CAJE focusing on mental health, housing

March 16, 2015. Evansville Courier & Press.

Maggie Petrig, a 71-year-old mother of five, is worried about access to mental health care in the area.

Her 33-year-old son suffers from mental illness. He’s also been in and out of prison and jail since he became an adult.

CAJE rally March 2015

Local officials have acknowledged that jails and prisons have become mental health facilities since deinstitutionalization, Petrig said, but that does nothing to help the problem.

“We’re trying to get a mental health court so that the mentally ill don’t have to be incarcerated. They need to be taken to center for help,” she said.

She told her story Monday evening to hundreds of members of area churches packed in the sanctuary of Nazarene Baptist Church for a rally organized by Congregations Acting for Justice and Empowerment.

Every year, the group hones in specific social issues and asks local elected officials to address specific deficiencies in the community.

This year it’s mental health care and access to affordable housing.

Juliana Cheatham, 50, told the crowd her continual struggle to housing in Evansville.

Cheatham is plagued with health issues that have had her in and out of hospitals for years. Every medical issue has set her back and left her starting from scratch time and time again, she said.

Now, she works at a gas station and lives at Ruth’s House with 24 other women.

“There isn’t any (affordable housing) out there,” she said before the event started. “It’s not just me that is dealing with this.”

According to CAJE, there are 10,000 area families who cannot find affordable housing.

Monday’s rally is a precursor to CAJE’s annual Nehemiah Action gathering. During the event, the group asks local official to address its targeted social issues. The event is set for April 20 at Old National Events Plaza.

What specifically the group will ask of local leaders hasn’t been set, yet.

Previous initiatives of Nehemiah Action program have included an expansion of METS bus service along the U.S. 41 North corridor to give workers from the Center City access to jobs and expansion of bus connections to Warrick County to give access to medical care. The group also worked to get an expanded number of convicted drug offenders into Vanderburgh County drug court and treatment programs for early release.

CAJE officials also updated the crowd on last year’s initiative of equipping first responders with an opiate overdose antidote.

While other agencies, like the Warrick County Sheriff’s Office, have equipped responders with the antidote the Evansville Police Department has not, and CAJE officials said Monday they’re not stopping their push for local police to carry what they said is a lifesaving tool.

RISC steps in to address affordable housing crisis in Richmond

Richmond, VA – In 2010, RISC decided to tackle the severe shortage of affordable housing in Richmond.  RISC leaders found that almost one in four Richmonders pays 50% or more of their income on housing (30% or more is deemed unaffordable according to the U.S. Department of Housing).  Families that pay more than 50% of their income on housing are at greater risk of becoming homeless.   With close to 1,200 people present at RISC’s 2014 Nehemiah Action, the Mayor of Richmond allocated $1 million dollars for the Affordable Housing Trust Fund in his 2014-2015 budget. The Affordable Housing Trust Fund will create affordable housing and several hundred jobs within the city of Richmond. Funding is expected to begin in the winter of 2014.

Lexington council votes to spend $10 million surplus

March 20, 2014. Lexington Herald-Leader.

The Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council on Thursday unanimously agreed to spend a $10 million surplus from this year’s budget.

Resolution 45 commits the city to spending the surplus on affordable housing and homeless initiatives, among other items. The surplus was created by $5 million in savings and $5 million in unanticipated revenue.

The Rev. Adam Jones, co-chairman of Building A United Inter-Faith Lexington through Direct-Action (BUILD), praised the council for passing the resolution as others held up a sign with 500 bricks drawn on it; each brick contained the signature of a Lexington resident who agreed with spending for affordable housing.

“We wanted to make sure that the council and mayor knew that it is a step in the right direction,” Jones said. “However, the full resolution of the affordable housing resolutioncrisis must include an affordable housing trust fund with a dedicated revenue stream.”

A council committee had set aside $3 million for affordable housing and $500,000 for homeless initiatives. The city plans to spend $2.9 million on body armor, Tasers and 65 police cruisers; $2.9 million on fire equipment, including thermal imaging devices and repairs to aging fire buildings; $2.5 million for three fire trucks and an ambulance; and about $535,000 on community corrections or the county jail.

Affordable housing has been a growing problem as the city has lost 28,000 apartments affordable to minimum-wage workers in 20 years, a recent report found. Also according to the report, by czb consultants, Lexington is losing 400 rental units each year to higher rents. The report, issued last month, recommended spending at least $3 million to $4 million a year to address the problem.

Greg Capillo, a representative from Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, said the lack of affordable housing in Lexington affects him, and it needs a secure fix, but “budget surpluses are not secure.”

“As a young person who works a low-wage job, I’m personally in a precarious situation with a landlord who is not up to par, but I don’t think I can get rent that’s as affordable elsewhere,” Capillo said.

It has not been decided how the affordable housing and homeless funds will be spent, but the council is to receive a detailed plan in coming months. Mayor Jim Gray said they must take one step at a time.

“Have a plan and work the plan,” he said. “This is a significant first step. … I trust, hope and believe the affordable housing advocates recognize what a big step this is. It’s rare for a council to make this significant of an investment.”


CAJE finds funding for very low income households

Evansville, IN – As a result of CAJE’s 2010 Nehemiah Action, where 1,200 people were present, the Mayor of Evansville pledged to fund an Affordable Housing Trust Fund in the amount of $550,000 in 2010, at least $500,000 in 2011, and $1million each year following through a dedicated revenue source. Affordable Housing Trust Funds, once capitalized, are designed to provide communities with funds to build, preserve, and rehabilitate housing that are affordable for extremely and very low income households. By the end of 2010, twenty three low-income homes had been built.

BOLD Justice brings mortgage modification

Broward County, FL – In 2010, Broward County had 9,433 homes in foreclosure and an additional 17,961 in pre-foreclosure. BOLD Justice pushed the County administrator to invite NACA, an organization that has modified over 100,000 home loans nationwide, into Broward County to conduct mortgage modifications. This resulted in a region-wider event in August 2010 held in Palm Beach where on-the-spot mortgage modifications were performed on 3,544 homes.