August 17, 2020

Monday, August 17, 2020

TRHT Kalamazoo Advocates for Housing Ordinances to Address Structural Racism

Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation (TRHT) Kalamazoo, hosted by the Kalamazoo Community Foundation (KZCF), and Interfaith Strategy for Advocacy and Action in the Community (ISAAC) have been calling on community members to support new local housing laws that to address structural racism and inequality in Kalamazoo.

"We've seen homelessness and housing instability worsen due to COVID-19," Sholanna Lewis, director of TRHT Kalamazoo said. "One critical piece of the puzzle to address housing issues in Kalamazoo is removing discriminatory barriers that are more likely to impact Black people and other people of color."

TRHT Kalamazoo has been advocating for support of the new ordinances through social media and other community outreach, sharing specific action steps community members can take to show their support ahead of tonight’s Kalamazoo City Commission’s virtual ordinance hearing.

The city commission is expected to read the proposal this evening with a final vote taking place on September 8.

“Both TRHT Kalamazoo and ISAAC have been reaching out to our wider networks on social media and in person over the last two years,” Lewis said. “Our goal is to let community members and organizations know how they can advocate for the ordinance. Whether that’s through attending public hearing sessions, emailing and calling the city commission, mailing letters or sharing posts on social media, we’re calling on everyone we can to voice their support.”  

The proposal would create new and stronger protections for:

  • Gender and sexual identity

  • People with previous evictions

  • People who use housing vouchers

  • People who use a county identification card

  • People who were previously incarcerated

Through the proposal, application fees would be regulated and a civil rights commission would be established to review cases of discrimination that would fall under the purview of the ordinance.

If adopted, this would be the first major change to address housing issues in Kalamazoo since gender identity and sexual orientation were added as local protections in 2009. As TRHT Kalamazoo shared, similar ordinances were adopted by the city of Grand Rapids in 2019. 

“We have seen some pushback [about the ordinance], largely from landlords,” Lewis said “Some of the questions and arguments we have heard during public discussions are deeply entrenched in racial bias. There are some loud voices speaking out in favor of an unjust system that allows discrimination based on blanket policies. This ordinance asks landlords to fairly consider potential tenants as individuals. It should not be controversial, as similar policies are present in cities across the state and nation.”  

Lewis said that for years TRHT Kalamazoo and their partners have been talking to people who have experienced housing instability and discrimination and they hope the community will support residents in an action-oriented way.

“We are hoping for a strong show of support at the public hearing on August 17 and that the commission will move the policy forward to the second hearing for a final vote on September 8. We want to ensure that the civil rights board has adequate enforcement power, with people on the board and staff with the right skills and perspectives. Sustaining momentum in our advocacy will be key to seeing more protections for residents.”

TRHT Kalamazoo's work is another example of efforts underway to address systemic racism in housing, in last week's edition of The Download we highlighted Flint TRHT's approach to community healing amid systemic racism in public housing. 

Want more?

Connect with TRHT Kalamazoo.





New Initiative Aims to Bridge Detroit’s Digital Divide

A new initiative spearheaded by CMF members, businesses and nonprofits is aimed at bridging Detroit’s digital divide before the new school year begins.

The Tech Fund for Detroit Students launched last week with the goal of providing computers and internet access to Detroit charter and private high school students who are considered high need. This collaborative effort was made possible by CMF members DTE Energy Foundation, The Skillman Foundation and Quicken Loans Community Fund and other organizations including the Deloitte Foundation, Detroit Children’s Fund, Nancy and Arn Tellem, the Detroit Pistons, Harlem Children’s Zone, Ideal Group and the United Way for Southeastern Michigan (UWSEM).

“We’re thrilled that so many Detroit institutions have come together to ensure more students can engage in remote learning and progress in their education,” Punita Dani Thurman, vice president of program and strategy for The Skillman Foundation said. “High schoolers and recent graduates are the focus of this fund because they will have the least amount of time to catch up if they fall behind in their studies.”

The $1.8 million fund will allow high school administrators to apply for funding to provide students with laptops and internet access to support remote learning. Schools who have already purchased devices for students since March can also apply for reimbursement funds.

As CMF reported nearly 500,000 Michigan students do not have access to adequate technology or internet access for remote learning. CMF members, organizations, cities and school districts across the state continue to leverage partnerships and innovative approaches to support students and their families in the remote learning environment.

“The Tech Fund addresses an urgent need affecting the most vulnerable families in Detroit,” Tonya Adair, chief impact officer for UWSEM said. “Education, employment, and stability are all tied to having access to technology. It will take the collective power of public and private collaborators, like The Skillman Foundation and Detroit Children’s Fund, to address the digital divide for students and families. We are especially grateful for the support of all organizations involved in making this fund a reality.”

The goal of the Tech Fund and other initiatives, including Connected Futures which is a joint effort among several CMF members to provide computer tablets and high-speed internet access to all students in the Detroit Public Schools Community District, and Connect 313 is to make Detroit the most connected city in the country during the pandemic and beyond.

“Digital literacy and access isn’t only imperative now during this pandemic,” Thurman said. “It is imperative for young people’s ongoing education, connection to community and access to the job market.”

Want more?

Learn about the Tech Fund for Detroit Students.

Learn about Connected Futures and other efforts to bridge Michigan’s digital divide.





Census 2020: Time is Running Out for a Complete Count

We’re now 45 days away from the close of the Census 2020 count after the U.S. Census Bureau recently announced that it would end a month early to meet the prior data reporting deadline of December 31.

With the new September 30 deadline looming, there are efforts underway to push for an extension of census reporting deadlines to ensure a fair and accurate count.

Last week Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters sent a joint letter to legislative leaders asking that they extend the census deadlines.

CMF along with several of our members and funders from around the country recently signed on to a letter to U.S. Department of Commerce sharing how ending the census count efforts early will negatively impact our ability to ensure everyone is counted.

While Michigan’s response rate is currently 69.1%, higher than our 2010 response rate of 67.7%, there’s still more work to do to ensure everyone is counted.

The Michigan Nonprofits Complete Count Campaign (NPCCC), led by the Michigan Nonprofit Association (MNA), shared in a statement, “Michigan’s 2020 self-response rates in historically undercounted communities already lag because of COVID-19’s impact. Rushing the deadline could undermine the health and safety of census workers and the American public. We cannot afford, amid a global pandemic, to short-change communities most affected by an undercount, including rural communities, people of color, senior citizens, immigrant communities, and children. “

The NPCCC is encouraging its nonprofit partners “who have already been extraordinarily committed to mobilizing communities, to double their efforts.”

CMF will continue to advocate for efforts that support an equitable and complete count. CMF is currently engaged in a national coalition with partners to support nonprofit infrastructure as well as civic infrastructure.

Within our community of philanthropy, CMF’s Census Learning Community continues to engage in issues connected to the census and other civic engagement efforts. This summer and early fall, our census learning opportunities will cover immediate action items that arise regarding the census. After the census wraps up the learning community will transition its focus to understanding philanthropy’s role in ensuring community engagement in the redistricting process led by Michigan’s Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission.

As the learning community broadens its focus it will serve as a convening body for CMF members interested and involved in efforts around redistricting, voter education and other forms of civic participation. If you’re interested in joining the learning community, please contact Kyra Hudson, CMF’s public policy fellow.

Want more?

CMF encourages you to promote census participation on your own social media channels. The Bureau provides social media graphics and language you can download and use to encourage your family, friends and colleagues to respond to the census.

Go online now to fill out your census form today!

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