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TMO Secures $11.3M in Funding for Rental Assistance in Brazorias Co.

[Excerpt]

Churches in Brazoria County, with its county seat being in Angleton, are helping residents still hurting from the pandemic’s financial fallout to apply for rental assistance through a recent $11.3 million federal grant, community leaders say.

The monies became available June 14 after Church and community leaders met with Brazoria County Judge Matt Sebesta earlier in the spring. They specifically asked him how they could help distribute the funds so it wouldn’t be sent back to the federal government as had been considered.

A contingency of three Catholic priests, The Metropolitan Organization (TMO) nonprofit and other church groups, including Grace Episcopal, met with the county judge back in March.

“We let the county judge know that we have volunteers to help with the paperwork and we have those in dire need of assistance,” said Sister Maureen O’Connell, director of the Secretariat for Social Concerns.

“Poor and vulnerable people trust the Church more. So this collaboration between government and Church groups is a wonderful opportunity to help them,” she said.

[Photo Credit: Catholic News Service]

$11.3 Million Approved for Brazoria County Residents Struggling With Rent in Pandemic, Texas Catholic Herald

 


California IAF Celebrates Victory on Tenant Protections, Applauds AB832 for Keeping Families Housed & Rental Assistance Flowing

Thousands of leaders across California Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) organizations celebrate a new deal announced by the Governor and state legislators to extend the state’s eviction moratorium and rent relief program that was set to expire June 30, 2021.

The California IAF specifically applauds State leaders for:

  • Extending the eviction ban to September 30, 2021
  • Paying 100% of overdue rent and utilities paid for landlords and tenants
  • Providing up to18 months of rental assistance for past and future rent
  • Allowing either tenants or land lords to receive funds
  • Forestalling evictions until rental assistance applications are attempted

On June 3rd, 2021, over 600 California IAF leaders convened on Zoom -- along with Catholic Bishop Oscar Cantú (whose op-ed can be read here), Episcopal Bishop Lucinda Ashby and two state legislators -- to call for an extension of the eviction moratorium and expansion of SB91 to allow more flexibility with rental assistance distribution to keep families housed.  California IAF organized hundreds of phone calls and emails to State Senators, Assembly members and the Governor asking for more time and flexibility to get funds to families who missed rent due to the pandemic.

“California IAF leaders are pleased our state legislators acted to protect our families from eviction and provide 100% of rent owed.  Our thanks go to Senators Caballero, Durazo, Laird and Weiner and Assemblymembers Chiu, Bloom, Reyes and Santiago for leading the charge on behalf of our families," said Rabbi Paula Marcus of Temple Beth El, Aptos.  "We would have preferred a 6 month extension, but we will turn our focus now to local organizing meetings so our families understand their rights and how to apply for rental assistance.”

“By sharing our stories with state agency staff and legislators, our recommendations were accepted to allow for easier income verification and tenants with informal leases to be included as eligible for assistance.  By making future months of rent available, this will allow tenants like me to be able to cover my rent while I pay off the debts to my family and credit card that I took on to keep my landlord paid,” said Lourdes Rios, COPA leader in Santa Cruz County.


Time of Transition: Ernesto Cortes Jr. Moves to New Role as IAF Sr. Advisor

Joe Rubio to begin as IAF Co-Director

Dear IAF Leaders, Organizers, Allies and Friends --

After over 50 years organizing and building the West/Southwest IAF region, Ernesto Cortes Jr. will be transitioning from IAF Co-Director to a new role as IAF senior advisor. Mr. Cortes officially submitted his transition plan to our Board in January, and he and the IAF Board have carefully planned this process over the past year. 

We are also pleased to announce that Joe Rubio, long-time IAF senior organizer, will succeed Mr. Cortes as Co-Director effective July 1, 2021. Mr. Rubio, who has organized and supervised IAF projects in Texas, Arizona, and Colorado, will join Martin Trimble, IAF’s other Co-Director, who succeeded Mike Gecan in 2019. 

The IAF Board is deeply grateful for Mr. Cortes’ leadership and work to build the modern IAF in the West/Southwest, developing some of the most powerful and enduring non-partisan, broad-based citizens’ organizations in the country. We are gratified that, as a senior advisor, he will continue to offer seasoned guidance for organizer formation, leadership training, and development of the region. 

Under Mr. Cortes’s leadership, the West/SW IAF has grown to 30 member affiliates, beginning in the early 1970’s with the founding of Communities Organized for Public Service (COPS) in San Antonio, which pioneered institutionally based membership organizations. Since then, West/Southwest IAF won transformative victories to bring billions of dollars in major infrastructure improvements, education finance reform, health care, immigrant rights, and workforce training, among others. These victories have dramatically changed the face of communities throughout the region. Even more importantly, these IAF organizations have identified and trained thousands of leaders who learned to enter public life and create long-term change. 

As you all know, there is only ONE Ernesto Cortes, and his contributions have been irreplaceable. We look forward to honoring and celebrating Mr. Cortes’ IAF leadership at a collective celebration sometime in the near future when we can all gather together in person. 

Sincerely,

IAF Co-Chairs
Georgianna Gleason
Bishop Douglas Miles
Bishop Joel Martinez


MOC Calls for Additional Support for People Experiencing Homelessness

[Excerpts]

With more than 100 new housing vouchers dedicated for the homeless coming to Marin from President Biden’s housing plan, city and county leaders are proposing to pool approximately $2 million to hire case managers to help get people off the streets, and fast.

Marin’s two largest cities have thrown their support behind the county effort. San Rafael and Novato city councils voted unanimously last week to contribute $260,000 and $240,000, respectively.

During its budget hearings set for June 21 through 23, the Marin County Board of Supervisors also will consider adding $1.2 million to the pot, said Matthew Hymel, county administrator.

Local jurisdictions are using an influx of federal aid from the American Rescue Plan to pay for the contributions. The county of Marin is receiving $50 million, while San Rafael is receiving a total of $16 million and Novato is getting approximately $9 million.

....

Pat Langley, a member of the Marin Organizing Committee activist group, said homeless people need more help.

“This is a blessing,” she said of the plan. “But without an adequate number of case managers to assure that rental units are located and people are transitioned into their new homes we would not be able to take advantage of this opportunity.”

Hening, whose part-time contract with the city ends June 30, is remaining in Marin to continue work with Opening Doors Marin as an independent consultant on homeless initiatives throughout the county. He was a full-time city employee from 2016 through May 2020. His final salary was $10,952 a month. He has been working on a part-time contract since June 2020, earning $150 an hour.

[Photo Credit: Sherry LaVars Marin Independent Journal]

Marin Could Pool Up to $2 Million for Homeless InitiativeMarin Independent Journal [pdf]


California IAF Keeps Up the Pressure on Tenant Protections

[Excerpts]

A total of 675 leaders from across California convened on Zoom June 3 in an effort to urge California Gov. Gavin Newsom to extend and expand Senate Bill 91.

SB91, which went into effect in January, was the follow-up to Assembly Bill 3088’s eviction moratorium. It also outlined a state rental assistance program, including changes such as prohibiting consideration of Covid-19 rental debt as a negative factor for prospective tenants.

But the bill is set to expire on June 30, and while talks have been ongoing about extending it, few details have been released to the public. This prompted the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF), a network of faith and community-based organizations, to hold the June 3 meeting.

....

On Tuesday, California IAF released an additional statement further urging Newsom and state legislators to extend the moratorium without a preemption. Local COPA leader Mayra Bernabe said they have heard rumors of a 60-day extension that includes a preemption barring local governments from acting to extend their own moratoriums. 

“If the extension is any shorter than 6 months, we want to be sure it gives local governments the flexibility to enact additional protective measures,” Bernabe said.

COPA leaders met Tuesday night to send emails and do phone banking to state representatives. Bernabe said they also wanted to put pressure on the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors to also consider a local extension, which other counties and cities have already done.

“We already have a big homelessness crisis in Santa Cruz County,” she said. “If this is not extended longer … we can expect a wave, a tsunami of homelessness. There are many out there who are on the brink, or will be evicted soon. We’re trying to get in front of this and prevent it.”

Bernabe added that thousands of households in the county are currently behind on their rent. Many did pay rent, but had to borrow money, take out loans and max out their credit cards—and that’s not even considering the upcoming months.

At the June 3 meeting Carolyn Winston, an IAF leader and member of St. Brigid Catholic Church in Los Angeles, urged people to contact their legislators before the June 15 budget deadline.

“The window is closing, but we have an opportunity to take action to impact legislative decisions,” Winston said. “Our actions influence their decision-making. Together we can effect change.”

Hundreds of Advocates Urge Gov. Newsom to Expand SB91Good Times [pdf]

Hundreds of Advocates Urge Gov. Newsom to Expand SB91The Pajaronian [pdf]

With Assistance Lagging, State Must Extend Rental Eviction MoratoriumSanta Cruz Sentinel [pdf]


AMOS Expands Access to Children's Mental Health Services: Additional Mobile Crisis Responders to be Hired

After 100 AMOS leaders appeared at a Broadlawns Medical Center Board Meeting to support an initiative expanding children and youth access to mental health services, Broadlawns Trustees voted 5-2 to hire two mobile crisis responders trained to work with children and adolescents.  Walnut Hills UMC leader Connie McKeen delivered testimony on behalf of AMOS in support of this momentous step forward for Polk County youth and their families.  During the hearing, one of the Trustees exclaimed, "Wow, that's a lot of people."  

20 AMOS leaders followed up in person within weeks, inspired by thousands of Polk County residents who shared stories based on their experiences, conducted research, and organized postcard campaigns and neighborhood walks over 4 years to make children's crisis services a reality.

In a related Oped, leaders Lindsey Braun and Benjamin C. Bell expressed, 

Anger has been the pilot light that has kept AMOS leaders doggedly pursuing the implementation of youth mental health crisis services for over four years.

New Mental Health Resources Coming for Children in Polk CountyDes Moines Register  [pdf]
Polk County Unveils New Mental Health Services for ChildrenKCCI Des Moines [pdf]


Together Louisiana Challenges Proposal to Allow Industry Employees on Water Conservancy Commission


“The Commission has not stopped, or even slowed the saltwater intrusion into our groundwater drinking sources, or the industrial pumping that is causing the contamination.  Why?  There are commissioners who are...employees of the very industries whose groundwater pumping is being raised right now.”  
 -- Dianne Hanley, Together Louisiana

[Excerpts]

....

This bill will allow industries to continue to control the Commission enabling the ethics violations that led to the bill’s creation. The bill was created in response to five commissioners, who are employees of ExxonMobil, Georgia-Pacific, Entergy, and the Baton Rouge Water Company, being charged by the Louisiana Board of Ethics with violations. Retroactively, the legislation would void the ethics violations of these five commissioners. 

Senate Bill 203 implies that even if an individual is under civil investigation for ethics charges, the Louisiana Legislature can pass legislation to retroactively absolve them of any wrongdoing. In doing so, Senate Bill 203 regresses ethics law, endangering Baton Rouge’s clean water source, and setting a bad precedent regarding conflicts of interests. 

Environmental advocates and groups are particularly alarmed by the bill because saltwater has been intruding on the Baton Rouge-area aquifer which supplies most of the drinking water to the region. These advocates and groups suspect that this is because industries are extracting too much water from the aquifer for commercial purposes. 

....

The bill sailed through Louisiana’s House and Senate, so now it’s up to Governor John Bel Edwards to veto it. “In a conversation with the governor that we had, Together Louisiana and Together Baton Rouge, the governor shared with us that he thought the legislators will be low to support a bill that exempts anyone from the ethics code and that changes the ethics code for some,” Hanley explained. “We’re asking [the governor] to veto this because it would exonerate people who are violating the code, and it would put into law the ability to continue to be on the commission even if one has a conflict of interest.”


600 California IAF Leaders Call for Expansion of Tenant Protections to Prevent Tsunami of Evictions


With the deadline fast approaching on a statewide renter eviction moratorium, the California Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF), including Bishop Oscar Cantú of the Catholic Diocese of San José, is calling for an extension of the eviction moratorium and amendment of SB 91 to allow more flexibility with rental assistance.

[Excerpts]

“Hundreds of families on the Central Coast are barely keeping a roof over their heads — we need more time and more flexibility to give them the support they need to stay housed,” wrote Mayra Bernabe of Communities Organized for Relational Power in Action in an email. “The state has the funds, they need to act to get them distributed to our families while protecting them from eviction.”

....

More than 500 activists organizing beneath the umbrella of the California Industrial Areas Foundation coalition, including affiliate COPA — a regional nonprofit consisting of 27 dues-paying member institutions across Santa Cruz, Monterey and San Benito counties — gathered for a statewide rally via Zoom Thursday night, participated in a call to action in seeking to extend the state’s rental eviction moratorium and Senate Bill 91 or the COVID-19 Tenant Relief Act, by an additional six months....

Assemblymember Robert Rivas, who spoke in favor of the state’s previous extension of SB 91, warned in January of a coming “wave of homelessness” without the legislation. Prior to COVID-19, Rivas said, some 3.3 million households in California already were living paycheck to paycheck.

“COVID-19 is a financial disaster that no household could have prepared for – and it’s our black and brown communities who are feeling the worst impacts of the virus,” said Rivas, whose district extends into Watsonville. “Not only are Latinos disproportionately more likely to contract the virus than the general population, but they are more likely to have lost their jobs due to the subsequent recession. Latinos, who make up 38 percent of the workforce, account for 50 percent of statewide job losses since the start of the pandemic, and those who lost their jobs overwhelmingly rent.”


CTI Calls for Expansion of Rental Assistance & Investment of Stimulus in Homelessness Reduction

Excerpt: 

Leaders with Central Texas Interfaith – a non-partisan coalition of religious congregations – are also pushing the city council to act.

Jonathan McManus-Dail, the assistant priest at St. Julien of Norwich Episcopal Church, said the city should use available federal funds to make an immediate impact.

“I think many people, myself included, want more urgency around this issue because we see people suffering,” McManus-Dail told KXAN.

Austin has been criticized for not prioritizing permanent supportive housing efforts in the past. Homelessness advocates say the need for urgency has only intensified since the passage of Proposition B. 

Fr. Ed Roden-Lucero, with EPISO/Border Interfaith, Leaves Legacy of Fighting for Justice

[Excerpts]

For four decades, the Rev. Ed Roden-Lucero has influenced El Paso far beyond the walls of the parishes he pastored. He has been a key part of efforts to bring water and sewer services to tens of thousands of homes, and train hundreds of El Pasoans for jobs that paid a living wage and altered lives....

Those who worked with him said he fought poverty and injustice wherever he saw it. EPISO was involved in efforts to build El Paso Children’s Hospital and expand University Medical Center clinics across the county so that more people would have access to health care.

While Roden-Lucero served as pastor of San Juan Diego Catholic Church in Montana Vista, EPISO led an effort to divide the Clint Independent School District Board of Trustees into single-member districts so that power and resources were more evenly divided.

Roden-Lucero arrived in El Paso a couple of years after a group of mostly Catholic churches formed the El Paso Interreligious Sponsoring Organization, or EPISO, a nonprofit organization that trained community-based leaders to advocate for issues important to them. He had received training from the Industrial Areas Foundation, EPISO’s parent organization, before coming to El Paso.

EPISO leaders quickly focused on the dire situation in colonias, neighborhoods along the U.S.-Mexico border that had been developed without the most basic human services. By the mid-1980s, more than 80,000 El Paso County residents lived in homes without water or wastewater services. Many of them developed hepatitis A because they drank from water wells dug next to septic tanks.

State and local leaders had shown little interest in addressing the growing crisis. So EPISO and other IAF affiliates across Texas organized and turned up the heat, bringing national media attention to shameful conditions along the border.

Dolores DeAvila, an educator in El Paso’s Lower Valley and EPISO member, met Roden-Lucero in the early 1980s and was part of the fight to bring water to the colonias.

“I have learned a lot from him in terms of his being very courageous, acting on his beliefs and working with his parishioners, engaging them in their needs,” she said.

Years of lobbying and public pressure by EPISO and its sister organizations paid off in 1989, when Texas voters passed a bond issue to begin the process of providing water and wastewater infrastructure to border colonias....

[Photo Credit: Corrie Boudreaux/El Paso Matters]

The Priest Who Spent 40 Years Fighting to Reshape El Paso, El Paso Matters [pdf]