We Must Invest in Housing

Posted on 25. Apr, 2017 by .


Taken from chn.org –

It really was great news that Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, Matthew Desmond’s urgent wake-up call about the gross injustice of evictions, won the Pulitzer Prize. The painful reality of housing insecurity was brought home to me on April 1, when the National Coalition for the Homeless held a National Day of Action for Housing. There were events in Washington and in a number of other locations around the country. At the D.C. event, we heard from Deborah, who became homeless in Delaware after losing her job; she felt that her identity was damaged without housing. And from Steve (pictured), who had been homeless for 17 years, but now is in permanent housing. He fought addiction for decades, but said “politicians make bad decisions too.” It was clear from all those who spoke that being able to live in stable housing was a necessary foundation for people’s lives: making it easier to connect to services they need and to hold down a job.

Congratulations to Matt Desmond for showing how the legal system fails to protect low-income people from evictions, and how those evicted are all too likely to risk homelessness or miserably inadequate housing.

I was pleased to have the opportunity to speak at the National Day of Action. Here’s what I said:

“The Coalition on Human Needs stands with you in this National Day of Action for Housing. We are organizations of faith, service providers, labor, civil rights, policy experts, and other advocates fighting to get the federal government to do more to meet the needs of low-income people.

“We stand with you for the obvious reason that housing is a central human need. Having a place to live is literally a foundation on which we build our lives – it’s essential for health, and safety, and work. We know that when people have a place to live, they are more able to get the services and health care they need, and that means they are more able to find and keep a job.

“But you know how many barriers there are that make people homeless:

    • If you’ve been evicted, it’s very hard to find another apartment, even if you’ve been evicted because your landlord was foreclosed on.
    • If you’ve lost your job.
    • If your family threw you out because you’re gay.
    • If you’ve just aged out of foster care – it is shameful that our government takes responsibility for youth who cannot live with their families and gives them so little support that they land in the streets. Of hundreds of homeless youth interviewed by researchers, nearly 40 percent had been in foster care, and 44 percent had been in detention or jail.
    • And once you’re on the streets it can be hard to avoid run-ins with the law – if you’re a runaway youth, or just trying to sleep in a park after dark.

“The hundreds of thousands who find themselves homeless on any given night deserve better.

“And in communities around this country, some progress has been made. When we invest in housing, increase rental vouchers, and connect people to services they need, we have reduced homelessness.

“But now we have a fight on our hands. The Trump Administration wants to shift money from rental vouchers, and public housing, and home heating and cooling assistance, and job training, and much more, and give it to the Pentagon. They want to cut health care, and make it harder for people to get Medicaid and food stamps by throwing up bogus work requirements. Instead of investing in our health and nutrition, they want to hand hundreds of billions of dollars to the rich and to corporations.

“We can win this fight – we can beat back their budget full of the wrongest, sorriest choices ever. We can win the way we beat their attack on health insurance – by standing together and hollering until Congress hears us. Together, we can show the nation the difference between the righteous – that’s you – and the self-righteous – like the members of Congress who spout scripture to justify harsh limits on food aid, medical care, and housing. It is righteous to demand of Congress and Trump that the budget must invest in housing, and provide the funds needed for a real and vital commitment to end homelessness in America. Together, we can help the millions of people who have marched and called on Congress to see how righteous it is to demand that everyone have a place they can call home. Your commitment today and in the days to come will help build a movement to invest in that most basic human need – housing. Thank you – and know that millions of Americans will stand with you.”

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Choosing Between Being a Good American and a Good Father

Posted on 25. Apr, 2017 by .


He won’t go to the Humane Society because seeing all the dogs without homes makes him too sad. He will watch nerdy YouTube videos on history or space or giant ships for hours. Our youngest, at nineteen, isn’t exactly “special,” but he lives at some distance from the world the rest of us live in. For years I would have to say, “This universe, sweetheart,” when he drifted away.

It’s Jonathan I think of when I see a headline in a Foreign Policy mailing asking when Trump will start his first war, or when I read about one of his advisors ranting about Iran, or see the president’s latest belligerent tweet. America has a history of starting unjustified wars with more stable men in the Oval Office. What the country will do when led by a man of impulse and appetite no one knows, but it will be worse.

I know the chances of this are very small, but I still wonder what I would do if Trump started a war and reinstituted the draft, and Jonathan was drafted. Military training would destroy him, even if the Army failed to turn a gentle, distracted soul into a soldier. The war would almost certainly be one I could not support. Having grown up at the end of the Vietnam War, I had the formative experience of seeing my country wage a war incompetently and with insouciant disregard for the loss of American and Vietnamese lives. New wars must meet a high standard of necessity and justice.

We would tell him not to serve. Would we help him go to Canada? Mexico, maybe? Europe? I wonder what sort of life he would have, supported by his parents, unable to take all the steps to living an adult life because as an alien he couldn’t get a normal job. And would he be able to come back some day, or would a vindictive state keep him out? I probably won’t have to think about this, but I might. It’s at least a helpful thought experiment.

To refuse to cooperate with ICE in such a case would be to side with the powerless

To turn to a more likely possibility, what if we have an immigrant family visiting, and ICE agents come to the door and demand the father, or perhaps both parents, or even one of the children? Would I admit they were inside, and would I let the agents in? In theory, I accept that a nation must control its borders. But were the ICE agents at the door demanding one of our guests, I’m sure I would refuse to say whether he was inside. Not because I deny the agents’ legal authority. I would refuse because I’d remember the cruel and unnecessary way that agency has treated immigrants, the way it ignores their rights when it can get away with it, the cold way it breaks up families and targets people it could just as well leave alone.

To refuse to cooperate with ICE in such a case would be to side with the powerless subjected to the effects of a demagogic campaign appeal and a publicity stunt. It would be to demand justice for the weakest in a cynical arrangement by which America benefits from these immigrants while keeping them in fear. They do the jobs no one else wants and provide the flexible labor pool U.S. companies want, and when they’re not needed they can be sent away. America is only selectively worried about illegal immigrants. The policy is unjust and ICE enforces the injustice.

One assumes that the injustices of one’s own country are the kind inevitable in a fallen world

I don’t think I’m unusual in being a father who had expected to live a life in conformity with the law and broad comfort with the society in which he was raising a family. Even the Marxist professors in the college town where I grew up expected this. One might have severe criticisms of various agents of the state and even of the society itself, but none of that meant a settled position of resistance or serious thoughts about disregarding the law. One assumes that the injustices of one’s own country are the kind inevitable in a fallen world—to be lamented, certainly, but never requiring open defiance.

Suddenly, I can imagine having to live in open defiance. One part of the problem is that our new president doesn’t seem to care about the truth. He does what he does, says what he says, and never lets an inconvenient fact get in the way. The other part is that the president and his party in Congress seem to have no concern for the common good, no sense of solidarity with the poor—life’s “losers,” as Trump might call them. He believes in a preferential option for the successful.

I think about Jonathan often as I read the news. He comes to adulthood in a world his father didn’t expect. It may force a choice between being a good American and being a good father, and I’m a father first.

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Sisters Push for Ethical Business Practice

Posted on 25. Apr, 2017 by .


The Wells Fargo Board is recommending a vote against the Business Standards resolution filed by the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia and other ICCR members. Proponents were given the opportunity to post a defense of the resolution, a.k.a. a proxy exempt solicitation memo, to the SEC EDGAR site for the purpose of soliciting votes in favor from other investors. The link to the memo on the SEC website is here. This memo is a collaborative effort on the part of several ICCR members who are shareholders in WF and co-filers of the resolution. Because investors aren’t bound by the 500 word limit for resolution text, these memos help to provide more context and rationale for the resolution. Proxy exempt solicitations are read by other shareholders as well as proxy voting services and analysts.

Sr. Nora Nash of the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia, released the following statement:  “While Wells Fargo is beginning to take stock of the consequences of the recent scandal both in immediate financial terms and in terms of the long-term impact on customer trust, shareholders will remain concerned about the long term viability of the company unless and until a systemic business standards review is performed. Only through a comprehensive review of the lapses in ethics, risk management and culture can the company identify the gaps in governance and risk management structures that will ensure against future scandals, and begin the slow process of re-building the customer trust that is so critical in the financial services industry.”

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Ending Hunger is a Gender Equity Issue

Posted on 15. Apr, 2017 by .


Taken from frac.org –

Women in the U.S. disproportionately experience hunger and poverty compared to American men.

About 10 million households with children in the U.S. are headed by a single mother, and 28.2 percent of these families live below the poverty line, compared to 14.9 percent of single fathers. According to USDA’s most recent report, single-parent, female-headed households are also significantly more likely to be food-insecure than single-parent, male-headed households (30.3 to 22.4 percent).

Here are three ways advocates and policymakers can reduce food insecurity among women.

Strengthen federal nutrition programs. Females account for almost two-thirds of all adult and senior participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). While SNAP is critical to low-income women looking to stretch their food dollars, the monthly benefit often falls short.

Researchers, advocates, and emergency food providers have been praising SNAP but saying that SNAP benefits are inadequate for years, and in 2013, the prestigious Institute of Medicine, after a thorough study, outlined the factors that explain why the SNAP allotment is not enough to get most families through the month with a minimally adequate diet. Policymakers should make increasing the monthly SNAP benefit a priority so that more women can be made food-secure and lifted out of poverty.

Congress should also improve funding for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) to ensure that all eligible women have access to the program. The latest USDA data show the WIC program reaches only 60 percent of eligible people — only 68 percent of eligible pregnant women. Increased funds would eliminate participant-limiting strategies, in order to provide low-income mothers healthy food, nutrition education, and access to health care.

Close the wage gap. On average, white women in full-time, year-round jobs earn 80 cents for every dollar paid to men. For women of color, the divide is even wider. According to the National Partnership for Women and Families, African-American women are paid 63 cents and Latinas are paid just 54 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men. The nation’s economic strength and growth must be shared equitably. Doing so will most certainly reduce food insecurity.

Current figures for a year’s worth of wage disparities equal approximately 86 weeks of food lost for a woman’s family.

Support paid leave policies. Women comprise 47 percent of the American workforce, and mothers are the sole or primary breadwinners in 40 percent of all families with children under 18, but paid leave for women who work outside of the home is woefully inadequate. Women should not fear endangering their economic security to care for loved ones or themselves.

Research demonstrates food-insecure women are at higher risk for obesity and subsequent health issues. Low-income, food-insecure households on average are more vulnerable to poor nutrition and health challenges, which require more medical care than their higher-income, food-secure counterparts. Paid leave policies, from maternity leave to sick leave, can provide women and their children support to access the appropriate resources and care they need to lead healthy lives.

Advocates must continue to fight for holistic, inclusive approaches in ending hunger and poverty in order to help all Americans and create a healthier, more equitable society.

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Beyond Vietnam: A Time To Break Silence

Posted on 15. Apr, 2017 by .


Taken from chn.org written by James Abro –

Last week the Kairos Center for Religions, Rights, and Social Justice sent out a newsletter informing people that today, April 4, marks the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “Beyond Vietnam” speech.  The Kairos Center is calling for a new Poor People’s Campaign in order to revitalize the movement started by Dr. King in 1968 in an effort to gain economic justice for poor people in the United States.

If you never heard the speech, or it’s been a while since you’ve listened to it, please take this opportunity to hear it or read the text.

This speech was highly controversial at the time because King declared the war in Vietnam “immoral.” I was a teenager at the time and can recall how polarized the nation was about the war. Opposing it was tantamount to being “anti-American” or a “traitor.”

It might have been cool for a teenager to declare themselves a traitor and oppose the war; not so much for an adult.

King delivered his “Beyond Vietnam” speech at the Riverside Church in New York on April 4, 1967. He was shot to death a year to the day later — April 4, 1968 — in Memphis.

Because the speech is mostly remembered for King publicly declaring his opposition to the war — and the controversy it caused — what has largely been forgotten is what King was referring to when he used the word “Beyond” in the title of his speech.

King was not declaring the war in Vietnam immoral only on Christian theological grounds, but because it stole resources from people who could have used them to lift themselves out of poverty. From the speech:

“There is at the outset a very obvious and almost facile connection between the war in Vietnam and the struggle I and others have been waging in America. A few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor, both black and white, through the poverty program. There were experiments, hopes, new beginnings. Then came the buildup in Vietnam, and I watched this program broken and eviscerated as if it were some idle political plaything on a society gone mad on war. And I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic, destructive suction tube. So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such.”

I addressed this in an article for Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity.  The successful, community-based anti-poverty efforts that were initiated in the 1960’s were afterward underfunded and neglected as the war sucked up financial resources and diverted political will.

I volunteer to work among the poor and homeless in my community; so what meaning does this speech have for me and the work I do?

In a word, a profound one.

One of the most frustrating aspects of advocating for the poor is how unaware the general public is of this situation, even when it’s happening in their community. As King points out in his speech, we are constantly being fed distractions to take our attention away from what is going on around us. War seems to be the most reliable vehicle for doing so. Throughout my lifetime, the United States has been at war somewhere — Korea, Vietnam, Nicaragua, Panama, El Salvador, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan. The War on Poverty has been but a neglected stepchild compared to the time, energy and resources we devote to these foreign incursions.

Dr. King:

“A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.

“The more sophisticated surely realize that we are on the side of the wealthy, and the secure, while we create a hell for the poor.”

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