Tuesday, January 30, 2007

New Orleans: Urgent Advocacy Needed

Pax Christi New Orleans chapter is requesting advocacy help from our broader Pax Christi membership to help stop the proposed demolition of public housing units in New Orleans. The public housing garden-style apartments being slated for demolition by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) include 4,534 apartments: 1546 in BW Cooper, 753 in CJ Peete, 1400 in St. Bernard, 865 in Lafitte. Residents have been prevented from returning to their apartments, and many residents are still scattered all over the country.

Dr. Bill Quigley, of Loyola University Law School and Pax Christi USA 2003 Teacher of Peace, is representing the displaced. In a Washington Post article (12/08/06) he described the situation as “a government-sanctioned diaspora of New Orleans's poorest African American citizens... They are destroying perfectly habitable apartments when they are more rare than any time since the Civil War."

John Fernandez, Associate Professor of Architecture at MIT, has inspected 140 of these apartments and has concluded ”no structural or nonstructural damage was found that could reasonably warrant any cost-effective building demolition...and that replacement of these buildings with contemporary construction would yield buildings of lower quality and shorter lifetime duration.”

The demolished buildings would make way for much newer and many fewer apartments which would be built by private developers, as mixed housing. The demolition and private development would be financed by millions of dollars in federal funds and federal tax breaks designed to help Katrina victims.

Advocacy Request: The House of Representatives’ Finance Committee has oversight of HUD. Rep. Barney Frank is chair of the House Finance Committee and Rep. Maxine Waters is chair of the subcommittee with direct oversight of HUD. Contact your Member in the House of Representatives and ask them to contact Representatives Frank and Waters with a request to investigate this situation in New Orleans. Please email or fax them today. For additional information and a link for help with contacting your elected federal officials, see the Web site: www.jus ticeforneworleans.org.

For a background sheet on affordable housing in New Orleans to include with your advocacy letter (sample below), click here.

Sample Letter: Dear Representative ____________,

As a member of Pax Christi, the national Catholic peace movement, we have learned from our Pax Christi New Orleans chapter that the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has decided to demolish four major public housing projects in New Orleans and to build mixed income housing in their place. Such redevelopment would take 3 to 5 years before public housing residents could return to their city; and even then, there would not be enough public housing units provided to house all of the public housing residents who lived in New Orleans before Katrina. I understand that the second and third floors of the public housing projects slated for demolition would be habitable now with some repair and clean-up work. There is substantial information that this demolition is not warranted (see attached).

Recognizing the extreme shortage of affordable housing in New Orleans since Katrina, it seems unconscionable that these public housing units would be destroyed at this time. Please help the people of New Orleans stop the destruction of this housing by contacting Representative Barney Frank, chair of the House Finance Committee, and Representative Maxine Waters, chair of the subcommittee of the House Finance Committee with oversight of HUD. Please ask them to investigate this situation in New Orleans as part of their HUD oversight duties.

Please find attached a summary of the housing situation in New Orleans prepared by Dr. William Quigley of Loyola University, New Orleans. I will appreciate hearing your response to this request.

(Name and Affiliation)
(Contact Information)

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Lend a helping hand

You may have read that a massive fire consumed an entire block of houses in Elizabeth this week, leaving 15 families homeless. There is an effort under way here in Summit to provide help for these families. The families are currently in temporary housing and will soon need rental assistance.

The current need is for funds to provide temporary rental assistance. St. John’s Episcopal Church in Elizabeth is collecting funds and will distribute them to the families. To help, please make out checks to St. John's Episcopal Church, marked "homeless fund". Mail to P.O. Box 278 Elizabeth, NJ 07207-0278.

Winter coats are also being collected for the Warm Heart Homeless Program through Saturday for delivery on Sunday to St John’s in Elizabeth. You can drop new or gently used winter coats for adults and children in Summit at 255 Morris Avenue (front or back porch - at the corner of Morris and Summit Avenues).

For more information or to help transport the coats, contact Kathy O'Leary, kathy-wargo@comcast.net

Monday, January 22, 2007

Lenten Mission Lectures at St. Teresa's

Seeking God: The Challenge to Live Our Faith

St. Teresa of Avila Church

306 Morris Avenue, Summit, NJ 07901

The goal is to apply our faith to social and economic issues and learn of opportunities to put our faith into action.

Sunday, March 4 in Avila Room 6:30-8:30 p.m.: Light supper (Sunday night ONLY) followed by Dave O’Brien, Director of Lay Development for the Archdiocese of Mobile (Alabama), speaking on the Call to Family, Community, and Participation.

Monday, March 12 in Upper Memorial Hall 7:30-9 p.m.: Sr. Maureen McGowan, R.G.S. & Karen Bulthius, Director and Assistant Director of Handcrafting Justice, speaking on Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers

Monday, March 19 in Upper Memorial Hall 7:30-9 p.m.: April Harris, Coordinator of In Jesus’ Name ministry (Hoboken, NJ), speaking on Option for the Poor and Vulnerable.

Monday, March 26 in Upper Memorial Hall 7:30-9 p.m.: Fr. Jack Martin, Jubilee Interfaith Network Board member and founder of Haitian Solidarity Network, speaking on Human Rights and Responsibilities and Global Solidarity.

For additional information contact Karen Malnati, Beyond JustFaith Coordinator at (908) 598-8194 or email malnatifamily@hotmail.com.

Directions to St. Teresa’s can be found at http://www.st-teresa.org.


Clothing for Displaced Families in Elizabeth

You may have read about this in the Star Ledger . A full block of apartments burned to the ground in Elizabeth on Saturday. About 15 families are now homeless. St. John’s Episcopal in Elizabeth will be collecting warm clothing and toys this coming Sunday, January 28th, to distribute to the displaced families.

I am working on organizing something within our community. I don’t have a very big car, but I would volunteer to drive things down. We could also use my back porch as a drop off site if we can’t find a drop off point at one of the local congregations. Would anyone else be willing to volunteer and/or help organize?

If you would like to help, please contact me. If you have other thoughts on how we could help these families please share. You can email me at kathy-wargo at comcast.net