When Pope Francis told a group of U.S. community organizers that their work was "atomic," Jorge Montiel said, "I thought, 'Oh, you mean we blow things up?'"
But instead, the pope spoke about how the groups associated with the West/Southwest Industrial Areas Foundation in the United States take issues patiently, "atom by atom," and end up building something that "penetrates" and changes entire communities, said Montiel, an IAF organizer in Colorado and New Mexico.
Pope Francis' hourlong meeting Sept. 14 with 15 delegates from the group was a follow-up to a similar meeting a year ago. Neither meeting was listed on the pope's official schedule and, the delegates said, both were conversations, not "audiences."
"It was relaxed, it was engaging," said Joe Rubio, national co-director of IAF. "Often you don't see that even with parish priests," he told Catholic News Service Sept. 15, garnering the laughter of other delegates.
Pope Meets US Leaders Patiently Building Culture of Solidarity, US Conference of Catholic Bishops / Catholic News Service [pdf]
“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]
Leaking faucets, holes in the floor, and rats running across children's feet at night. An apartment manager refusing to start repairs without proof of US citizenship. These are just some of the conditions that leaders of Bachman Lake apartments, like Iris Romo and Ericka Ventura, unearthed in a neighborhood conversation campaign.
When tenant leaders at Lumin Bachman Lake Community School began to share these stories, the city didn't take them seriously. However, Dallas Area Interfaith (DAI) leaders knew that this was unacceptable. After all, they had been instrumental in the development of housing standards that were now being violated. In 2016, DAI had compelled the City of Dallas to impose these standards, and the tenant leaders had been a key part of that effort.
The Community Lighthouse Project is equipping churches, health clinics and other community spaces with solar panels and batteries, so they don’t need to rely on grid power and faulty generators to stay open in emergencies. The nonprofit undertaking the project, Together New Orleans, ultimately wants to scatter 86 “lighthouses” throughout the state, so every resident lives within a 15-minute walk...
“We know everyone in the community within a mile or so radius that needs their breathing machine connected to electricity, or they have someone in a wheelchair or somebody that’s bed bound,” said Rev. Antoine Barriere, pastor of the Household of Faith Family Worship Church.
DAI Tenant Leaders Deepen Cooperation with Code Enforcement, See Noticeable Improvements in Housing Conditions
DAI tenant advocacy for improved conditions in low-income Bachman Lake apartment complexes continues to pay off, partly due to increased collaboration with bilingual housing code inspectors. Spanish speaking Dallas Area Interfaith leaders have been at the forefront of action, including meetings with City officials and educational meetings with residents.
About six years ago, AMOS asked families what kept them up at night. Parents said they needed services for children in mental health crises.
“Kids were waiting months to see a therapist. They were not getting what they need from a system designed for adults,” said Crystal Loving, of First Unitarian Church. A child in the midst of a mental health crisis would be handcuffed, put in the backseat of a police car, and enter the juvenile justice system rather than get the mental health care that was needed."
North Louisiana Interfaith leaders erupted in applause as the Caddo Commission voted 8 to 4 to approve seed funding for two Community Lighthouse pilot locations. These Community Lighthouses will serve as beacons of hope during crises, immediately assessing the needs of the community and providing vital assistance to area residents. Among the services offered are cooling and heating stations, charging stations, food distribution, ice, water, and other supplies and services.
North Louisiana Interfaith Statement
Caddo Agrees to Put Up $500,000 toward Community Lighthouse Project, KSLA News 12 [pdf]
Caddo Parish to Vote on Community Lighthouse Pilot Program, KTBS 3 [pdf]
Valley Interfaith and EPISO teamed up to successfully oppose two bills that would have undermined the Model Rules for Development that govern real estate development in counties that border the Texas-Mexico border. The Model Rules for Development have been a critical tool that our organizations fought for over 30 years ago and which have limited the development of substandard housing lacking access to sewer and clean water lines, drainage and roads.Read more
With Guidance from ACTION Tulsa, Senate Bill 261 Prevents Student Loan Servicers from Deceiving Borrowers
"Senate Bill 261, authored by state Sen. John Montgomery, R-Lawton, and state Rep. Melissa Provenzano, D-Tulsa, in 2021, directed the attorney general to prepare a written statement including an “Oklahoma Student Borrower’s Bill of Rights,” which contains language prohibiting student loan servicers from engaging in acts that mislead or deceive borrowers.
According to the language, servicers are prohibited from misrepresenting or omitting any material information in connection with the servicing of a student education loan, including misrepresenting the amount, nature or terms of any fee...
...Provenzano said the librarian and ACTION Tulsa asked her to see that rights for students require servicers to disclose the consequences of payment plan changes."
[Photo Credit: The Journal Record]
New Law Strengthens Student Borrower's Bill of Rights, The Journal Record [pdf]