At Urging of CTI, Travis County & City of Austin Invest $200+ Million into Homelessness Prevention & Support
After years of working to protect the dignity of people experiencing homelessness and preventing low-income families from displacement, Central Texas Interfaith leaders celebrated the investment of $220+ Million in federal funding into homelessness prevention and support.
Over 100 CTI leaders were joined by City of Austin Mayor and Travis County Judge Andy Brown who expressed appreciation for the organization's partnership and doggedness in addressing key regional challenges. Leaders relayed how this effort was connected to a multi-year effort that resulted in passage of an affordable housing bond in 2018, $40 Million in rental assistance during the first year of the pandemic, and now over $217 million in federal dollars into homelessness prevention and support.
Elected officials further committed to identifying sources for additional rental assistance as eviction moratoriums lift.
Homeless Housing Plans, Spectrum News [video]
Interfaith Group Calls for Immediate Action on Homelessness, Austin Monitor [pdf]
Press Conference Footage, Central Texas Interfaith
VOICE (Voices Organized in Civic Engagement) of Oklahoma City condemns the Oklahoma Corporation Commission for apparent conflict of interest in campaign contributions they have received.
The three elected members of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, which regulates utilities and numerous other industries, have taken hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from those they’re tasked with regulating during their most recent election cycle, a CNHI Oklahoma [News] investigation has found.
“The rubber stamping so quickly has me worried that this world is just too cozy between regulators and the companies they’re supposed to be watching," said Steven Goldman, a member of VOICE, a coalition of groups that have come together to advocate for Oklahoma City-area residents. He became interested in the Commission after members of his Oklahoma City congregation started expressing concerns about increasing utility rates.
Goldman said he believes the Commission is more invested in protecting businesses over consumers and in limiting public access.....
"[R]oofing contractors face litigation from the Attorney General’s Office if they raise prices more than 10% after a natural disaster, but companies that increased natural gas costs by 1,000% have yet to face any consequences."
One LA Leaders Persuade City Planning Commission to Reject Demolition of Affordable Housing Near Temple
One LA leaders from Temple Beth Am played an important role in the Los Angeles Planning Commission's decision to reject a redevelopment project that would have eliminated 12 units of affordable housing in the Pico-Robertson neighborhood, a desert for subsidized housing units. The proposed plan would have resulted in the demolition of 6 commercial properties and 12 units of rent stabilized housing to construct a 7-story hotel in their place.
Temple Beth Am leaders from One LA have been working with city officials to mitigate the loss of precious affordable housing. While not opposed to the redevelopment of the area, they expressed concerns about losing housing in a neighborhood where the local city council district office had confirmed that it did not have any housing units that could benefit from the city’s linkage fee program.
Nancy Goldstone, a leader with One LA and resident of Pico-Robertson said,
“This hotel project was going to eliminate affordable housing in an area where there is very little to none.
As a One LA leader it was important for me and our team to organize and have conversations with city officials to let them know that this project did not serve the interests or general good of the neighborhood.”
City Planning Commission Rejects Pico-Robertson Hotel Development, Urbanize Los Angeles
Mary Immaculate hosted a Dallas Area Interfaith meeting in late October where school, police and mental health officials committed to working with one another to better residents’ access to resources by placing a community health worker with the church and communicating better.
“We will not bury our loved ones anymore because of lack of access to mental health services,”
parishioner Natalia Valenzuela said at the meeting. “By getting the services we need and building unity, we will overcome.”
[Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber, Dallas Morning News]
Everyone in San Antonio knows about flash floods—“Turn Around, Don’t Drown” signs are familiar on certain roads. But in the West Side, a neighborhood established by Mexican Americans who were restricted from more resourced neighborhoods north of downtown, floods were far more commonplace.
“I remember as kids getting pulled out of the [family] station wagon [that almost got swept away],” Mata said. “We were at the time like five or six, I think. But yeah, we didn’t know that was not normal.”
Mata says when you grow up experiencing poverty, “you accept it, normalize it, and blame yourself for it.” What seems normal at the time becomes absurd when you reflect back on it as an adult.
Mata speaks softly and with a kind of wisdom that comes from navigating barriers early in life.....
Mata is retired from two careers—one in federal law enforcement, and another as a lietenant [sic] commander in the Navy Reserves. Nowadays, she spends a lot of her time with COPS/Metro, a community organizing coalition that gathers people from churches, schools, businesses and unions to represent the needs of families and children. Over the last year, Mata and her COPS/Metro partners have spurred the City of San Antonio to create and invest in a workforce training program designed to support people seeking higher-paying jobs.
The coalition’s first fight, all those decades ago? Demanding that the city fix the West Side’s drainage issues.
Mata’s story is coming full circle....
[Photo Credit: Echoes]
Project ARRIBA has been quietly working with El Paso leaders to help hundreds of mostly Hispanic students from poor families through nursing school and drastically changing their lives since 1998. They’ve been at it so quietly they barely get noticed publicly anymore. But they have been busy.
The Hunt Institute of Global Competitiveness at the University of Texas at El Paso released a study last month that found for every dollar invested in Project ARRIBA, $28 is returned to the region. ARRIBA has added $893 million to El Paso’s economy in earnings by the program’s graduates since 1995, the report says.
The nonprofit recently received a $250,000 Bank of America grant for regional workforce development to address “a shortage of healthcare workers at a critical time.” The El Paso region has long suffered an acute shortage of nurses, but since the novel coronavirus made its debut, the shortage has worsened. And hospitals in El Paso, like many others across America, are short on registered nurses by the hundreds.
El Paso businessman Woody Hunt endorsed the organization in the announcement, saying,
“Project ARRIBA has become a crucial community partner that is helping build the next generation of healthcare workers who come from and understand the unique needs of our region...."
ARRIBA sprang from a social justice organization that El Paso’s Catholic Diocese formed in 1985 known as the El Paso Interreligious Sponsoring Organization, or EPISO. It’s now called EPISO-Border Interfaith because churches of other denominations have joined.
[In photo: Roman Ortiz, Executive Director of ARRIBA. Photo Credit: David Crowder, El Paso Inc.]
After engaging over 350 Watsonville residents in conversation about public safety and the quality of interactions with police, COPA leaders presented their findings to the Watsonville City Council. Their findings, rooted in the experiences of hundreds of people from diverse walks of life and ages, were quickly integrated into an official report by an ad hoc committee on Policing and Social Equity.
COPA pointed out that policing and safety are not necessarily equivalent terms, and that systemic investments in mental health, youth and family programming, and budget alignments in city and police spending would go a long way towards making Watsonville safer -- particularly for youth of color.
Prior to the pandemic, over 100 COPA-IAF leaders had convened with the Watsonville Police Department Chief and Santa Cruz County Supervisor to address identified concerns about engagements between police and community. Soon after, the City responded with an invitation to participate in an ad-hoc committee on Policing and Social Equity. But COPA leaders first wanted to include more residents in the discussion, and with the support of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), COPA engaged hundreds more residents in substantive conversations about direct experiences with Watsonville police and what restorative justice can look like.
COPA's reported findings have so far been met with a positive reception by Watsonville elected officials. Leaders plan to persist in their efforts as the City identifies a new Chief for the Watsonville Police Department.
[Photo Credits: (top) Tarmo Hannula, Good Times; (middle) courtesy of COPA]
Watsonville Committee Calls for more Police Accountability, Santa Cruz Local
City of Watsonville Report, Watsonville Ad Hoc Committee on Policing and Social Equity
Report on Police Reforms Filed by Watsonville City Council, Santa Cruz Sentinel [pdf]
Wrapping Up My Term as Mayor, The Pajaronian [12/2020]
A Deep Look into the Watsonville Police Department, The Pajaronian [08/2020]
Watsonville Police Oversight Committee in the Works, The Pajaronian [07/2020]
Watsonville, Santa Cruz to Start Police Reform Committees, Santa Cruz Local [07/2020]
New Committees Address police Reform in Watsonville, Santa Cruz County, Santa Cruz Local [02/2021]
Education advocacy groups on Tuesday filed hundreds of thousands of signatures to block Gov. Doug Ducey’s sweeping income tax cuts, the largest in state history, from going into effect and forcing a public vote on them.
For that to actually happen, at least 118,823 of the 215,787 signatures the Invest in Arizona coalition submitted on one of the measures must be deemed valid by elections officials. If they are, Arizona voters will decide the fate of the tax cuts in November 2022.
[The flat tax] ..."is an affront to the voters of the state, an insult to our teachers, and it’s a direct attack on people that all of us people of faith are instructed to protect: children, the vulnerable, those who live in the margins and have suffered the most in the pandemic,” said Rev. Jeff Procter-Murphy, a member of the Valley Interfaith Project.
Procter-Murphy highlighted one of the points the Invest in Arizona coalition has made since the launch of its referendum campaigns in July: The planned tax cuts won’t just affect education, but the overall state budget.
“The utter lack of political will to invest in future generations has to stop,”
he said. “We see how this rushed tax code will handcuff our state in coming budget cycles, we see how it shortchanges our most vulnerable families for generations to come. We see how these expanded tax cuts will cripple our state government beyond education, health and human services and public safety will also be impacted affecting everyone. Today we are standing up for those whom our elected officials have refused to defend: the poor, the vulnerable, and our children.”
Behind him, white boxes were stacked, some with a red sticker on it with a message in white letters: “The people of Arizona gave Senate Bill 1828 an F.” Next to him were school-aged children holding white poster boards with different messages on them. Some read, “Governor, your handout to the wealthy is in time-out!” “$1 Billion to the wealthy at the expense of my classroom? Not today Governor!” and “Invest in AZ now.”
[Photo Credit: Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services]
School Advocates Turn in Petitions to Overturn Arizona's $1 Billion Tax Cut, Arizona Republic [pdf]
Foes of Massive Arizona Tax Cuts File to Block Them, Associated Press [pdf]
Petitions Turned in, Apparently Will Force Public Vote on Arizona Tax Cut, Arizona Daily Star [pdf]
Fighting wage theft on the community and parish level can be especially effective.
A big part of building any coalition is talking directly to people about their problems and really listening to them, said Jason Lowry, an organizer with the Valley Interfaith Project based in Phoenix.
"Once you figure out what the stories are, there are all kinds of ways you can pull together people who are willing to take action on it. It needs to be truly a grassroots effort."
Such actions also help congregations rethink their role locally, he says, and allow them to "reclaim turf."
Monica Dorcey, who has been a leader with Valley Interfaith Project for 15 years, recently worked with a network of churches in Phoenix to get more low-income people vaccinated.
In general, the basic tool for reaching people, according to Dorcey, is a neighborhood walk, going door-to-door, passing out flyers, setting up house meetings. "Even the ice cream lady who goes all over the neighborhood is involved. It creates a buzz in the neighborhood" as well as generating positive publicity, she said.
"If you don't rush through it, you can have a real conversation not just about what you're interested in, but about what else is going on. You can have opportunities for people to say what's on their mind," she said.
In the case of a topic like wage theft, "it's not something people readily talk about. You have to put yourself in a position where they can open up about it," Dorcey said.
If someone has complaints about some type of wage theft, the goal would be first to help the person "share their story in a clear, concise way." Then, she suggested, a delegation of parish members might approach the individual's employer.
"Say 'We don't expect our people to be treated that way. We respectfully ask you to rectify this situation.' Make it clear that this is something we're working on and we're not going away," she said.
If that happens, she added, "Word would get around. The church might become known as a place to go" to redress injustices.
[Photo Credit: CNS / Reuters / Mike Blake]
On This Labor Day, Advocating for Just Wages Means Fighting Company Theft, National Catholic Reporter [pdf]
COPA, which stands for Communities Organized for Relational Power in Action, held meetings with its different core teams at different locations throughout California and paid attention to the voices demanding help. As a result, rental assistance regulations were modified to include people living in rooms and garages whether or not they had a lease. Once [COPA] learned this great news, [they] immediately started to plan a way to get this assistance to the people in our town....
Every Wednesday for the last month, members of COPA Castroville have been gathering outside Our Lady of Refuge Catholic church for a noble cause. They are helping community members apply for the rental assistance program authorized by the U.S. government that provides relief for the economic struggles families have experienced because of COVID-19….
Once Congress approved legislation to provide economic stimulus for families, some organizations like COPA organized community members demanding an eviction moratorium and the allocation of federal funds to help families struggling to pay rent. The problem for Castroville, and other small rural communities in the area, is that rental assistance was approved only for tenants with formal leases. And when it comes to Castroville, the picture of rentals is completely different.
[Photo Credit: Voices of Monterey Bay, Adriana Molina]
Helping families in Distress, COPA Assists Castroville Residents Applying for Rent Relief, Voices of Monterey Bay [pdf]