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Thu Oct 3, 2019

Leadership Spotlight: Bonnie Gilbert & Michael Rubenstein -GBIO

Bonny Gilbert and Michael Rubenstein, co-chairs of the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization (GBIO) Health Care Action Team, celebrated a big win last November, after Massachusetts Attorney General Healey announced an agreement saving consumers $1.2 billion dollars over 7 years in the merger of two large Boston-area hospital systems.

This win left the pair inspired to do more. Now, they are leading GBIO in a legislative campaign to improve health care by (a) lowering the cost of prescription drugs, (b) increasing access to affordable mental health care, and (c) lowering out-of-pocket expenses — and they see this as just the beginning.

Gilbert and Rubenstein share a big vision “the re-injection of human-centered values” into our healthcare system. Rubenstein explains, “our healthcare system is economically driven. Instead, it should fundamentally ensure that people are thriving and healthy.” Gilbert acknowledges that realizing this vision will be a challenge. “The opponents are big and powerful. At GBIO, we need to continue to build our own power.”

For both Gilbert and Rubenstein, the fight is personal.  Gilbert cites the $24,000 her family spends annually on health care as evidence of runaway costs. Rubenstein describes his shock at the “complexity of the billings and charges” after his wife’s two toe surgeries. Both were drawn to action after realizing that many others shared these struggles with the healthcare system.

GBIO made health care history in 2006, as part of the coalition that passed Health Care Reform in Massachusetts, legislation which paved the way for the Affordable Care Act of 2010. After a second legislative victory in 2012, health care took a back seat to other issue areas within GBIO. Says Gilbert, “I was very passionate about moving back into action around costs and access.”  Gilbert became chair of the Health Care Action Team in 2016, after just a few years with GBIO. Rubenstein joined the team in 2017, quickly taking on more leadership, and joined Gilbert as co-chair last year.

For both, working with GBIO has been a powerful learning experience. When Rubenstein learned about GBIO from a member of his synagogue, he was looking for a new challenge. A successful entrepreneur, he had recently sold his company, after growing it for 25 years. Following the sale, he spent a year at Harvard’s Advanced Leadership Initiative program, hoping to move into social entrepreneurship.  “Soon after I joined GBIO, I began going to meetings with key players in the healthcare industry (insurance organizations, hospital groups). The hospital merger became an opportunity for all sorts of stakeholders to weigh in on this question of power.

It made me realize that GBIO’s way of building and deploying power was an exciting model for making change. That’s what keeps me involved.”  Adds Rubenstein, “I’m still in the learning process of how to do this work. You don’t have to be perfect from Day 1. Instead, people take action, learn from the reactions others have, and then act again. There aren’t a lot of places where this way of learning is possible.”
Gilbert worked for years in finance, and then became an attorney, first working in the Attorney General’s office, and then practicing for a decade as an appellate criminal defense lawyer.  She is now in a new career as a reverse mortgage lender, working with seniors and their financial advisors.  For Gilbert, whose careers have been more in line with direct service, GBIO fulfills a dream to have a broader impact at the policy level and gives her the opportunity to grow as a leader. “First, it was exciting to take on a leadership role — making strategic decisions, learning about complex issues, and meeting with policy makers.”  Now, she observes, it is “exciting to help new people step in and lead.”  But she admits that it was a little challenging, when Rubenstein first joined her as co-chair, learning how to “do this work together.”  Both Gilbert and Rubenstein are now going through these growing pains again as they build the GBIO health care team, “learning how to delegate in a positive way.”  Says Gilbert, “at our recent Health Care Assembly in May, people who had never been to an action before told amazing stories. Michael and I each did a small piece but many other people stepped up to make it happen. It was so exciting and moving to see health care, once again, become an issue for all of GBIO. It took my breath away.”

Wed Jul 31, 2019

Metro IAF NY Fighting to Improve Conditions for Tenants -The New York Times

Photo Credit: Damon Winter / New York Times
On July 30th, the NY Times published an Editorial laying out the ongoing problems in New York City’s public housing. This was informed by interviews with several Metro IAF NY tenant leaders, including Bernard Smith from South Bronx Churches who is quoted in the editorial. 
The editorial also focused on:
  • A report by the Federal Government’s Monitor detailing the multiple ways in which the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) has not moved fast enough to make reforms. The monitor was appointed as a result of Metro IAF leaders pushing the US Attorney to investigate corruption and neglect at NYCHA.
  • How much more work NYCHA must do to properly remediate mold in order to be in compliance with Metro IAF’s Baez V. NYCHA Federal Court Consent Decree, and 
  • An audit by Metro IAF ally, Comptroller Scott Stringer on how NYCHA continues to cause leaks and mold, as well as waste money, through improper roof repair.
Metro IAF is continuing to work to ensure the public officials do not merely expose NYCHA’s wrong doing, but actually hold them accountable, and that the Federal Court fully implements the independent oversight contained in our revised mold consent decree, which could force NYCHA to actually improve living conditions for all of its tenants. 
Mon Jul 29, 2019

Summer Action of the Berlin Community Organizations: Important Victories, Challenge to the Politicians to Build Housing in Berlin -DICO

Five hundred Leaders from the four community organizations in Berlin (SO! Mit uns, Wir sind da!, Wir in Neukölln and Wir bewegen Spandau) gathered on June 18th on the 74 acre former industrial  site in Grünau where we proposed building some 3,000 units of affordable housing. Both borough and state officials were invited to justify their continued vociferous opposition to the plan. They failed to attend, and were called to task by the leadership. The fact remains that Berlin needs a minimum of 20,000 new units a year to accommodate its growing population. Current production is significantly below this number. We will keep up the fight both in Grünau and elsewhere in the city!

Photo: Valentin Paster

Victories both city-wide and local were celebrated and publically acknowledged. The State Secretary for Family and Youth announced significant progress on our package of measures to open the path of certification as early childhood educators to provide a more diverse cohort (especially immigrants and refugees) and thus help to close the gap of some 4,000 missing kindergarden teachers. In a local victory in the southeast of Berlin, the oldest ferry in the city was saved from closing and another line will get increased service at peak times.
The assembly was also an occasion to strengthen the ties between very diverse and geographically separated institutions in the city, both religious and secular, as a clear counterweight to the growing threat of far right and Neo-Nazi movements and parties in Germany.
Mon Jul 29, 2019

GCC Action Walks Neighborhood to Identify Blighted Properties -Greater Cleveland Congregations

On Saturday, June 8, 58 volunteers from 12 Greater Cleveland Congregations member congregations from across Cuyahoga County assembled at Noble Road Presbyterian Church in Cleveland Heights to participate in a half-hour training on how to identify deteriorating houses and then disperse in teams of two volunteers to walk the entire Noble Neighborhood in Cleveland Heights. The teams were tasked with identifying houses in seriously deteriorated condition so the GCC Cleveland Heights Housing Team can work to get these homes repaired.
The GCC Heights Housing Team is taking the list of properties identified, research ownership and status of each, and request that the City of Cleveland Heights do a "complaint inspection" that will place these properties at the top of the City's agenda. Focus of the neighborhood walk was on properties that are bank or investor owned, tax delinquent, and/or vacant.
The GCC Heights Housing Team will report the results of the Action as they are made available. 
Mon Jul 29, 2019

Honoring a true leader: Sister Christine Stephens, CDP -Industrial Areas Foundation

Sister Christine Stephens, CDP entered eternal life on July 18, 2019 at the age of 78.
She was the younger of two daughters born to Walter Irving and Frances Louise (Bulian) Stephens. She was born December 22, 1940 in Austin, Texas and was given the Baptismal name, Mary Christine. She entered the Congregation of Divine Providence on September 7, 1962 and professed first vows as a Sister of Divine Providence on June 22, 1964. Sister Christine graduated from the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics prior to entering Our Lady of the Lake Convent. She later earned a Master of Arts in History from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas.
Sister Christine attributes her faith formation to her parents who set the example of perseverance and seeking justice for one’s family and community. Her father was a member of the pipe fitters union. This foundation served Sister Christine in her first seven years as a teacher, then as a social worker for eight years, and expanded and deepened when she became an organizer 45 years ago.
Sister Christine did not choose organizing as a ministry, it chose her. She was spotted by her now close friend and mentor, Ernesto Cortés, Jr., who said it was her anger that caught his attention. That was the first time she viewed her anger in a positive light. The work of justice was at the heart of her ministry and her life. Her work with the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) was the vehicle to funnel her anger against injustice.
Sister Christine’s commitment to identifying, training and transforming leaders and organizers throughout the country worked to bring millions of dollars for water and waste water to the colonias along the Texas/New Mexico Border, instrumental in developing the Alliance School strategy that impacted hundreds of schools across the country, plus the creation of nationally renowned job training programs modeled after Project QUEST in San Antonio.
Her advocacy work during the past four decades in her various roles, as National IAF Co-Director and Supervisor of organizations across the IAF Network will be greatly missed. Her organizing career began with The Metropolitan Organization (TMO) in Houston where she was a founder, followed by Lead Organizer of C.O.P.S. in San Antonio and Dallas Area Interfaith.
She enjoyed seeing ordinary leaders who worked across multi faith traditions, economic lines and race to do extraordinary things in their communities. She breathed and lived the Gospel values of justice and leaves a legacy to be continued. She had an enduring faith in the values of democracy.
She is survived by her sister Sarah Howell, and all her Sisters of Divine Providence. She is also survived by her niece Angela Duhon (William), their children, Emma and Nathaniel. She was preceded in death by her parents Walter and Frances Stephens.
Memorial contributions can be made to the Sisters of Divine Providence, 515 S.W. 24th Street, San Antonio, TX 78207-4619.
Mon Jul 29, 2019

“Stark! Cologne” goes after gyms that discriminate and empty city apartments -DICO

Shortly before the summer holidays began, leaders from the north of Cologne kicked off public campaigns on two new issues that have been in the works for several months. Following up on stories heard in their mosque communities a team of young leaders did a systematic check of discriminatory practices by a local chain of fitness studios. Women with head scarves were forbidden to exercise and men who “looked foreign” were put on a waiting list, while their “German” counterparts were welcomed into membership. The firm refused to react to a hand delivered letter asking for a meeting and so at an assembly on July 5th the leaders launched a social media campaign to shame the owners into talking. (Link to instagram:
In the midst of a severe housing crunch in Cologne leaders from STARK! also tracked down empty city-leased apartments in several neighborhoods, finding that many were vacant for up to a year or more. These units are part of a contingent of 10,000 apartments that the city government reserves for families in acute housing need. This is a full 20% of the total number of units owned by the city’s public housing corporation. Initial talks with both the housing corporation and the city proved inconclusive, so the team is asking for hard numbers and transparency about just how these apartments are (or are not) being allocated. The head of the Dept. for Social Affairs has agreed to a meeting in August and further talks are being scheduled with local officials who are responsible for allocating the units on a case-by-case basis.
Thu Jun 27, 2019

BUILD Unites 50 Citizens in Oliver Neighborhood Cleanup -BUILD

On April 27th, 2019, over 50 people from three BUILD member institutions—Knox Presbyterian Church, ReBUILD Metro, and the Oliver Action Team—gathered at the Dawson Family Memorial Garden in Oliver to clean key spaces in the neighborhood and share future hopes for local green spaces.
The garden, located at Preston St and Eden St at the south end of Oliver, honors the seven members of the Dawson family who were tragically killed when their home was firebombed in 2002. One Oliver resident and BUILD leader, Celena Owens, kicked off the action with a few words about her relationship with her neighborhood and her memory of the Dawson murders: “I knew that this happened somewhere in East Baltimore, but I didn’t know it was the neighborhood that I would later move to.” 
After their moment of somber reflection and remembrance, the cleanup crew sprang into action, beautifying select spots around the garden, on Biddle Street, and along the Gay Street Corridor. The day was full of hard work and connection (and fun) among the residents of Oliver—a display of the community building and neighborhood dedication that BUILD is facilitating all over Baltimore.
Thu Jun 27, 2019

At Health Care Action Day, GBIO and Coalition Partners Fight the High Cost of Prescription Drugs, Build Power for Year-Long Health Care Campaign -GBIO

Leaders gather with MA legislators Senator Jason Lewis and Representative Christine Barber to target the high and rising cost of prescription drugs.
130 leaders from Greater Boston Interfaith Organization (GBIO) and prescription drug affordability coalition partners – including Health Care for All, Mass Senior Action Council, JALSA, Right Care Alliance, Disability Policy Consortium, and SEIU1199 – gathered at the Massachusetts state house on June 12 to target the rising costs of prescription drugs via new laws in the fiscal 2020 budget as well as comprehensive legislation (H.1133/S.706).
Participants gathered outside the statehouse with MA Senator Jason Lewis and Representative Christine Barber, cosponsors of the bill, then 16 teams met with legislators and legislative aides to ask for their support of the bill and corresponding budget language.
This day of action was part of a broader GBIO Health Care campaign that will span the legislative session and build on past victories in health care.
The campaign has three aims:
  1. Limit the cost of expensive prescription drugs
  2. Remove the stumbling blocks to getting affordable care for mental health and substance use disorders
  3. Reduce out-of-pocket costs for healthcare
GBIO launched this year-long campaign with a Health Care Assembly on May 29, attended by 170. At the Assembly, leaders shared powerful and heart-wrenching stories of struggles with the current health care system. One described a 40-year chronic illness that cost her close to $15,000 a year in out-of-pocket expenses. Another told how her suicidal daughter was turned away from a psych ward because the insurance company refused to pay for any stay longer than 3 days. Another told of an elderly patient on the verge of suicide because Medicaid refused to pay for her depression medications. Participants also shared their own health care stories in break-out house-meetings. 
Thu Jun 27, 2019

LCU builds school-based clinics one tour at a time -Lake County United

Parents of the Waukegan School District (16,000 students and 70% low-income) and residents of Waukegan are working together as part of Lake County United (LCU) to press for a mental health clinic in the High School.  LCU organized a tour of a clinic in another school district with three school members, including the President, and top district staff attending, resulting in an increase of support and sense of urgency to address this need.

Thu Jun 27, 2019

Community Health Worker Poster Wins People’s Choice Award -BUILD

BUILD Community Health Worker (CHW) Griselda “Zelda” Funn, a Turnaround Tuesday graduate who works at University of Maryland Midtown Clinic, won the “People’s Choice” Award for her poster presentation at the 4th Annual Symposium on Home and Community Based Care. The symposium presented by the University of Maryland’s School of Nursing was well attended by nurses and social workers and other home and community based care providers. The poster was entitled “Recruitment, Training, and Placement of Community Health Workers in Baltimore City in the Global Budget Revenue Era.” Zelda was the only CHW in attendance, and was “very engaging” with visitors to the poster, telling stories and explaining the process of training and placement.

Sat May 11, 2019

OP-ED IN NY DAILY NEWS: The politics we deserve -NY Daily News

We desperately need to reinvent the way we think and talk about problem-solving in America today

by Mike Gecan, IAF Co-Director


You don’t have to choose between Donald Trump and Elizabeth Warren, or Jared Kushner and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, or market capitalism and state socialism, or the far right and the far left, or Fox News and MSNBC.

While these are the dominant, incessant, compulsive polarities of modern public discourse, the demand and the tendency to choose are traps. You can take your hand off the nut (or nuts), loosen your grip, let them both drop. With a free hand, you can reach out and take hold of another way of doing things in the public arena: of thinking and acting and creating impact that rebuilds communities, saves and improves countless lives, and restores a sense of stability and forward motion in our country.
Sat May 11, 2019

BUILD's Diversity & Power on Display at March for Our Schools -BUILD

On March 11, 2019, BUILD’s Youth & Education issue action team demonstrated the diversity and power of BUILD by sending a group of 134 BUILD members to participate in the March for Our Schools rally alongside thousands of teachers, students, and parents from across Maryland.

Read about how a group of BUILD leaders trained families & teachers for this Action HERE.

Fri May 10, 2019

A Tribute Metro IAF's Pat Oettinger by IAF Co-Director Mike Gecan -Metro IAF

 Pat with Ryan Elfeld
Pat Oettinger is retiring after more than 40 years of exemplary service as a parish leader, QCO president, and Metro IAF administrator.  There's not better way to describe Pat's start with the IAF and organizing than to read this vignette from Greg Pierce who, like Pat, has figured out how to play various critical roles and make a series of remarkable contributions to our network over that same period:
"Pat Oettinger was the parish secretary of Resurrection Ascension Catholic Church in Rego Park, New York City, when I arrived as the lead organizer of the Queens Citizens Organization (QCO) in the late 1970s. I remember she was instinctively conservative and skeptical about the entire organizing effort, but I knew if she ever bought in to organizing she would bring her entire parish and, indeed, the rest of Queens behind here. Soon she was president of the organization!
"One time, when Mario Cuomo was still Lieutenant Governor of New York State, he promised to set up a meeting for QCO with the executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the monolithic and unaccountable government institution set up by Robert Moses to do his public projects. But Cuomo had failed to do so and time was running out. Pat and some of the other QCO leaders wrote a one-page "accountability report" announcing that Cuomo had failed to do what he had promised. We sent it to Cuomo and told the future Governor we would distribute 50,000 copies of the report through all our member institutions the following weekend. Instead, Cuomo showed up at the Resurrection Ascension rectory (where Pat was working) that Friday, to prove to her that he had done what he had promised. The "accountability report" was never distributed.
"Pat and I and the QCO leaders all learned an important lesson in power that day. The question we asked ourselves before our subsequent actions was always the same: Where's the tension? If there wasn't any, we added it, and Pat Oettinger was often the one that made sure it happened."
I first met Pat a few years later, in 1980, when I arrived to start as the first lead organizer of East Brooklyn Congregations. I was always struck by her no-nonsense approach to politics and to life in general, her ability to absorb all the ups and downs of our work in Queens and in New York City as a whole, and her wry sense of humor.
When we began Metro IAF, approximately 25 years ago, Pat became the administrative person that I, my organizer colleagues, and our Metro IAF board relied on.  She lived the old Alinsky precept of "low overhead and high production" over all those years -- including years when it was very uncertain that we would emerge with more than a few dollars in the bank.  Whenever the situation got tight, Pat would send me a little email inquiring about when the next check would be arriving.  Pat understood how to nudge when necessary and to relax when not.  As her co-worker over so many years, I place her in the pantheon of extraordinary administrative organizers -- with Lucille Clark, who retired from EBC and Patty Morales, current senior administrator for IAF Southwest -- who enabled the rest of us to do our organizing work knowing that we could count on unquestioned and unfailing support, professionalism, and foresight. 
Oettinger Grandchildren Billy , Kirsten and Chris
Photos above in story - 
Top: Pat with Ryan Elfeld
Middle: Pat with her favorite past-time, great-grandson Will
Fri Dec 14, 2018

A Spotlight on Rabbi Enid G. Lader, Leader of Greater Cleveland Congregations -Greater Cleveland Congregations

Rabbi Lader Named a 2018 Difference Maker by the Cleveland Jewish News
Rabbi Enid Lader of Beth Israel – The West Temple was named a 2018 Difference Maker for volunteering and giving back to the community, particularly through her sharing a Jewish perspective and teaching in a variety of community venues. In addition to leading Beth Israel – The West Temple, Rabbi Lader is actively engaged with non-Jewish clergy councils in Cleveland’s West Park neighborhood and Lakewood. 
“I think what informs (my desire to give back) is the famous teaching of Hillel: ‘If I am only for myself, what am I?’” Lader said. “The idea of, it’s not just my needs that are important, it’s the needs of people around me. If I can help in any way, I want to make myself available to do that.”
Fri Dec 14, 2018

First-Ever IAF “Writing for Organizers and Leaders” Workshop Held in Chicago -Metro IAF

Greg Pierce, publisher of ACTA Publications in Chicago and long-time IAF leader and organizer
Do we have to “love” writing to do it well, or can we write well just because it needs to be done? 
This was one of the first questions fourteen active IAF leaders and organizers grappled with during a two-day intensive immersion workshop led by long-time IAF leader/organizer Greg Pierce, the publisher of ACTA Publications in Chicago. The sessions were filled with lots of specific tips on things like: getting started; recognizing great first and last lines; picking the best adjectives, adverbs, and verbs; editing multiple drafts and welcoming editing by others; collaborative writing; and finishing and publishing a piece. 
Much of the training centered on how to make our writing “persuasive,” which is the opposite of “argumentative.” This takes “sweetness, which is the Greek origin of the word persuade,” Pierce pointed out. “That means our writing must be relational, vulnerable, passionate, humorous, provocative, disinterested, and powerful…all at the same time.” The group spent a lot of time discussing how leaders and organizers must be able to tell well-crafted stories as examples of what they are trying to persuade others to do.
The participants committed to disciplining themselves to make time to write and to share what they write with one another. They promised to teach what they learned with those in their organizations and recommended the workshop be held again at other times and in other locales.
From the Organizers:
“…a transformative experience.” Keisha Krumm, Lead Organizer, Common Ground, Milwaukee
“The workshop was deeply invigorating…a true time of joy.” Perry Perkins, Organizer, Mississippi and Louisiana IAF
“I found it incredibly insightful and agitational.” Rev. Alison Dunn-Almaguer, Organizer, Washington Interfaith Network (WIN)
For information on the next “Writing for Organizers and Leaders” workshop, contact Greg Pierce at Several insightful books written by IAF leaders and organizers—including Ed Chambers, Mike Gecan, Ernesto Cortes, Jonathan Lange, Amy Vruno, Ben Gordon, Timothy Tilghman, —have been published by ACTA Publications and can be ordered from or 800-397-2282.
Fri Dec 14, 2018

Jersey City Together Continues Push for Equity in Affordable Housing, Gun Safety and Education -Jersey City Together

More than 500 Jersey City Together (JCT) leaders came together to call for increased action by the city and state’s elected officials to address affordable housing, gun safety and education. Stories were shared by leaders of terrible conditions they face daily. A high school student shared that school funding was so short, it couldn’t fix a broken sink that fell off a wall. Another resident shared how she catches at least 17 mice in her apartment each night. Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop committed to continuing his partnership with JCT to address community issues, and JCT plans to meet with both Governor Phil Murphy and state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal in January of 2019.
Photo by Corey W. McDonald, The Jersey Journal
Photo by Corey W. McDonald, The Jersey Journal
Tue Nov 20, 2018

A Spotlight on Rufaro Jenkins, Leader with the Washington Interfaith Network (WIN) -WIN

Rufaro Jenkins is a native Washingtonian with a passion for her community.
Ms. Jenkins found WIN in 2008 when she learned that the city would be closing her apartment complex, Parkway Overlook, and that all 266 families would have to move out.  A friend told her, “if there would be any organization that would fight for the right to return and affordability with us, it would be WIN”.
Jenkins became deeply involved in the campaign and at her first action she witnessed her neighbors and other DC residents standing up and demanding action. This experience made her feel, “like we had a voice in the city,” and pushed her to fight harder.
Again, she saw the power of collective action when, while struggling to get a meeting with Council Member Barry, a team of WIN leaders showed up to a meeting at Bearny Elementary school on MLK Ave in Southeast DC, all wearing blue WIN t-shirts, and demanded that Barry meet with WIN. Then Council Member Barry finally agreed to sit down with the group, leaving Ms. Jenkins in awe of how powerful every DC resident could be, by coming together consistently and persistently in pursuit of justice.
Over the years, Ms. Jenkins has led and spoken at multiple WIN actions, helped lead a tour of the property with a former Mayor, held a community vigil, led voter efforts, and organized countless tenant meetings to keep the redevelopment of Parkway Overlook a central issue in the city.
After nearly 10 years of involvement with WIN, Ms. Jenkins reflects on what keeps her coming back:
“The work is not about any one person, or one issue. All the struggles and the concerns of this city are the concerns of WIN. WIN helps residents come together from all eight wards to make a difference and to be the liaisons between residents and public officials so that they can work together and truly ensure that no one is left behind or pushed aside.”
By day, Ms. Jenkins works for the federal government. However, her work doesn’t stop there. Ms. Jenkins is still the President of the Parkway Overlook East and West Tenant Association, Founder and CEO of Heavenly Flava, a board member for Brighter Day Enrichment Academy and Manpower DC, and a co-founding member of New Life Ministries.
Mon Nov 19, 2018

In Anne Arundel County, 1,100+ Leaders Unite, Pledge to Make The County a Better Place -Anne Arundel Connecting Together

Anne Arundel Connecting Together (ACT) Leaders at inaugural action
After two years of listening to communities, congregations and individuals, including 2,800 one-on-one conversations, over 1,100 leaders from Anne Arundel County packed First Christian Community Church for an inaugural action to commit to working together to make Anne Arundel a better place for everyone to live. Six broad issues were identified as priorities for the newest IAF organization, Anne Arundel Connecting Together (ACT):
1. Affordable Housing
2. Safe and Effective Schools
3. Efficient and useful Public Transportation
4. Freedom from Addiction and Mental Health Challenges
5. Just and Fair Immigration Policies
6. Gun Violence Reduction and Safety in our Communities
ACT asked candidates for county council, state’s attorney and county executive in attendance if they would pledge to work with and meet regularly with ACT, and all but one agreed.
Wed Oct 31, 2018

IAF Statement on Tragedy in Pittsburgh -Industrial Areas Foundation

Tue Oct 9, 2018

Anne Arundel Connecting Together (ACT) united, in search of solutions, going beyond the politics of division. -Anne Arundel Connecting Together

Photo Credit Brian Krista / Baltimore Sun Media Group

As the multi-congregational choir raised the roof, over 1,100 people from Anne Arundel county overflowed into First Christian Community Church and into a tent set up outside.  They committed to ACT and to work together to make Anne Arundel County a better place for everyone to live.

After more than two years of listening to communities, congregations and individuals, including 2,800 “one-on-one” conversations, six broad issues were identified:

  1. Affordable Housing
  2. Safe and Effective Schools
  3. Efficient and useful Public Transportation
  4. Freedom from Addiction and Mental Health Challenges
  5. Just and Fair Immigration Policies
  6. Gun Violence Reduction and Safety in our Communities

During the action, candidates for county council, state’s attorney and county executive were asked if they would pledge to work with and meet regularly with ACT.


Photo Gallery:


Tue Oct 2, 2018

PERSON SPOTLIGHT: Tita Concepcion -Metro IAF NYC

My name is Tita Concepcion, I am a member of Our Lady of Presentation – Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church in Ocean Hill-Brownsville, and a long-time resident of the Breukelen Houses in Canarsie. 
This summer I took action at City Hall and confronted NYCHA managers and this mayor for allowing my daughter to be assaulted.  
For years we’ve had problems in our buildings: a lack of heat & hot water, mold, dirty elevators and local managers who treat us with total disrespect. But the turning moment for me started with men lurking in our lobby because the front door lock was broken. We’d call and call but it would stay broken.
Then one day my daughter was sexually assaulted. I was outraged, and decided that enough was enough. I invited my neighbors over to my house to see if they were tired of being treated like trash by this administration. We knocked on doors and we got organized.
One of my neighbors in the building next door had so many rats that she was afraid to go out at night. Rats! We had to host meetings during the day because the rats would take over the courtyard at night. 
At City Hall, I testified, rallied and confronted NYCHA.  I challenged this mayor’s indifference to the health and safety of half a million black and Latino New Yorkers like me. We’re tired of being treated like second-class citizens.
We take action to get a reaction, and the very next day my door was fixed. I got the mayor to do his job and make it safe for my daughter and me again. But I was just getting started.
Later I organized more than 70 parishioners and neighbors to host a press conference with Councilwoman Inez Barron. We got more attention and more of a reaction. Soon they were getting rid of the rats and cleaning out people’s mold.
As Fr. Skelly mentioned, we helped win $2.2 billion for repairs.  There are hundreds of thousands of us that still need repairs. We’re going to need more money, real leadership and strong accountability.  
After 5 years, I don’t trust this mayor to do it on his own. That’s why all of you and I will keep taking action. 
Wed Jul 25, 2018

Jersey City Together Demands Action on Rent Control, Housing Code Enforcement -Jersey City Together

200 tenant and faith leaders won commitments from Jersey City Mayor Fulop and Council President Lavarro to work on an ordinance to address rent and housing violations for the June 13th council meeting. Jersey City Together is pushing for wholesale reform of Jersey City’s enforcement operation for unaccountable landlords. After a year of working with Fulop and the city council to hold mega-landlord Trendy Management accountable, 80 of 140 of the landlord’s buildings were sold after finding 1,750+ housing and health code violations. But new landlords who bought the properties continue to ignore the city’s rent control law. Leaders shared their stories of living in conditions where raw sewage poured out into hallways, living with pest issues and rent control violations.
Press Coverage:
Wed Jul 25, 2018

Durham CAN Pressures City Council to Prioritize Affordable Housing in Downtown Durham -Durham CAN

Faith leaders, housing advocates, and public housing residents in Durham gather to remind city council leaders to use public land to build affordable housing so we can have a downtown for all.

Durham CAN pressured the Durham City Council to prioritize affordable housing on over 4 acres of city-owned land in the heart of Downtown. When Durham CAN heard the city was considering an outright sale of the land to the highest bidder, over a hundred leaders gathered at noon holding mirrors to remind council that what we do with land is a reflection of our values, and of who gets to be included in the flourishing of downtown. The mayor then presented a proposal at the city's work session that reflected our top priority and included all of our demands: a minimum of 80 units of affordable housing for families under 60% AMI, including a commitment for a developer to work with the Durham Housing Authority to accept residents with vouchers. Durham CAN won strong press coverage, including a front page story in the local newspaper.

Mon May 21, 2018

WIN Organizes for Immigrant Legal Services, Affordable Housing -Washington Interfaith Network

WIN Leaders launched new Ward 1 demands around affordable housing and immigration to six candidates for Ward 1 councilmember.| Photo by David Choy 

On April 25th Washington Interfaith Network (WIN) packed the basement of Sacred Heart Catholic Church with 304 leaders and 6 candidates vying for Council Member of Ward 1 in D.C. Sacred Heart is the largest immigrant church in DC and the turnout reflected that diversity. The action was WIN’s first attempt at doing an action in both English and Spanish, using 300 interpretation headsets. Demands were made for $2.5 million to expand legal assistance for immigrants, to build affordable housing on a piece of land owned by the National Parks Service, and to take on a slum landlord in the neighborhood.

Mon May 21, 2018

In NYC, Leaders Continue the Fight for Affordable Housing Solutions, Increasing Number of Council Members Agree to Support Metro IAF NY’s Housing Plan -Metro IAF NYC

Metro IAF NY Leaders Rally at City Hall in New York City to Fight for Affordable Housing
On May 17th more than 150 East Brooklyn Congregations & Metro I.A.F. leaders endured sweltering heat to remind the mayor that they are not giving up until they make New York City affordable and just for everyone. Leaders were joined by Council members Alicka Ampry-Samuel, Laurie Combo, Jumaane Williams, Adrienne Adams, Rafael Salamanca & Barry Grodenchik. They each gave Metro IAF NY tremendous recognition for their track record, history of action, and plan to solve the crisis.  
Metro IAF NY is demanding a deal to build 15,000 units of senior housing, repair NYCHA from top to bottom, bring justice to slumlords, and use city money for rents residents can afford. And they are getting a reaction: Mayor de Blasio has been desperately calling council members urging them to back off; and Speaker Corey Johnson finally reached out and asked to work together again.  
The rally followed 8 days of action with 5 other press conferences involving a total of 418 leaders. These council-led tours of NYCHA apartments and empty lots, which also included council members Rafael Espinal and Antonio Reynoso, received significant media coverage.  Please see most of the press coverage below.
So much of the political class is now running to catch up to Metro IAF NY’s leadership & solutions. De Blasio will soon, too. And, when he does, Metro IAF NY will have saved the soul of New York City. 
Inspection tour of NYCHA continues as city council battles mayor for billions in city budget | WPIX 11 New York
Inquilinos de NYCHA exigen una pronta solución a los problemas que sufren sus viviendas - Univision
Fund Fair Fares, senior housing in city budget - Greenpoint Star
Bushwick residents, leaders rally for senior housing - Greenpoint Star
Father Edward Mason, Brooklyn Pastor - Greenpoint Star
Councilmember rips NYCHA conditions - The Bronx Free Press 
NYCHA tenants, councilman hold rally for more funding - Bronx News 12
How Monica is making it happen this week | WPIX 11 New York
NYCHA tenants, council members press mayor for better conditions - Brooklyn New 12
NYCHA tenants, officials rally for more senior housing options - News 12 Brooklyn 
Demandan mejoras para gente mayor en edificios de vivienda pública - Noticias 1
Concejales inspeccionan edificios de NYCHA - Telemundo 47
Condiciones deplorables en vivienda publica - Telemundo 47
布勒克倫公屋惹兒哮喘 母子被迫分居兩地 - Epoch Times
NYCHA residents will give city council members tours of their homes | WPIX 11 New York
NYCHA Tenants Demand More Money - CBS local news 
City Council member tours Canarsie NYCHA complex - Bronx News 12
Concejales de Nueva York realizan tour de inspección en viviendas públicas de NYCHA - Univision 41 Nueva York - Univision
City Council pols hear horror stories while visiting NYCHA housing in Brooklyn - NY Daily News
NYCHA residents give NYC Council members tour of living conditions in Brooklyn - ABC 7 New York 
NYCHA residents to give council members tour of properties - NY Post 
Brooklyn Lawmakers On The Move May 7, 2018 - Kings County Politics