Building a United Interfaith Lexington through Direct-Action
What is BUILD?
Building a United Interfaith Lexington through Direct-Action (BUILD) is an organization of religious congregations in Lexington-Fayette County, Kentucky. Since its inception in 2003, BUILD has been constituent led and employs the practices of direct action community organizing. BUILD is developing a powerful grassroots organization, made up of congregations situated in low to moderate income communities that are capable of creating system-wide change.
Presently, 27 congregations with over 15,000 individual members are members of BUILD. We come from all parts of Fayette County, and we represent a diverse mix of persons by race, economic class, and religious traditions.
Lead Organizer: Matt Huffman
Associate Organizer: Mary Kate Norton
Associate Organizer: Jane Meadows
What we do
Read more about the impact we’ve had in Lexington below.
In 2014, BUILD got Mayor Gray and the Urban County Council to unanimously create an affordable housing fund to build and renovate affordable housing in Lexington, with $2 million of ongoing, annual funding. Despite the Housing Fund’s success, in March of 2020 Mayor Linda Gorton proposed a budget that slashed funding for affordable housing from $2 million a year to $200,000 citing the prospect of diminishing tax revenues from the pandemic. BUILD organized a car rally in May 2020 with over 150 families present and called on city council to reject the Mayor’s proposal to cut affordable housing. The Council did just that. In 2021 leading up to an outdoor Nehemiah Action, Mayor Gorton had learned a lesson and proposed to increase funding from $2 million to $3 million. BUILD celebrated that increase and then got the City Council to allocate an additional $10 million from the American Rescue Plan allocation. Over 3,000 families have been housed and over $352 million dollars have been leveraged in the community through BUILD’s affordable housing victories.
Drugs & Crime
BUILD won a Restorative Justice Program for youth who are using drugs and alcohol in our Family Court System. Three Family Court Judges, the Police Chief, the school system, the principal of our alternative school, and the Division of Youth Services were at our Nehemiah Action to commit to make this happen in Lexington. Over 100 youth per year go through this program, avoiding jail time.
BUILD discovered in 2006 that there was no drug treatment program for women in the Fayette County Jail, while the program for men was reducing the recidivism rate from 60% to 19%. BUILD got then-Mayor Teresa Isaac to put $175,000 in the budget for a women’s drug treatment program at the Fayette County Jail. We have followed up each year since then to ensure that the program remains funded.
In 2014, BUILD won top-notch drug court training for judges and attorneys so that everyone eligible has access to this program and the hope of recovery from their addiction.
Due to BUILD’s taking action in 2007, the Code Enforcement Division agreed to step up its inspections of trailer parks in Fayette county, some of which had rotting floor, leaking roofs, and open sewage.
In 2012, BUILD gained a commitment from Mayor Gray to promote hiring policies that help reduce recidivism by getting people with a criminal history back to work. He agreed to bring together his staff and local employers to meet with a national expert to deepen their understanding of fair, effective hiring practices.
Over the last two years, Mental Health Court has saved the city of Lexington over $1.5 million by keeping folks out of jail and supporting them as they become healthy members of the community. The program is so successful that they are piloting it in surrounding counties.
Healthcare for the Uninsured
Due to the work of BUILD the Fayette County Health Department and other providers have supplied primary care to over 14,000 of Lexington’s over 40,000 uninsured adults. In 2011 alone, nearly $8 million of healthcare was provided to the uninsured in Lexington as a direct result of BUILD’s efforts.
BUILD got LexTran to start an “Employment Bus” which will take citizens to work during the hours the regular bus is not in service – this service began in August 2006.
BUILD got the circuit court clerk and head of the detention center to develop a plan to ensure inmates have state issued photo ID’s upon their release.