“What I would say to those in Together West Michigan: If your hope was to ensure that homeownership was a priority and focus, you have succeeded.”
Commissioner Stephen Wooden’s comment was one of many acknowledgements Together West Michigan (TWM) won on August 10 from Kent County commissioners as they voted on the rules for the county’s new Affordable Housing Revolving Loan Fund. Because of TWM’s months of work, the fund includes a goal that 10% of the affordable units be owned by families, rather than rented.
10% Ownership Goal Included In County’s Affordable Housing Fund, Together West Michigan
Kent County to Launch Affordable Housing Revolving Loan Fund with Initial $58M, Crain's Grand Rapids Business [pdf]
TWM Leader Testimony, Kent County Commissioners Court [video from 02:30]
More TWM Testimony, Kent County Commissioners Court [video from 18:00]
Tired of nothing seemingly happening to better God’s world, the 1,300-member Westminster Presbyterian Church, located in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan, decided it was time to join ranks with other churches and organizations through the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF)...
[IAF affiliate] Together West Michigan, comprised of 20-plus organizations seeking to create substantive change in the greater Grand Rapids area, was exactly what Westminster wanted to get involved with.
According to the Rev. Lynette Sparks, senior pastor of Westminster, Together West Michigan — whose name was chosen for easy translation into Spanish — is about building relationships and encouraging people and institutions to come together to make change.
“Jesus was about building relationships across lines, and we are about building power and defining power as the ability to act. Power itself is neutral. How you use it is what matters,” she said, adding, “So many families don’t have a voice or the power to right the injustices they encounter, but churches and secular organizations do — especially when they join together for a common cause.”
[Photo Credit: Westminster Presbyterian Church]
Together West Michigan is a nonpartisan partnership of 20 local, faith-based and community groups.
The coalition listened to more than 1,000 people over a three-month period this past spring to identify the top concerns, which were laid out at an event on Thursday.
At the event, community members held a march, then listened to the ways in which the issues are affecting families.
One mother said her family could only afford to send their older children to daycare this summer because of their tax return.
“We are grateful that it worked out this time, but it worked out because of a miracle and a miracle is not a strategy,” said Alaina Dobkowski. “Families should not have to rely on a miracle for this to work. I know that my family is not alone in these challenges. Many families are struggling.”
Organizers say the area has a long history of philanthropy and charity, but falls short when it comes to justice and equity.
“Often times people and organizations have the tendency to try and plan for individuals and circumstances,” said Rev. Willie A. Gholtson II, Together West Michigan co-chair. “We believe that at the core of our existence is to listen to what is going on in our community so we make sure that we’re meeting their needs.”
[Photo Credit: Joel Bissell, MLive]
The Morning Show: Together West Michigan, WGVU Public Media (NPR)
Complete Assembly Footage, Together West Michigan