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.”
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]
Rental Assistance, Small Business Relief Programs Announced, The Oklahoman [pdf]
Tulsa County Organization Provides Rental Assistance, News On 6 [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]
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]
In Tucson, Arizona, work at Pima County Interfaith began advocating for pandemic relief as the pandemic hit, seeing it as a natural outgrowth of its grassroots work.
Ana Chavarin, an organizer with the Catholic Campaign for Human Development-funded organization, said its community leaders quickly advocated for rental assistance for people threatened with eviction. And, after weeks of activism, members were able to convince health care providers to bring vaccines to some of the most vulnerable communities Feb. 6.
She credited local leaders for their work in neighborhoods, parishes and church congregations. She said the effort is rooted in church teaching on solidarity and recognizing the dignity of each person....
Chavarin recalled that when coronavirus testing began in Tucson, the site was established far from low-income communities. For people with a vehicle, the trip would take 40 minutes. However, for poor residents it required riding on multiple buses on a trek that took several hours in each direction.
To prevent such inequities, Chavarin urged collaboration among low-, middle- and upper-income residents to develop solutions to community challenges. While such conversations might currently be pertinent during the pandemic, they could also lead to meetings on environmental issues, jobs and education, she said.
She cited the letter to the Corinthians for inspiration in understanding the importance of building such relationships: "When one part of the body is hurting, then the whole body is hurting."
"We need to understand," Chavarin said, "that we are one body in need of creating those connections and having those conversations to talk about specific goals."
[Photo Credit: Eloisa Lopez, Catholic News Service / Reuters]
To Overcome Economic Disparities, Turn to Papal Encyclicals, Panelists Say, National Catholic Reporter [pdf]
In Light of Pope Francis' Criticism of Both Left and Right Populism, IAF's Community Organizing Offers a 3rd Way
Francis calls for nothing less than a Copernican revolution in our understanding and practice of politics, one in which ordinary people are not a hard-to-reach “periphery” but the center around which the rest of the firmament revolves....
In Let Us Dream, Francis urges the church to be more receptive to such popular alliances—accompanying them both practically and spiritually, without seeking to dominate. He identifies “labor” and “lodgings” as two of the key issues for grass-roots action. The success of the IAF’s Living Wage campaigns, and its renewal of whole neighborhoods in New York and Baltimore through the Nehemiah Housing program, demonstrates the power of institution-based organizing. If parishes and dioceses heed the pope’s call to engage with new vigor in this work, it can play a significant role in the civic renewal that is so urgently needed.
Community organizing has two crucial features that ensure the poorest citizens have agency. First, it is institution-based. Across almost a century of community organizing, both religious and secular organizers have found religious congregations to be the most resilient and powerful institutions on which to build what veteran organizer Ernesto Cortés Jr. calls “a graduate school to teach people how to participate in politics and shape their communities’ futures.”
As Mr. Cortés explained in an interview with Rev. Ritchie: “Citizens are formed through the process of organizing. It requires institutions which can incubate this process by passing on the habits, practices, and norms necessary for humans with different opinions and temperaments to flourish together: to compromise, to talk to and not just about one another, to act in the light of one another’s views and needs and not just unilaterally or selfishly.”
Second, community organizing is inclusive. Click below for the rest of the article.
[Photo Credit: Paul Haring/CNS]
Pope Francis has Criticized Both the Left and the Right’s Politics. Community Organizing Offers a Third Way, America, The Jesuit Review [pdf]
Months of hard work by Marin Organizing Committee leaders paid off as San Rafael, Novato, and Marin County enacted rent increase moratoriums in areas most affected by the coronavirus pandemic. MOC advocated for a freeze on rent increases since last summer, when it became clear that the economic effects of COVID-19 would leave renters saddled with thousands of dollars of debt. With statewide protections on the verge of expiring, MOC leaders redoubled their efforts after the new year. On January 18th, 200 MOC leaders assembled on Zoom with a Marin County Supervisor and two San Rafael City Councilmembers. During the meeting, MOC leaders asked these officials to commit to working with MOC around the issue of rent freezes.
The next day, the San Rafael City Council unanimously voted for a moratorium on rent increases in the Canal neighborhood through the end of 2021. The following week, the Novato City Council followed suit, voting unanimously to approve a rent freeze through 2021 in three city census tracts hardest hit by the pandemic.
On February 9th, the Marin County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a ban on rent increases in parts of unincorporated Marin County, thereby including those who reside outside city limits who would have been left unprotected by the Novato and San Rafael ordinances.
These emergency measures will provide thousands of families much-needed time to recover from the devastating financial impacts of the pandemic. MOC leaders will continue to fight for expanded emergency protections and an equitable and smooth distribution of rental assistance funds to renters and landlords.
[Photo Credit: Ethan Swope/Special to Marin Independent Journal]
Marin Activists Seek Rent Freeze During Coronavirus Crisis, Marin Independent Journal
San Rafael Bans Rent Hikes in Pandemic-Stressed Canal, Marin Independent Journal
Novato Enacts Limited Rent Freeze for Pandemic Relief, Marin Independent Journal [pdf]
Marin County Weighs Pandemic Rent Freeze in 2 Census Tracts, Marin Independent Journal [pdf]
Marin Voice: County Supervisors Should Approve Rent-Increase Moratorium-by MOC's own Sami Mericle and Marta Villela, Marin Independent Journal [pdf]
One way that ordinary people of faith can grow in the virtue of solidarity is to join a ministry or organization that is dedicated to improving the lives of those who Jesus called the “least brothers of mine.”
Take the Industrial Areas Foundation for instance. As one of the nation’s largest and oldest broad-based organizing networks, the IAF has its roots in the Catholic social tradition. By bringing together communities across the social, political and religious lines that usually divide, the IAF is effective at helping local faith and community-based organizations live out “their missions to achieve lasting change in the world.”
In May 2020, the IAF affiliates of California mobilized their networks to do just that. Although undocumented residents are vital to California’s economy, pay taxes and have suffered disproportionately during the pandemic, early COVID relief legislation enacted by Congress prevented them from accessing critical economic aid.
Through the IAF’s organizing of an unprecedented statewide Zoom action that included 1,200 faith leaders, 10 bishops and several lawmakers, ordinary people of faith succeeded in persuading Gov. Gavin Newsom to include undocumented workers and their families in the state’s COVID relief measures.
Like the IAF, CRS understands that lasting change, both social and spiritual, often comes about when ordinary citizens work together for a just and peaceful world. Through the building of God’s kingdom “on earth as it is in heaven,” Christians can cultivate the virtue of solidarity while also giving witness to the radical communion that God desires for all of humanity and creation.
[Illustration by Catholic News Service; photo by Tyler Orsburn]
Catholic Social Teaching: Solidarity Means Commitment to the Common Good, The Dialog/Catholic News Service [pdf]
La Doctrina Social Católica: Solidaridad es un Compromiso con el Bien Común, The Dialog/Catholic News Service [pdf]
At a press conference on Tuesday, February 2, One LA leaders called on LA County and LA CIty to partner with churches, schools and clinics to bring the vaccine to the neighborhoods most hard-hit by COVID-19.
"We feel like our community is left behind in this crucial time," said Rev. Kenneth Keke, pastor of St. Brigid Catholic Church in South Central LA.
As the vaccine rollout began, leaders began hearing hundreds of stories of seniors and essential workers unable to get the vaccine in neighborhoods where the virus is surging.
The Covid-19 death rate for Latinos in Los Angeles County has increased by 1000% since November. Blacks, Latinos, and Asians are all more likely to die than white residents. People living in the poorest neighborhoods are more than three times as likely to die as the residents of the wealthiest neighborhoods.
Leaders took swift action, developing a 6 point plan to close the equity gap.
"Our church is prepared to take a more active role," said Rev. Austin Doran, pastor at St. Anthony Catholic Church in San Gabriel. "If needed, the church could be used as a vaccination site. Residents are used to coming to our church. They know how to get here."
The plan calls for mobile vaccination teams that would set up temporary sites in the hardest-hit neighborhoods. Leaders from neighborhood institutions educate residents about the vaccine, as well as help people sign up for the vaccine from parking lots of parishes and other sites.
"The hardest-hit communities can be identified through U.S. Census tracts with the highest incidents of COVID-19 and lowest rates of vaccination," said Diane Vanette, a leader with Temple Emanuel.
“By targeting the hot spots first, we would be able to save lives and break the chain of transmission.”
Since Tuesday, One LA leaders have heard back from county and city officials and will be meeting with them in the next week to push their strategy forward.
Churches in LA's Working Class Neighborhood Urge, "Bring the Vaccine to the People," Religious News Service [pdf]
Covid-19 Vaccines and Seniors: What it is Like for Older Adults Getting Their Shots, Wall Street Journal [pdf]
Latino Churches in LA County Will Now Service as COVID-19 Testing Sites, Religion News Service
Biden Administration Charging Up Vaccination Rollout [video], NBC News