Thursday, September 25, 2014

Families With Disabilities Bring Special Delivery to Fulton County Chairperson John Eaves

Today American Friends Service Committee joined Occupy Our Homes Atlanta, residents with the Fulton County OETH Permanent Supportive Housing Program, and representatives from Atlanta Jobs With Justice and American Postal Workers Union to deliver a demand letter to Fulton County Chairperson John Eaves office after hearing the concerns of women in the program and doing and onsite visit earlier in the week.

This isn't the first time we have had serious issues with the program and their treatment of the women in it. Click here to read about the last time we organized alongside women in the program.

Months ago Chairman Eaves office had promised to find housing for a number of the women who refused to be displace from the community the had come to embrace, he had also promised to assist with temporary housing, both promises never happened. More recently Eaves had made a commitment to bring improvements to the program during a face to face meeting with the women and hasn't followed through with those commitments either.

With a number of women's housing on the line we decided to take action with a number of women that were brave enough to be front and center with their grievances, there we many who met with us privately who did not come out of fear.

We delivered the following letter to Chairman Eaves office and we were able to meet with program staff.

Dear Chairman John Eaves,

We are here today because you have the power to fix the Fulton County OETH Permanent Supportive Housing Program and clear barriers from our path to self-sufficiency. In July, you moved our families from Vine City to the airport and we pulled our children through yet another new start. They are still struggling to find their footing in a new school and we are experiencing yet another round of staffing, program terminations, and threats. The staff says we must hold a job without access to childcare. They tell us we may not finish our degree. Every step invites termination from the program and return to homelessness. The shelters are full, Mr. Chairman.

We ask that you use your power to lift our destiny out of the hands of a vindictive program staff and the employees of the Regency Park Apartments. How can you put a flesh and blood woman and her six-year old child out in the street for making noise? Every woman facing program termination must be allowed to appeal and an impartial jury must hear her case. Stop Tracey DelGado’s termination immediately. We have signatures from Tracey Delgado’s neighbors who deny she has been noisy.

Program termination must not be used as a threat to coerce any woman to give up her right to freely decide or to protect the rights or the privacy of her children. If you do not allow a transparent process, the right to appeal, or a fair hearing then this is just a cruel weapon that beats us down and keeps us submissive under your control.

We ask you remove all barriers to our pursuit of education to lift our families out of poverty. The promises of the program are so often unmet, are communicated so poorly, and have changed so many times, that we cannot risk relying on it solely. Please don’t cut off our opportunity to prepare in advance of the day that you decide to put us out.

We ask that you allow us to watch each other’s children so that we may go to work and move our families up and out.

We ask that you allow our children to play in the front of the complex like other children who live at Regency Park. You have told us to send them to the dog park. Our children are not dogs.

We are asking for the right to be treated with respect and compassion by the case manager and supervisors in the Fulton County OETH housing program. We understand that there are rules to be followed and we are not asking for a handout, just stability for our families and the chance to go on.
After delivering the letter we were granted a rather long meeting to hash out many of the concerns the women had. While it's clear that the program still has a laundry list of problems we are glad that the County was willing to meet with us to discuss concerns and we are happy the women of the program led the discussion. We did come to some agreements and set a time for a follow-up meeting to discuss problematic policies of the program, explore how groups like Occupy Our Homes Atlanta might work with these families, and develop a stronger understanding of how the program works.
We certainly don't believe this issue is resolved, but we are hopeful that a path of resolution may have begun today. Many of the women in the program launched an online petition yesterday, and we encourage folks to check it out by clicking here.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Moral Monday on the Rise Outside Atlanta

AFSC was honored to be invited to speak with the League of Women Voters of Carrollton & Carroll County yesterday. Tim Franzen, AFSC's Atlanta Economic Justice program director, used the opportunity to talk about the Moral Monday movement and encouraged LWV members to explore creative ways to build coalition with other groups in their area that they may normally not work with.

We are excited to hear that several of those in attendance plan to organize an issues based march to the polls during the early voter period.

People Push Back Against Voter Suppression In Georgia

On September 9th, the public saw two disturbing attempts to silence our voices and thwart efforts to register and engage voters in Georgia. Brian Kemp, the Secretary of State, issued a broad and vague subpoena to the New Georgia Project. The New Georgia Project is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization focused on registering Georgians to vote, particularly the estimated 800,000 eligible African American, Latino, and Asian American citizens of Georgia. Brian Kemp also expressed extreme disdain for Sunday voting.

 Last week he Secretary of State’s office has now called for an emergency hearing for Wednesday, September 17th. The State Board of Elections will met with almost no public notice but that didn’t stop us from packing the room and exposing what was really happening; voter suppression.

 These actions, we fear, seem designed as steps to block communities of color from the polls, and successful voter registration activities by all types of organizations. However, the Secretary of State has not responded to a letter sent by multiple organizations or request to meet. Instead, he schedules a last minute hearing to get authority for subpoenas he has already issued.

American Friends Service Committee worked through Moral Monday Georgia to help organize a large press conference before the hearing at the Capitol. After the press conference over 50k completed voter registration forms were delivered to Brian Kemps office and we refused to leave until he met with us. At the hearing we packed the room. As the hearing began several Moral Monday Georgia participants stood up, put stickers that read, “Vote” over their mouths, and turned their backs on the hearing. Surprisingly no one was asked to leave.

 We demand that the Secretary of State get back his job of making sure verified voter registration applicants make it on the rolls successfully by the start of early voting on October 13th.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Know Your Rights

Last weekend, the Gen Y Projected invited Cop Watch of East Atlanta to provide a “Know Your Rights Training” to teach young Metro Atlantans what to and what not to do when stopped by a police officer. The presentation was both informative and entertaining with the training consisting of 4 parts and a Q&A session at the end. The four sections included what rights average citizens had in situations of being stopped walking down the street, being stopped while driving, when police knock at your door, and when being interrogated.

Each section included skits of the wrong way to conduct oneself when interacting with a cop and the right way to conduct oneself complete with information to accompany suggested methods. The audience was taught what rights they have as well as what rights police have depending on the situation. The atmosphere was both light hearted with many funny moments as well as very direct and specific as to why it is important for young people to know these rights.

The audience was delighted to be able to engage in the training and there were members of the group   #istbiggerthanyou in the audience. The training served as both a good bonding experience among Atlanta youth as well as an opportunity to develop practical skills that will be useful in organizing and everyday life.

The Gen Y Project meets every Thursday at 7pm at the AFSC Building, 60 Walton St

Atlanta, GA 30303

 Chiji Ebbis
Gen Y Project Organizer

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Getting in Front of Wall Street's New Scam

Today Members of the community organization, Occupy Our Homes Atlanta, struggling homeowners, and American Friends Service Committee rallied outside the local office of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to call for a halt to a controversial program that auctions off delinquent loans to investors. To highlight and dramatize the role HUD is playing in allowing Wall Street unfettered access to our communities Occupy Our Homes Atlanta set up a giant craps table outside the HUD office and invited folks on their lunch break to roll the dice.

 As part of a national day of action taking place in more than a dozen cities, community groups released a new report criticizing the agency’s Distressed Asset Stabilization Program (DASP). In recent weeks, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) released numbers on these delinquent loan sales and has been the subject of increasing scrutiny.

The report “Vulture Capital Hits Home: How HUD is Helping Wall Street and Hurting Our Communities” argues that the DASP program as it is currently structured moves mortgages into the hands of parts of the financial industry have harmed communities, despite the existence of better alternatives. Corporate winners of the auctioned loans include Lone Star Funds, Bayview Asset Management, and LVS I SPE (which was charged with fraud by the SEC in 2012).

          “HUD must stop selling off the mortgages of struggling homeowners to private equity firms and hedge funds seeking to further profit off of the devastating housing crisis they caused,” said resident Nancy Daniells, “It is an outrage that the federal agency charged with creating affordable housing and stable neighborhoods is, instead, contributing to the sale of our neighborhoods to Wall Street.”

Occupy Our Homes Atlanta and allies gathered at the HUD office on Marietta Street today to deliver a demand letter and play an interactive dice game in front of the office to tell HUD to stop rolling the dice with Atlanta neighborhoods.

The DASP is administered by the FHA and is meant to have the dual purpose of providing funding for the Mutual Mortgage Insurance (MMI) fund while also aiding in the stabilization of distressed American communities. The report, which was researched and authored by the Center for Popular Democracy and the Right To The City Alliance, shows that while the program is successfully providing the capital necessary to keep MMI afloat, it is failing in achieving its second goal.

The report highlights three key problems with the DASP program:

1.      The current structure of DASP auctions hampers community stabilization by considering only the highest bid without weighting the bidders’ track record of good outcomes for homeowners and communities.

2.      The current outcome requirements and reporting structure fails to hold purchases accountable to neighborhood-stabilization goals and provides insufficient transparency and prevents community oversight.

3.      The current pre-sale certification phase does not ensure that the FHA mortgage modification process has been followed before loans are included in DASP auction pools.

“As homeowners face the perils of an economy crashed by financiers, the same financiers flip the mortgages, drive homeowners to foreclosure and become distant corporate landlords with poor track records,” the report’s introduction states. “Investors are trading distressed residential assets…and are building a spectrum of business plans that undermine neighborhood and economic stability. Distressed residential mortgages…disproportionately impact communities of color, which have been systematically steered toward more expensive loans.”

Similar events were planned today in a number of cities throughout the country, where community leaders delivered a letter and thousands of petitions calling on the FHA and HUD to halt further sales under the DASP program until it is improved.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Training for Change in Columbia SC!

This weekend AFSC's Atlanta Economic Justice Program had the exciting opportunity to provide an organizing 101 workshop in Columbia South Carolina. The workshop was attended by a diverse number of organizational representatives that spanned an exciting spectrum of issue focuses. One of the themes of those attending was to importance of breaking out of issue and organizational silos.

The workshop was organized and sponsored by the Carolina Peace Resource Center.

Providing organizing trainings has always been a priority for AFSC and whenever possible we try to provide that service for groups trying to build in the South.

Friday, September 5, 2014

From Atlanta to Ferguson and Back

This past weekend American Friends Service Committee was excited to work with young people from #itsbiggerthan you to bring to van loads of young folks from Atlanta to Ferguson with the expressed purpose of doing work in the Ferguson community.

Once we got to Ferguson our weekend began with a really amazing breakfast organized by #blacklivesmatter. After hearing from a number of young local organizers we split up into groups based on what skills we each brought to the space. There was groups or youth organizers, healers, counselors, public policy experts, and more. The idea wasn't just to develop ideas and explore services that might be helpful to on the ground organizers in Ferguson, but to also really explore how to build in everyone's back yard once we all went home.

After getting to know folks in our goal area we all participated in a march with thousands of others in Ferguson. It was a truly amazing experience. The rally began right in the middle of an apartment complex and it was really clear that the majority of residents were involved. It was a real picture of what a movement built to the scale of a crisis can look like; people running out of their homes to join the march, residents in folding chairs in their driveway holding home made signs waiting for the march to pass by.
After the march many of us decided to join one of the on the ground groups MORE in an effort to canvass Bob McCulloch's (the prosecutor in charge of the Mike Brown case) in an effort to create public pressure for McCulloch to allow the case to move to a higher court as it seems clear McCulloch has no intention of holding officer Darren Wilson accountable.

We ended our time in Ferguson with a really amazing night of spoken work, poetry, and other performances before getting some rest and beginning the long journey back to Atlanta.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

AFSC Atlanta is Hiring!

 Big changes are happening at AFSC! We are both sad and excited to see Jackie Rodriguez transitioning from her position working with Moral Monday to project coordinator for Occupy Our Homes Atlanta. While we are excited to see OOHA growing and changing, it leaves us in need of help to keep Moral Monday running smoothly! 

The AFSC Moral Monday intern to the Atlanta Economic Justice program position is now available for applicants. Ideal applicants for the position will have; a strong passion for coalition building and social justice, strong organizational skills and the ability to multi-task, as well as a flexible attitude to accommodate a fast paced schedule. In order to facilitate communication between; active participants, steering committee members, interested parties, and coalition organizations, strong communication skills are required.

After a whirlwind tour around the state and an amazing Moral March on the Capital, Moral Monday is on it's way to truly becoming a state wide coalition. The time has come to bring Moral Monday far and wide, into every neighborhood and community in Georgia, together we will move this state forward! The position of the AFSC intern to Moral Monday will play an integral role in making that a reality. 

For a full job description, and to apply, contact us here with "Intern" in the subject line!