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Meet Regina

Regina and her four kids’ lives changed rapidly with the onset of company layoffs, a serious illness, divorce, and loss of their home. Previously, she had built a stable career in military and corporate life. “Don’t ever think that you can’t ever be sitting in the bottom,” she shares.

Regina first met JV, her CEF Advocate, while she was saying at Families Moving Forward, an emergency shelter for families in Durham. Each meeting, she worked on new goals, from building savings and credit to pursuing housing stability and professional growth. “While I connected with CEF, I was also able to take time not only letting my body heal, but letting my family heal. And through that, I gained a career that I love to death — or love to life!”

Now, 1.5 years after joining CEF, Regina has rebuilt a professional life that is driven by passion. After earning certifications in wellness and recovery, she is now an independent recovery coach. She regularly connects her clients with CEF. I’m a huge advocate! It’s like family … [And] a good connection for whatever you want to grow and be in life.”

Having found stability, Regina is finding ways to weave her success with that of her community’s, by creating job opportunities and leading community change. She founded a successful cleaning business that is dedicated to hiring single parents and people with conviction histories and substance abuse histories. “We’re fighting the same fight,” she shares of the company’s 4 employees.

She also serves on the Board of Recovery Communities of Durham, volunteers as a youth mentor, and advocates for mental health policy and equitable wages. It’s good to be a part of that change.”

This story about Regina was featured in CEF’s 2017 Annual Report!

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CEF Summit 2019 Reflections

Written by Joyce Yao and Connie Longmate

“Stay in school, stay in the Movement.”
— Reverend Liz Theoharis of the Poor People’s Campaign,

On the first weekend in March, CEF Advocates from UNC and Duke put aside their rivalries, to come together and co-host the 2nd annual Summit on Homelessness and Poverty! The three-day summit brought together over 100 students from  25 schools from across the country to share experiences, workshop ideas, and learn from longtime local community organizers. Their collective goal was to continue to grow a national coalition of student organizations dedicated to dismantling systems that perpetuate hunger, homelessness, and poverty.


“The cost of poverty, broadly, is so much higher than the cost of paying people fairly.”
—Jill Johnson, Mayor Pro Tem

Last year, students at Brown University held the inaugural Summit on Homelessness and Poverty that brought together a coalition of student organizations from across the country dedicated to dismantling systems that perpetuate homelessness and poverty. In the 8 months of planning, the summit vision truly came together when Megan Miller and Olivia Simpson proposed that the theme of the Summit be “Abundance,” with the idea that the communities we work within have an abundance of love, resilience, and (as CEF likes to say) people who are “creative resourceful and whole”— and therefore our work should be about uplifting and celebrating that abundance. Hosting this summit meant that we got to help to create a unique space for students to reflect on and share about the abundance in their own communities.

“Joy can be an act of revolution!”
—George Barrett, The Marian Cheek Jackson Center

The weekend was a tremendous labor of love. A true test of the commitment to the work we do, as well as of our ability to open ourselves up to new forms of the pursuit of social justice, which is important perspective when you find yourself debating seemingly trivial things like the number of coffee cups to order and the most fitting genre of music for the welcome reception. We succeeded in bringing together students from different regions of the country involved in all kinds of anti-poverty and homelessness work, effectively connecting one another to a network of students engaged in demanding work that requires the solidarity and accountability that community offers. I’m especially proud of the fundraising we chased extra hard with the goal of lowering financial barriers for folks to participate.

“If you don’t know you don’t know, but once you know, I’m going to hold you accountable.”
— Andrea Hudson, Community Bail Fund

We created sessions around Race Policing and Poverty, Vulnerable Populations, Public Health, Urban Renewal & Displacement (watch the video below), Social Service Gaps and How We Fill Them, Advocating for Policy Change to facilitate a space where students could share, learn, and grow from peers. Hosting the summit also gave us the opportunity to spotlight longtime community organizations and organizers who shared their brilliant wisdom and experiences of organizing in the South.

We are so grateful for our community partners and all of the students who are working alongside their communities to fight for justice through the celebration abundance. It was an honor to host the 2nd annual summit and we’re excited to continue to build the Student Coalition Against Homelessness & Poverty.

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In Durham NC Land Use Policy is the Blind Spot in White Progressive Politics

CEF Members, Advocates, and staff will be talking about the Expanding Housing Choice Initiative and much more  at the monthly Time + Talents meeting on 4/16 at 5pm. Time + Talents meetings occur on the third Tuesday of each month in the CEF Durham office and are open to all. Contact lizb@communityef.org for more information.

a guest post by Durham architect and urban developer Scott Harmon
Reading time: 6 minutes

Land use policy is the blind spot in white progressive politics. Durham NC is debating a city-wide change in its zoning ordinance to address housing affordability. As larger cities like Minneapolis undertake radical rezonings to create more equitable housing, smaller progressive communities like ours are inspired to align its land use policies with our liberal world view. These initiatives will continue across the country and the blind spot will always appear in the same place: the back yards of powerful white progressive leaders.

In November, the Durham Planning Department presented its first vision of an initiative called Expanding Housing Choices. The recommendations were transformative and sensible, focusing on increased opportunities for accessory dwelling units, infill, duplexes, and smaller lots sizes. I would call them, indeed, progressive.

The version now before the Planning Commission, however, has been gutted by leaders in the white progressive neighborhoods that wield the most power in these land use debates. When faced with a choice between progressive policies and neighborhood protection, protection wins every time; power trumps policy. I urge my fellow progressives to pay close attention to some key historic and environmental context as we start this debate.

In The Color of Law, Richard Rothstein explains how zoning became the legal foundation of housing discrimination in our country. The first zoning ordinance appeared in 1908 in Los Angeles with the sensible goal of separating residential and industrial properties. In 1910 racial zoning laws sprung up throughout the country as communities used this new legal tool to protect their neighborhoods from blacks and immigrants. In 1917 the Supreme Court ruled that racial zoning is a violation of the 14th amendment, but in 1919 the city of St. Louis finessed the technicalities of that ruling and adopted the first “economic zoning” ordinance; what we call today “exclusionary zoning”. By excluding multi-family housing types from single-family neighborhoods (which most blacks and immigrants could not afford), St. Louis maintained the racial and economic primacy of its white communities. The racial motivations of these laws were obvious and were again challenged at the Supreme Court in 1926. But the court ruled that the 14th Amendment is not violated because the laws contain no explicitly racial language. Exclusionary zoning thereby became the established precedent for protecting our most advantaged neighborhoods from undesirable people by excluding undesirable housing. Add to this legal foundation the policies of the New Deal and the FHA, which required red-lining and racially restricted neighborhood covenants for its mortgage insurance programs. You now have, at the end of World War II, a complete system of local laws and Federal policies that explicitly exclude non-white people from the benefits of the largest housing and economic expansion in the world’s history. While the Federal policies finally met their demise with the Fair Housing Act of 1968, our local exclusionary zoning laws persist.

This history explains two things about today’s affordability crisis. First, it explains why certain people have enjoyed generations of wealth building and others have not. In other words, if more people could afford a home, the housing crisis would be less severe. Second, our zoning laws continue to treat certain kinds of housing (the more affordable kinds) as “undesirable”. This limits the supply of housing in general and limits affordable housing in particular, thereby making all housing more expensive.

The environmental context is easier to explain because the math is unavoidable. The population is growing, globally and locally. Should we house more people per acre of land, or fewer? Should we be more efficient with our land, or less efficient? Which choice protects our watersheds, natural areas, and farmland from outward expansion (aka sprawl)? Which choice supports better transit systems? Which choice promotes walkable, healthy lifestyles? Which choice assures that every roadway, pipe, wire, and infrastructure investment is used most efficiently? Which choice reduces the carbon footprint of each human?

Let’s be clear how “density” became a bad word. This country protected its neighborhoods from undesirable people by restricting density (see the history above). But many other nations enjoy thriving cities with density, beauty, desirability, and diversity. As our mayor Steve Schewel rightly points out: density is not the problem; it’s the solution.

Land use policy is the blind spot in progressive white politics. Our commitment to equity, inclusion, fairness, and affordability is hijacked by our instinct for comfort, power, and advantage. Most of us don’t see it. While we enthusiastically support the right causes with our time, talent, and money, our resistance to change in our neighborhoods is tenacious.  Neighborhood protection is a deeply held tradition that, on the surface, looks like a gallant fight against developers, builders, slumlords, students, renters, and traffic. The origins of this tradition, however, are not so noble. Even when we’re not consciously excluding certain types of people, we’re still using a system with intentions and rules of engagement that were established a century ago. Our families and fortunes continue to benefit from that system.

So, here’s the “ask” of my fellow white progressives in Durham and other communities. Resist the temptation to resist change, because preserving the status quo is not progressive. Our white leaders live in the neighborhoods with the most power when it comes to land use debates. How will we use that power? Will we advance our progressive agenda for the benefit of everyone in the community, or will we ask everyone else to advance the agenda for us? Will we support our elected leaders as they navigate a precarious political transaction that may be uncomfortable for us personally, or will we lobby to maintain our privilege? If we’re not prepared to forgo our privilege, we can at least leverage it for the benefit of the entire community. But this can’t happen if we “protect” our own neighborhoods from the changes that the rest of the community desperately needs. Because that’s not progressive; that’s NIMBY.

“Acting in a way that prevents everyone else from living in your pretty little city because you already have a place that you like does not make you a progressive. It makes you greedy.” – Hamilton Nolan Scott

Scott Harmon is an architect and urban developer with Center Studio Architecture in Durham NC.

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Mussasa and Denise

In their home in Chapel Hill, Mussasa and Denise share pictures of family members and loved ones, many of whom are strewn across the globe by war. Their son Joshua looks over his mother’s shoulder at the pictures, saying, “This is sad. Oh my gosh, I miss it.”

Mussasa and Denise are both from Congo, and met in Burundi while both were fleeing war in their home country. It was 1996 and they were in their early twenties. As war continued, they moved to South Africa as refugees, where they were married and lived for 14 years. For a long time, they held out hope that they would be able to return to the Congo.

Across borders and amidst isolating, uprooting experiences of leaving family and home, Denise and Mussasa have restarted their lives again and again in the pursuit of a safe, stable home for their family. Denise has begun and built a number of careers, including law in Congo, business management in Burundi, and adult education in South Africa. Mussasa is an incredibly skilled welder, working in welding in every country they have lived, even teaching welding and skilled trades to unemployed youth in Capetown.

In 2016, after 20 years away from their homes and feeling that there was little chance they would ever be able to move back to the Congo, they made the bold decision to move to Durham, North Carolina.

Denise shares, “When we got here we didn’t know where to start, and transportation was a big problem.” With their busy schedules juggling work, school, and family, relying on public transit was significantly limiting their opportunities.

They heard about CEF from a friend and started saving in CEF’s matched savings accounts for a vehicle while working with Advocates to find better-paying jobs.

Denise reflects on what it means that they trust CEF with their personal savings, sharing that, “Being Congolese, it’s a bit difficult because… In 1994, they changed the currency in Congo and the banks just decided to say, ‘Well, you don’t have any money anymore!’ So all we had worked for, just gone back then.”

Despite these experiences with banks abroad, they trusted CEF because of the testimonies of friends, and because of the “emotional connection.” Denise says, “For example, when we got here, everything was too much, and then you get someone to have your hand and say, ‘we can work on goals that you have. We can address certain concerns that you have. Let’s do this one, then the next one, and the next one.’ There’s an emotional connection.

After saving for several months and working with Advocates to get insurance and licenses, they reached their goal and were preparing to buy a car. Right at that moment, one of CEF’s campus partners surprised the family with a donated vehicle! Professor Jim Kitchen’s entrepreneurship class at Kenan-Flagler raised thousands of dollars through their own micro-enterprises in order to purchase a vehicle for the family.

“And when you get a car, it changes your life,” Denise shares. “Suddenly, [Mussasa] could come back home early, and could plan around getting the children from school on time… That is not just a car. It’s that kind of a connection that you’ve got with a place or a person.”

Meanwhile, both Denise and Mussasa have made incredible progress towards better jobs. Denise is now working as a C.N.A. and studying nursing to build a new career here, while Mussasa is working overnight as a welder at AKG and attending English classes during the day.

Here in the U.S., sadly they have still had to worry for the safety of their family. One of their sons struggled with bullying at his first school, which prompted Denise and Mussasa to work with their Advocates to find a new place to live in a different school district. Their son is much happier in this school, and they are hoping to “settle down” now.

Looking forward, their big goal is to own a home. Denise says, “I believe it’s better to work toward your own house than renting someone else’s house.” Because of their refugee status, “That is something we could not do in South Africa,” which will make this achievement even more monumental for their family.

This story about Mussasa and Denise was featured in CEF’s 2017 Annual Report!

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Fred is Home

“CEF is using all of its strength to push the community together. There's so much joy and so much talent and everyone has ideas and something to contribute.” - Val

“It’s like it was meant to be, ya know,” says Fred. After living in a tent for six years, he was just about “ready to lose [his] faith in the human spirit”, when someone at the IFC kitchen said he should “go check out CEF!” There he met his Advocate Val and began getting connected to a wide range of healthcare, housing, and income services. Together, Fred and Val have found community at CEF.

“CEF man—I’ve got a lot of things accomplished there. I got my retirement in three weeks. I was in the tent. I done picked up my mail at CEF and I had a stack of it and I didn’t read it till the next morning when it got light and I could see inside the tent. I got to the last letter and I open it and it says ‘Congratulations! You have been awarded such and such amount of money for your retirement.’ I ran out the front door of that tent and ‘Tarzan-called’ right through the woods. It was a godsend!”

“You know, it’s just kept ballooning from there, escalating and everything, right? I got all my ID I had lost along the way. I got all that back! Where did we go from there?CEF got me hooked up with the VA and that was the first time I had a physical in 44 years and they convinced me to quit smoking. I haven’t smoked a cigarette in 19 months now and I had smoked for 52 years!”

“I’m starting to feel the human spirit again,” shares Fred. This fall, having secured a housing voucher and found a place that he could afford, Fred moved out of his tent and into his new home, and he’s feeling inspired. He shared his story with a crowd of over 200 people at the Piggy Bank Bash this October; at the CEF Holiday Party he volunteered for over 8 hours preparing and serving the food; and just last week he showed up at CEF’s office to present an Advocate with a bicycle that he had spent months building and refinishing! We are humbled to be in community with Fred. “Just seeing the teamwork of people in the community, you know what I mean? And I want to give back part of it like everybody else gives.”

We hope that you’ll join Fred in sharing your support for this community by making a year-end gift to CEF. Your gift is matched, (every dollar up to $30,000!) thanks to the generous support of CEF donors! As 2018 comes to a close, we’re abundantly thankful for the amazing humans who make up the CEF community. Together, we thank you for your support!

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10 Million Dollar Bond Passed!


The Chapel Hill 10 million dollar housing bond passed with
 72 percent of residents voting in favor of the referendum! Thanks to the incredible efforts of Chapel Hill residents and the collaboration of the Orange County Affordable Housing Coalition that includes partners from Habitat for Humanity, Community Home Trust, IFC, DHIC, Inc., Empowerment, Inc., Justice United, The Jackson Center, Self-Help , UNC Partnerships in Aging Program, and the Weaver Community Housing Association!

CEF helped bring Advocates and Members together to vote at the Souls to the Polls Rally, designed the Bond Media Kit with help from the coalition, and got the word out with the CEF Advocacy Choir singing at events and church services around town!

Read details about the bond passing at: https://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/article221033365.html

Learn More about the bond at: https://www.chapelhillaffordablehousing.org/bondinfo/

 

 

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CEF Hosting 2019 Summit On Housing & Homelessness

MARCH 1-3, 2019

Last year, students at Brown University hosted the inaugural Summit on Homelessness and Poverty in Providence, Rhode Island—bringing together a coalition of student organizations from across the country dedicated to dismantling systems that perpetuate hunger, homelessness, and poverty.

This year, CEF advocates at UNC and Duke are excited to welcome student organizers to North Carolina for the second Summit on Homelessness and Poverty. We see Duke and UNC as partners in addressing poverty and gentrification in the Triangle, and we hope that our two schools can be at the forefront of national student action to prevent homelessness. We are looking forward to continuing the conversations we started last year at Brown and to strengthening relationships with student organizers across the country.

Interested in learning more about the intersectional reality of poverty in the United States? Want to learn more about the anti-poverty work of other student organizations around the country?

Join us by:

  1. Registering: Click Here
  2. Purchasing Tickets: Click Here

More information at  https://summitatcef.wixsite.com/abundance

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$1,000,000 Dollars Saved!

🐖One giant pig. One million dollars saved.💰

Thank you so much to everyone who came out to the Piggy Bank Bash to celebrate CEF Members’ amazing accomplishment last night. We’re proud to be part of such an amazingly supportive community and extremely thankful for all of the warmth and encouragement shared and received last night. We’re also filled with gratitude at the generosity of Grub, who generously hosted and fed us all for free, and all of our West End neighbors and friends, who pitched in with raffle prizes ( Pauli Murray Project, The Cookery, and Steel String  ) and supplying a sound system (the Durham Co-op Market 🎤).

Partners from Families Moving Forward, Self-Help, Inter-Faith Council for Social Service, Vimala’s Curryblossom Café also came out and shared their support in full force! If you want to continue partying it up with CEF this year, we hope to see you at Steel String on Wed, November 14 at CEF’s Night Out at Steel String

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2018 Orange County Affordable Housing Summit Report

In February, over 175 community leaders showed up to the Orange County Affordable Housing Summit last to learn about the state of the affordable housing crisis! It was an amazing opportunity to build a shared understanding and collaborate in developing real solutions to increase housing access and affordability in this community!

This month, the official Summit Report was released by the Orange County Affordable Housing Coalition. It’s an amazing resource that summarizes learning from the 2018 Summit, including the current state of affordable housing in Orange County, potential solutions to the affordable housing crisis, and information from community partners on affordable housing projects! Learn more at  housingorange.org .

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CEF: Hurricane Response

Hurricane Florence and Matthew have deeply impacted the CEF community. Apartments and homes that are at risk of flooding are most-often the more ‘affordable’ units in our communities; and so CEF Members have been coming together to find resources, to relocate, and re-build together. Many have joined CEF as new Members, connecting for the first time to navigate these crises.

In the days leading up to hurricane Florence, CEF assembled and disseminated a Hurricane Resource Guide in English and Spanish, and our Chapel Hill office served as a distribution center the Thursday before the hurricane arrived. That day, over 60 folks dropped by and collected non-perishables, hygiene supplies. We contacted almost 100 people staying outdoors or in unstable housing, and connected them to emergency shelter for the storm! Some highlights from the day: Jon calling in orders of food and supplies to bring to Members on Franklin St., keeping our eyes peeled for and updating the resource document over 368  times, and generally creating a collaborative and supportive environment in the office!

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CEF: Community Empowerment Fund

Chapel Hill: 919-200-0233 Durham: 919-797-9233

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