for many years to help ordinary men and women develop their confidence and skills people so they could do extraordinary things in the parishes and communities. Here are a few statements made by Fr. Guevara to the Rio Grande Guardian.
Some reflections from Fr. Alfonso Guevara [pdf]
Tributes Pour In for Valley Interfaith Clergy Leader Alfonso Guevara, Rio Grande Guardian [pdf]
With sadness, we report the loss of Michael Clements, longtime IAF organizer. He served as organizer with TMO and predecessor organizations of One-LA during a career that spanned four decades.
After supporting farm workers [with United Farm Workers of America], Clements joined the Industrial Areas Foundation, the longest-standing network of local faith and community-based organizations in the nation, and moved to Houston to work for the organization... [Back in California], Clements crossed paths with Fred Ross, Sr....
Said Fred Ross, Jr., a Bay Area-based social justice organizer: “My father respected Mike and saw him as one of the up-and- coming organizers back in 1985.”
Said [Cardinal Roger] Mahony, “He was the epitome of a great community organizer backed up by his wonderful Catholic faith, especially the social teachings of the church, which he knew inside and out from the Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum in 1891 all the way to Pope Francis today.”
[Photo Credit: Scott Smeltzer, Los Angeles Times]
On the Passing of IAF Boardmember Bishop Douglas Miles
by Ernesto Cortes, Jr.
The passing of Bishop Miles is a great loss to all of us. We shared the earth with him for far too short a time.
He modeled character and leadership, while at the same time teaching those who were marginalized how to be their own agents. Of him it could be said that he invited all the challenges of Matthew 25: to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, break free the captives and take in the stranger.
He was a man of faith and a full human being. He embodied Pope Francis’ notion of being a political person. And he was our friend.
We Mourn Together: Bishop Douglas Miles
It is with heavy hearts that we share the news that Bishop Douglas Miles, IAF Co-Chair and BUILD Co-Chair Emeritus, passed away August 3, 2021 after complications from heart surgery.
Bishop was a giant of a man, pastor, leader and friend. For more than 50 years, Bishop Douglas Miles (in photo from left, marching with Pastor Prentice at right) has been on the front-lines of every major social change in Baltimore and every major fight led by IAF.
As longstanding Metro IAF and BUILD Leader Carol Reckling said, “It’s almost unfathomable to grasp Bishop’s reach. One way or another he impacted every one of us."
We were blessed with one of the greatest. We are all part of his legacy. We miss him dearly and are reminded of the words from God to the prophet that Bishop often closed out actions with, "Whom shall I send, and who shall go for us? And the voice of the prophet responded, 'Here am I, send me.’”
Let us continue to answer the call and fight the good fight. As we grieve his loss, may his incredible prophetic voice, brilliant wisdom, deep laughter, and shared memory guide us.
Please hold his dear wife Rose Miles, sons Pastor Dante and Harvey Miles, his entire family, Koinonia Baptist Church and BUILD in your prayers.
Bishop Douglas Miles, Who Advocated for Baltimore's Impoverished Residents and Co-Headed BUILD, Dies, Baltimore Sun [pdf]
Sister Christine Stephens, CDP entered eternal life on July 18, 2019 at the age of 78. She was the younger of two daughters born to Walter Irving and Frances Louise (Bulian) Stephens. She was born December 22, 1940 in Austin, Texas and was given the Baptismal name, Mary Christine. She entered the Congregation of Divine Providence on September 7, 1962 and professed first vows as a Sister of Divine Providence on June 22, 1964. Sister Christine graduated from the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics prior to entering Our Lady of the Lake Convent. She later earned a Master of Arts in History from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas.
Sister Christine attributes her faith formation to her parents who set the example of perseverance and seeking justice for one’s family and community. Her father was a member of the pipe fitters union. This foundation served Sister Christine in her first seven years as a teacher, then as a social worker for eight years, and expanded and deepened when she became an organizer 45 years ago.
Sister Christine did not choose organizing as a ministry, it chose her. She was spotted by her now close friend and mentor, Ernesto Cortés, Jr., who said it was her anger that caught his attention. That was the first time she viewed her anger in a positive light. The work of justice was at the heart of her ministry and her life. Her work with the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) was the vehicle to funnel her anger against injustice.
Sister Christine’s commitment to identifying, training and transforming leaders and organizers throughout the country worked to bring millions of dollars for water and waste water to the colonias along the Texas/New Mexico Border, instrumental in developing the Alliance School strategy that impacted hundreds of schools across the country, plus the creation of nationally renowned job training programs modeled after Project QUEST in San Antonio.
Her advocacy work during the past four decades in her various roles, as National IAF Co-Director and Supervisor of organizations across the IAF Network will be greatly missed. Her organizing career began with The Metropolitan Organization (TMO) in Houston where she was a founder, followed by Lead Organizer of C.O.P.S. in San Antonio and Dallas Area Interfaith.
She enjoyed seeing ordinary leaders who worked across multi faith traditions, economic lines and race to do extraordinary things in their communities. She breathed and lived the Gospel values of justice and leaves a legacy to be continued. She had an enduring faith in the values of democracy.
She is survived by her sister Sarah Howell, and all her Sisters of Divine Providence. She is also survived by her niece Angela Duhon (William), their children, Emma and Nathaniel. She was preceded in death by her parents Walter and Frances Stephens.
The Rosary and Wake were Thursday, July 25, 2019 and Mass of Resurrection on Friday, July 26, 2019. All services were held in Sacred Heart Chapel, next to Our Lady of the Lake Convent Center in San Antonio, Texas.
In lieu of flowers, you may make a memorial contribution to the Sisters of Divine Providence, 515 S.W. 24th Street, San Antonio, TX 78207-4619.
Tribute to Sister Christine Stephens, Rio Grande Guardian
Stephens was an Early COPS Organizer, San Antonio Express-News [pdf]
Christine Stephens, COPS/Metro Alliance Leader, Remembered for her Faith, Sense of Justice, Rivard Report
Christine Stephens Worked to 'Help Others Advocate for Themselves,' Austin American Statesman [pdf]
Sister Christine Passes Away, Rio Grande Guardian