The Covid-19 Pandemic is unlike any challenge we’ve faced in recent history. In order to slow the onset of the disease in our community, one of the few tools we have is social distancing. The very idea of distancing presents challenges for our institutions, our congregations, schools and associations, which all value human connection, not distance. As we face the prospect of widespread human suffering, both from the disease itself and the remedy, we need to understand and address what is happening in our community.
For 45 years, the West/Southwest IAF has used the practices and habits of organizing to assert the common good in public life. Over those years, in the midst of addressing serious issues, our best strategies have emerged when we work together. As a network, we are employing these same strategies, sometimes with new technological tools, in the coronavirus crisis.
Deploying a Relational Response to this Crisis:
Listen and caucus:
Leaders in West / Southwest IAF Institutions are forming teams to listen and learn what is happening with people. Teams are then working with West / Southwest IAF Organizations to caucus safely via phone or online and reflect on what they’ve heard.
Conduct Research Actions:
To understand this moment and how it is impacting us and our communities, West / Southwest IAF Leaders will meet, online and by telephone, with experts and public officials.
West / Southwest IAF Organizations will act collectively on the local, state and federal level.
As West / Southwest IAF leaders and institutions, we are called to maintain the bonds of community and act decisively to respond to the needs of our families and neighbors.
The event was held at St. Maria Gorretti Catholic Church, in a neighborhood in New Orleans East with one of the lowest vaccination rates in the city at just under 7 percent as of March 31. For two weeks canvassers from Together Louisiana walked the area’s streets, handing out flyers and attempting to make appointments for people who hadn’t already been vaccinated against the coronavirus.
For the group’s last canvassing effort, they brought along the band.
As demand for COVID-19 vaccine declines, public health officials say on-the-ground efforts like this are what’s needed....For canvassers Mimi Ayers and Katie Perry, engagement looks like sharing their vaccination stories whenever people they encounter have questions about the experience. “I'll say, ‘I got vaccinated. I did the Moderna shot. Here were my symptoms.’ Because I think it helps a lot for them to have a real person in front of them who's taken it. One person actually [told me] that,” Perry said.
...The Together Louisiana approach is derived from the organization’s efforts to engage voters during elections. The nonprofit is a partner in the Louisiana Department of Health’s “Bring Back Louisiana” campaign to reach herd immunity against the coronavirus....
“What can make something exciting more than food and music, particularly for New Orleans?” Lloyd of Together Louisiana said. “When you went canvassing and told people, ‘Hey, we're having this event, come on out, anyone who comes out can get vaccinated, and we're also going to have fish and a brass band, people's faces lit up.”...Together Louisiana plans to host another event at St. Maria Gorretti on May 29 to provide second shots for patients who got first doses on Saturday.
Photo Credit: Bobbi-Jeanne Misick, New Orleans Public Radio
The Latest Phase of Covid-19 Vaccine Rollout Is Slow, Deliberate and on the Ground, New Orleans Public Radio [pdf]
Monica Dorsey said about 500 homes in Maryvale were visited on Saturday and that she "absolutely" believes the effort will translate into higher vaccination rates.
She said the goal is to vaccinate between 1,500 and 1,800 people through May, adding that it is the "best feeling in the world" to know that Maryvale, and the larger Phoenix area, would be safer because of it.
Dorsey said the door-to-door efforts are also a key part in disseminating vaccine information, adding that "personal contact seems to make so much of a difference."
"Everybody is convinced social media is the way to reach people, but if you want to really, really reach them, you have to see them, talk to them, find out what's on their mind, hear their stories," she said. "It's so important and it is effective and we'll stay at it until percentages get where they need to be."
[Photo Credit: Drake Presto, The Republic]
Valley Interfaith Project (VIP) leaders, with the Daughters of Charity Sisters at St. Elizabeth and St. Cabrini Catholic Churches have begun knocking on doors and talking about the vaccine with residents around St. Vincent de Paul Church to ensure that all residents have the opportunity to get vaccinated.
[Photo Credit: Univision]
Invitan a la Comunidad a Vacunarse Contra el Coronavirus este 5 de Mayo en el Condado Maricopa, Univision [Video]
[At the beginning of the pandemic] members of community groups 'Mujeres en Acción' and 'Communities Organized for Relational Power in Action' (COPA) began meeting twice a week at the onset of the pandemic to figure out what community needs were after seeing the virus negatively impact their neighborhoods. They began making hundreds of phone calls to locals, going to their respective churches, schools and other places of gathering, building a list and figuring out what people needed to stay safe – and financially afloat – as the pandemic progressed.
“What we were finding is people almost knew that they have symptoms or believed that they were infected but they couldn’t afford to stay home,” says Maria Elena Manzo, program manager for Mujeres en Acción....
Organizers made a list of things they believed were needed to slow the spread of the virus in the hard-hit farmworker community. The list included better communication from employers about potential exposure and wage replacement for those who miss work due to self-quarantine.
Organizers met with Monterey County Health [officials, and] later began working with a wider group of community leaders, including representatives from the agriculture and hospitality industries and Community Foundation for Monterey County, called the Covid-19 Collaborative.
In December 2020, they presented to the Monterey County Board of Supervisors, who voted to approve a $4.9 million budget for a community health worker program. That program, called VIDA (for Virus Integrated Distribution of Aid), is currently funding over 110 community health workers across 10 organizations, Mujeres en Acción among them, to provide resources to people in the communities that are hardest hit. One of the groups, Centro Binacional para el Desarrollo Indígena Oaxaqueño, is providing information in Triqui, Zapoteco and Mixteco, indigenous languages from the states of Oaxaca and Guerrero in Mexico that are all spoken in Monterey County.
“One way to stop the spread was to hire people from the community as trusted messengers to talk to people to help them understand the need of being safe, using masks and distancing and all that,” Manzo says.
[Photo Credit: Jose Angel Juarez/Monterey County Weekly]
Fielding A Virus-The Agricultural Season is Ramping Up For the Second Time During a Pandemic. Is the County Ready?, Monterey County Weekly [pdf]
Volunteers with Together Louisiana went door-to-door across several Baton Rouge neighborhoods Monday, April 19, to educate people about the vaccine and answer any questions they might have from the comfort of their own home.
“Reality is we’ve all been held captive for over a year,” said Khalid Hudson.
Hudson is one of the organizers with Together Baton Rouge and Together Louisiana. He said most of the hesitation from people comes from misinformation.
“I know there’s a lot of information, a lot of websites, a lot of news coverage, but many folks may be in some of these communities might not watch regular news or might not have access to regular internet,” said Hudson. “So, it’s like that information still has not got to them. So, we’re bringing the information to their doorstep.”
[Photo Credit: WAFB 9]
Together Louisiana Going Door-to-Door to Sway Residents to Get Vaccinated, WAFB 9 [pdf]
Covid-19 Vaccine Sites and Testing Locations
Three groups funded by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) strengthened their networks during the pandemic and developed innovative strategies that will likely persist after the virus is controlled....
“The pandemic has lifted a veil,” Josephine [Lopez-Paul] says. “The number of people who are living in poverty” is in our face, she says.
“The need is there. You can’t ignore it. Poverty is not a secret in our city anymore.”
She adds, “DAI’s approach is still rooted in relationship, and that hasn’t changed. Clergy and leaders have been there for one another as part of a community.”
DAI is an affiliate of the West/Southwest Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF). It has 33 congregational members with approximately 300 active leaders. DAI conducts weekly virtual meetings for clergy to share concerns and potential solutions. At one meeting early in the crisis, a pastor reported that half of 30 participants contracted COVID-19 after an unmasked choir practice. In response, celebrants of the weekly televised Mass from the diocesan cathedral began to use the final minute of the broadcast to urge compliance with masking and socialdistancing recommendations.
Like others, DAI has moved many activities, such as organizing and training programs, online. Josephine says this will continue beyond the pandemic, so that “imagination and vision” can be shared with isolated participants in rural areas, as well as with those who can attend in person.
[In photo: DAI Leaders and organizers meet with Dallas Police Commanders, including then-chief U. Renee Hall, following a meeting as DPD Headquarters.]
The Post-Pandemic Path Ahead, Catholic Campaign for Human Development
[Excerpt from Dallas Morning News]
Racial and economic disparities have marked all aspects of the pandemic, from the early testing site locations to the diverging infection and death rates.The process for getting a vaccine still heavily favors those who have a car and internet access — making community outreach crucial in underserved areas, said Rogelio Sáenz, a demographer at the University of Texas at San Antonio who has studied the pandemic’s effects on communities of color....
Jenny Zacarias, a Peruvian immigrant, said more must be done to reach Latino and Black communities. She was vaccinated recently after the age limits were lowered to 50.
“Bring the vaccines to the people,” said Zacarias, 51.
That will improve efficiency and raise trust, said Zacarias, who volunteers with Dallas Area Interfaith at Holy Trinity Catholic Church. The group works with many undocumented immigrants, she said.
“They don’t trust the government. That is another concern. Who do they trust? They trust the church.”
Hispanic Texans are Still Struggling to Get Vaccines. Here’s How Dallas is Trying to Change That., Texas Tribune [pdf]
As COVID-19 Vaccine Eligibility Opens Up, Fears Persist That Residents of Color Will Continue To Be Left Behind, Dallas Morning News [pdf]
Some Churches Host Covid-19 Vaccination Clinics, Others Await, NBC-DFW [pdf]
In the face of impending evictions in Oklahoma, ACTION and VOICE-OKC leaders organized city councils from OK City, Tulsa, and Norman to urge the governor to expand the eviction moratorium in July. Governor Stitt responded by allocating $10 Million in state funds for a rental assistance grant program ($5 Million for Tulsa and $5 Million for Oklahoma City).
In Tulsa, ACTION was the first organization to go to the county with the idea for rental assistance, and leveraged $15 million for local residents. When the county attempted to claw back unspent funds at the end of October, ACTION leaders fought to keep $3.5 million for a brand new utility assistance program, which helped over 6,000 families.
In Oklahoma City, VOICE-OKC leaders were critical players in the fight for Oklahoma County to use $1.5 Million in CARES Acts funding for rental assistance. In combination with funds drawn down from the state, more that 5,200 families (estimated 17,368 people) were assisted.
Pastors and lay leaders from both organizations leaned into the fight to keep families sheltered, ultimately protecting tens of thousands across the state.
[Photo Credit: Video/ACTION Tulsa]
Tulsa City Council Asks Gov. Still to Put Most Evictions in State On Hold, Tulsa World [pdf]
Rental Assistance, Small Business Relief Programs Announced, The Oklahoman [pdf]
Tulsa County Organization Provides Rental Assistance, News On 6 [pdf]
Tulsa County Makes Cares Act Funds Available for Past-Due Utility Bills, Tulsa World [pdf]
Greg R. Taylor: Love Your Neighbor, Don't Evict Him, Tulsa World [pdf]
Good News Week 2021, ACTION Tulsa
In less than two weeks, One LA - IAF leaders launched a pilot effort to vaccinate close to 900 senior citizens and essential workers in the hard-hit South LA community around St. Brigid Catholic Church. Originally planning to vaccinate 600 people, the two-day event accommodated hundreds more who were eligible as word spread in the community.
"The issue is vaccine access," said Jim Mangia, President and CEO of St. John's Well Child and Family Center in an interview with ABC National News. "Most people in South LA have not had access to the vaccine. There's not hesitancy- people have questions of course, but people want to get vaccinated. The issue is that there was nowhere for them to go."
Nowhere to go, that is, until One LA leaders began organizing. After months of advocating for a more equitable vaccination campaign targeting hard-hit neighborhoods, One LA leaders secured a partnership with Supervisor Holly Mitchell and medical partner St. John's Well Child & Family Center to bring the vaccines to the neighborhood around St. Brigid Catholic Church.
"Unfortunately, it is one of the least vaccinated areas in Los Angeles," said Fr. Kenneth Keke, Pastor of St. Brigid Catholic Church. "One in five residents have had Covid-19, and only 1 in 18 have been vaccinated. We are going to change that. We don't want anybody left behind."
Over the course of four days, One LA leaders went door to door, passed out flyers and called 4,000 households. The targeted approach shielded the vaccine supply from out-of-the-area "vaccine chasers," but more importantly reached people who otherwise wouldn't be able to access the vaccine at all.
Meaghan Myrtle, a 90 year old resident of the neighborhood, had been trying for months to secure an appointment. Ms. Myrtle had no access to transportation or the internet. "This church called me back. Nobody else called me back."
One LA leaders are now working to duplicate the pilot in other hard hit communities, and to work with LA County to add these neighborhood-based pop-ups to the many methods needed to vaccinate the whole county.
"A year into this pandemic, we refuse to stay at home anymore," said Phaebra Croft, a One LA leader with St. Brigid and teacher with LAUSD. "Don't let anyone try to convince you that our communities don't want this vaccine. Demand is high and will only get higher."
[Photo Credit: Rafael Paz]
Group Gives Help to Vaccine Candidates, NBC 4 Los Angeles [video]
Fight for Vaccine Equity, ABC News National [video]
A Los Angeles Pilot Program Will Vaccinate Hundreds Within 2-Mile Radius of a Catholic Church, Religion News Service [pdf]
Hundreds of Vaccine Doses Administered in South LA After Volunteers Go Door to Door to Drive Up Interest, ABC7 Los Angeles [pdf]
Churches in LA's Working-Class Neighborhoods Urge: 'Bring the Vaccine to the People', Religion News Service [pdf]
Interfaith leaders hand-delivered letters to Mississippi legislators Wednesday urging them to look again at supporting the expansion of health care access to 300,000 Mississippians.
The Mississippi legislature balked at Medicaid expansion this year in a state ranking last for health care performance, with 13% of its residents lacking health insurance.
Working Together Mississippi — an organization building a constituency for increasing health care access through Medicaid with Affordable Care Act funding — is looking to reverse those trends.
The organization is backing an option to expand health care access for Mississippians where 90% of funding would come from the federal government, and the remaining 10% required match would be funded by a self-tax paid by hospitals. They want the support for this plan from the state legislature.
"When you look at what happened when Medicaid was not expanded, the amount of hurt and pain, suffering, that occurred across Mississippi is not just a health issue that's a moral issue,"Bishop Ronnie Crudup, of New Horizon Church International, said Wednesday, standing in the Capitol rotunda.
[Photo Credit: Mississippi Clarion-Ledger]
Mississippi Faith Leaders Deliver Letter to Legislators Urging Greater Health Care Access, Mississippi Clarion-Ledger [pdf]
Clergy to Deliver Letter to Governor and Legislature Urging Medicaid Expansion, Mississippi Public Broadcasting [pdf]