In Texas, government programs are out of reach for those without legal status, with a few exceptions such as emergency care. Alternative paths to medical care have existed for many years.
Many unauthorized immigrants use clinics and health fairs because they fear going to hospitals because their information could be placed in a database that might eventually link to federal immigration agencies.
Faith groups also are stepping up with health fairs to respond to the growing need. Medical students frequently pitch in with free services.
This summer, organizers for Dallas Area Interfaith held a trio of free health fairs at Catholic churches, a trusted safe space for families, and the fairs drew hundreds, said Socorro Perales, an organizer for Dallas Area Interfaith.
[Photo Credit: Brian Elledge, Dallas Morning News]
Rev. John Elford, senior pastor at University United Methodist, and David Guarino, of All Saints Episcopal, point out the effects of state action on homelessness in Austin.
This Thanksgiving, most of us will sit down with our loved ones for a feast in a cozy home. Outside, hundreds of our neighbors experiencing homelessness in Austin will be scrambling for a place to escape from the elements, both literal and political.
We of Austin’s faith community have frequent contact with our unsheltered neighbors, and they have taught us a great deal. They have shown that too many of us are just one or two paychecks and a run of bad luck away from the same fate. Our homeless neighbors have also taught us that we have a shared humanity that transcends circumstances.
Austin is at a critical moment in our fight to end homelessness. Recent attempts to revise the city’s old ordinances, which effectively criminalized everyday activities, brought people experiencing homelessness out of the shadows. It was hard to miss that our neighbors were suffering.
The response of the governor was to order the dismantling of encampments under state highways and provide a vacant lot off U.S. 183 as an alternative campground, far from the city’s social service and transportation hubs. As a result, many of our unhoused neighbors have been forced back to the woods, out of sight....
[Photo Credit: Jay Janner, Austin American Statesman]
Commentary: This Holiday, Let's Focus on Hope for Homeless, Austin American Statesman [pdf]
On a cloudy November day, EPISO/Border Interfaith celebrated the initiation of a $13 Million project that will provide 816 Montana Vista residents with water and wastewater services in a colonia far east of El Paso. El Paso Water Utilities publicly recognized the organization for its leadership in ensuring that residents have access to these essential services.
For years, Montana Vista felt like a forgotten community due to poverty, isolation and a lack of relationships with elected officials. Residents appealed to their then-priest at San Juan Diego Catholic for support in getting much needed basic streets, parks and wastewater services. A longtime leader and co-chair of EPISO, Father Ed Roden-Lucero and EPISO organizers worked with resident leaders, guiding them in their efforts to seek essential infrastructure.
Part of those efforts included community education about the Economically Distressed Areas Program, a program created in 1989 by EPISO/Border Interfaith and sister Texas IAF organizations to address lack of infrastructure in the colonias. That same year, EPISO/BI and Texas IAF organizations got out the vote to amend the Texas Constitution to provide the Texas Water Development Board $200 million dollars to issue grants and loans to install water and wastewater infrastructure in colonias and economically distressed areas. Since 1989, over $1 Billion dollars have been invested in colonias and economically distressed areas across Texas.
Change is coming to Montana Vista. In January, a long-fought for (and separately funded) road extension was newly opened, with four lanes, bike routes, sidewalks, lighting, and landscaping. Now, to community acclaim, El Paso Water is breaking ground for Phase 1 of its water and wastewater project -- scheduled for completion within 18 months.
The city-parish’s efforts to address food deserts in north Baton Rouge and other parts of the city has reached what Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome called a major milestone through the launch of the Healthy Food Retail Initiative...to provide incentives to grocers to set up shop in some of the city-parish’s underserved communities.
Broome was joined by an array of community partners during the announcement Tuesday, one being Together Baton Rouge, which has been working to bring more affordable, healthier food options to parts of the city where grocery stores are scarce.
Edgar Cage, a spokesman affiliated with the faith-based organization, said 23% of the parish’s population live in areas with little choice for healthy food. The national average is 7%, he said.
Together Baton Rouge claims the most vulnerable residents affected by the parish’s food deserts are 19,000 children and 7,000 seniors.
“Early on we knew there needs to be infrastructure created to make things happen,” Cage said.
[Photo Credit: Bill Feig, The Advocate]
Oklahoma City voters will decide on Dec. 10 whether to extend the MAPS penny sales tax for eight years to fund nearly $1 billion in projects. An estimated $115 million would go toward Chesapeake and the Thunder’s practice facility in northwest Oklahoma City....
In addition to the Chesapeake money, MAPS 4 proposes a $37 million soccer stadium on a site to be determined. Much of the rest of the money in MAPS 4 would be directed to social services, including mental health and homelessness, and to parks and recreation centers.
Sundra Flansburg, a board member of Voices Organized in Civic Engagement (VOICE), which pushed for the social components to be included, said the group is backing the MAPS 4 package and accepts the sports facility funding as necessary to attract broader support.
She said the sports facilities are “not our favorite part of it, but we are very excited about the rest of it. … Politics is politics. And we got a much, much better package.”
[Photo Credit: Dave Morris, The Oklahoman]
Building on a successful 32-year history of organizing, Austin Interfaith officially renamed and re-founded itself as Central Texas Interfaith (CTI) with over 320 leaders from Bastrop, Comal, Hays, Travis, McLennan (Waco) and Williamson counties.
Emerging leaders told impactful stories that informed a revised agenda of issues, and delegates from a 10-county region committed to a broadened identity, fundraising goals, and GOTV strategy to promote the affirmed agenda.
When the recent gubernatorial campaign yielded a reduced voter turnout of only 46% -- and no clear winner -- clergy from Together Louisiana grew concerned, particularly when they learned that turnout from low income and predominantly minority neighborhoods was 17% lower than in 2016.
Says The Rev. Shawn Moses Anglim, pastor of the First Grace Methodist Church in mid-city New Orleans: “When major blocs of people aren’t participating that worries me. Whatever their reasons, it’s not good for the country, it’s not good for the state, and it’s not good for New Orleans.”
Reaching out to pastors from diverse denominations, he convened a meeting to decide what to do. Congregations in Baton Rouge, Alexandria and Shreveport held similar gatherings.
With help from Together Louisiana and the Power Coalition, the ministers put together envelopes to give to institutional leaders that held the names of about 30 voters who cast ballots in the 2016 presidential election but didn’t participate in the previous month's primary. Leaders were commissioned to reaching out personally to each of those voters and asking them to participate.
The nonpartisan strategy appeared to be working, with the first day of early voting yielding the highest turnout ever -- about 2,500 more than in 2016.
At a Baton Rouge event last week organized by Together Louisiana, representatives of various community groups stood in a line to announce, one after another, how many volunteers they had and how many voters they would visit. Julie Hoffman of Beth Shalom Synagogue in Baton Rouge, for instance, told the cheering audience that her temple had six volunteers who would talk to 180 voters.
Volunteers took their lists of names, addresses and phone numbers and started knocking on doors.
Morgan Clevenger, president of the Fairgrounds Triangle Neighborhood Association, was one of the volunteers in New Orleans’ 7th ward.
“You have to have a have conversation with them about why voting is important,” Clevenger said. Many people feel their vote doesn’t matter. They’ve voted before but haven’t seen a change, so feel that their specific vote doesn’t really matter in the larger scheme of things.
“I say, ‘I hear you saying my vote doesn’t matter.’ I say, ‘If you don’t vote for you, would you vote for your neighbors?” Clevenger said. “They can get with that. It’s a selfless thing. They can help someone else and that’s a good thing.”
People are more receptive to someone from their own neighborhood. “What we’re doing here is building a community for those who may feel left out,” she said.
[Photo Credit: Bill Feig, The Advocate]
At a US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) General Assembly reception in Baltimore, Pima County Interfaith (PCI) organizer Ana Chavarin was awarded the Cardinal Joseph Bernadin New Leadership Award. Each year, the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) honors individuals, like Ana, who "demonstrate leadership in fighting poverty and injustice in the United States through community-based solutions."
Having worked with PCI for the past four years, Ana was originally nominated by the Diocese of Tucson’s Office of Human Life & Dignity. Said Sr. Leonette Kochan, the department's former director: “Ana's Catholic faith motivates and inspires her role as a parent, faith community member, and leader in the wide range of social outreach initiatives in which she participates. Her courageous determination and the support of others found expression in her life of service to others, especially in programs that empower the lives of others. As a person who faces economic struggles as a single parent of four children, Ana also leads by example in balancing family life with work, while pursuing a college degree.”
In 2018 she won a US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) award for Hispanic Catholic Leaders and was also recognized by the Arizona Daily Star for her community achievements (see links further below).
[In photo, Ana Chavarin prepares Spanish-speaking parish ministers for leadership.]
Once Cheated, Community Leader Now Helps Others Speak with United Voice, Catholic News Service [pdf]
Neto's Tucson: Ana Chavarin is a Single Mom, an Immigrant and a Success, Arizona Daily Star [pdf]
On a rainy Friday night, the Dallas church hall meeting was filled with talk of the latest tiroteos y balaceras — gunfire and gun battles.
Erika Gonzalez said she can now distinguish between the metallic sounds and rhythm of a high-caliber assault weapon vs. a pistol. “They discharge and they refill,” she said at St. Philip the Apostle Catholic Church in southeast Dallas.
“We need more help for this combat,” said Lily Rodriguez, a U.S. citizen who helped organize the meeting. “Raise your voice. It will give us credibility.”
They’re part of a new gun-control campaign that is spreading in Mexican-American and Mexican immigrant neighborhoods in Dallas and elsewhere in Texas. Already, 11,000 Texans have signed postcards asking for support for four federal bills, including two on enhanced background checks for firearms purchases, organizers say.
The campaign started after the mass shooting Aug. 3 at an El Paso Walmart, in which a Dallas-area man traveled to the border city with an assault rifle to hunt Mexicans, according to a court affidavit. By the end of the shooting spree, 22 people were dead. It is believed to be the worst violence against Latinos in a century — since widespread lynchings across the West aimed at those of Mexican ancestry....
[Photo Credit: Dianne Solis, Dallas Morning News]
After El Paso Massacre, Dallas Area Interfaith Calls for Tougher Gun Laws, Dallas Morning News [pdf]
One week after immigrant leaders from El Carmen Catholic Church raised the issue of parental access to schools, delivering poignant testimony at a Southside ISD School Board meeting last week, the Superintendent publicly reversed his position.
In a letter that went out to all parents, he announced that any form of photo identification issued by a governmental entity, including a matricula consular ID card, would be accepted when verifying parents’ identities on school campuses.
The issue originally emerged when Sandra, a member of El Carmen Catholic Church in San Antonio, attempted to join her son at his elementary school for lunch. She was barred from campus because she could not show a Texas ID. When COPS/Metro leaders requested a meeting with the Superintendent to discuss the policy, they were initially denied.
It wasn't until COPS/Metro and El Carmen Catholic leaders joined Sandra at the next Southside ISD School Board meeting that the district began to reconsider its position.
Said Vincent Arreguin, a COPS/Metro leader from El Carmen Church, “We continue to be committed in our interest to build the relationship with the district. This is not only a win for our parents but our children who are the most important. We are glad that now there’s clarification about the policy.”
[Photo Credit: Camille Phillips, Texas Public Radio]
San Antonio Parents Without Texas IDs Barred from Southside ISD Schools, Texas Public Radio
Southside ISD's ID Policy Has Some Parents Complaining it Leaves Them Out of Kid's Schooling, San Antonio Express-News