Archive | Housing

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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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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Annual Report 2017 : We Are Interwoven

“When you are with CEF, you are a part of the thread that makes us all one community.” Chinita is a CEF graduate, and her poetic statement during a CEF celebration perfectly describes the palpable connectivity in this community.

Whether we’re weaving together programs and resources to form a holistic network of support, or connecting our Members and Advocates together in people-centered relationships, CEF is steadily crafting a beautiful, interconnected, and interwoven community.”

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Meet Liz and Leah: CEF Housing Justice Fellows

It’s been just over a month since Liz and Leah, CEF Housing Justice Fellows for 2018, started on-boarding at CEF and shaping vision into action! They’ve jumped in and are meeting with members from all over the community to carefully discern the best steps forward for their work. They were generous enough to share some reflections for their work this year in a Q&A!

Liz Brown, 2018 Durham Fellow

Leah Whitehead, 2018 Chapel Hill Fellow

What led you to this work?

I began working with CEF my freshmen year in an attempt to engage more intentionally with the Durham community, landing on CEF because of their relationship and systems-based approach towards anti-poverty work. I’ve never looked back! I was brought to the Housing Justice Fellowship role through various conversations with the Durham staff team regarding the enormous potential for change wrought by an organized Member base. The opportunity to deepen my relationship with CEF, grow in my organizing capabilities, and continue to do ‘the work’ is truly a dream come true.

I was first drawn to CEF because of their emphasis on relationships. CEF doesn’t generalize or oversimplify about how to show up for someone. CEF creates an opportunity for people to get to know each other and say, “hey, I see you, I hear you, and I got you.” This philosophy really resonated with me and I was drawn to this role because it felt like an opportunity to be a conduit for collaboration across sectors that could spread that same spirit of support. I mean, imagine a community where the primary message we are sending each other is “hey, I see you, I hear you, and I got you.” That’s what keeps me going when the coffee wears off!

How would you describe the work you will do in the CEF community through your role?

I’m working to support community, foster inclusion, and build power among and within the CEF Durham Member-base. In my role, I will act as a community organizer, convener, and advocate for the greater incorporation of CEF Member voices and experiences in CEF, Durham, and the systems that bind us. My goal can be summed up rather simply: create more Member-driven structures at CEF.

I’m piloting a Housing Locator position that will serve all of Orange County. We know that private landlords are key partners in housing justice; my job is to engage those landlords to understand the barriers they face in keeping units affordable and serving tenants who are regularly excluded from housing opportunities. Ultimately I will be a bridge between private, public and non-profit partners to come up with creative solutions that ensure affordable housing opportunities are accessible to those who need them and sustainable for the landlords and property managers who steward them.

What strengths, skills, and experience do you bring with you?

I bring with me 4 years of CEF experience! During my time as an undergraduate Advocate with CEF, I served as the Communications Coordinator and Advocate Engagement Co-Coordinator, working to incorporate Member stories into our internal communications and organize the Duke student body around economic justice and affordable housing. I also bring with me experience organizing with Durham CAN and the National Coalition for the Homeless in Washington, DC. I am a people person in the truest sense of the phrase, and I am ecstatic to bring my love of stories, the people that hold them, and the power they possess to the CEF team.

I’ve worn many hats at CEF since 2015, from Member Advocate Coordinator to Training Team member to Advocacy Choir participant! My degree in public policy gives me a socio-political and racial-equity lense to housing justice and a background in economics, both of which informed the last three years of direct experience liaising with landlords and working with Members on housing. Those experiences have been steeped in the importance of relationship-based support and driven by the greatest strength I could bring to this work, a wholehearted, deep-in-my-bones, core-of-my-soul kind of commitment to finding creative and collaborative ways to make this community a home for all people.

Where do you expect to find energy and renewal?

I expect to find my daily energy through the Durham staff team: Donna, JV, Jess, and Janet. I expect to seek inspiration from CEF Members fighting the fight day in and day out at both the individual and structural levels. I expect to find renewal in our victories, whether they come in the form of increased affordable housing stock or the precious moments when a Member stands up to power and is heard at last!

I expect to absorb energy and renewal from the resilience of each and every person who walks through CEF’s doors and from the interwoven community of folks who stand up for every person’s right to safe and affordable housing. But also the other day I literally “whoopee-ed!” because a landlord responded to my email, so it’s the small things too!

Where do you expect to find challenges and how do you hope to find the best way forward?

There is no hiding that this work can be challenging and emotionally taxing. I know there will be days when I am tired and beaten down, wanting to give up after a poorly-attended action or a run in with a  persistent and seemingly immovable instance of injustice. These moments, I am sure, will not be uncommon, nor will they grow less painful to endure. The CEF ethos, however, in its dynamic understanding of trauma-informed care, healing centered engagement, and self-care offers a unique way forward. The guiding and life-giving question becomes not “What’s wrong?” but rather “What can be better?” With this framework at our backs, we move forward.

It is no doubt that the housing landscape in Orange County is challenging at best. I’m under no illusion that I will find the magic key to the affordable units that address the massive and growing needs of our neighbors and I’m aware of the unique challenges that come with working cross-sector in a system of scarce resources. I hope to find a way forward by seeking input from community partners to understand their needs and concerns, staying relationship-centered, and finding the areas where we can support each other in building a thriving community that serves all of our neighbors.

Anything else you’d like us to know?

I love CEF!!!! I’m so pumped for this year and all of its many challenges, hopes, dreams, moments of immense failure, moments of bitter success, laughs, stories, cries, shared meals, shared rides, actions, reactions, conversations, fights, and victories. I am so grateful for the Housing Justice Fellowship and hope it continues well beyond this year of exploration, growth, and hopeful progress. I’d love to hear from you at lizb@communityef.org!

I’m so grateful for this opportunity and to be a part of this important work! Not sure how or why you might have a stake in creating affordable housing opportunities in Orange County? Please reach out to me (leahw@communityef.org) ! This is a community-wide challenge and requires a community-wide solution! We got this!!

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Mayor’s Landlord Roundtable 2018

“Nothing we’re doing in Durham right now is more important than this.”
– Steve Schewel, Mayor of City of Durham, NC Government

These were the closing words at the third annual Mayor’s Landlord Roundtable, which took place on Monday at Trinity Avenue Presbyterian Church. The Roundtable is an annual event dedicated to engaging private housing providers towards the goal of ending homelessness by creating access to affordable housing. Over 115 property owners and managers, tenants, community organizations, and housing advocates came together to share experiences, brainstorm solutions, and explore the opportunities and complexities of Durham’s private rental market.

We are so grateful and thankful for the host of collaborators who volunteered their time at the 2018 Mayor’s Landlord Roundtable! A special shoutout to the 13 table facilitators, Alliance Behavioral Healthcare for providing refreshments, childcare and photography volunteers, hands-on support from Housing for New Hope staff, and Trinity Ave Presbyterian Church for hosting the event. A huge shoutout to all of our speakers who opened up the conversation, including Mayor Steve Schewel, Anthony Scott and Denita Johnson ( Durham Housing Authority ), Terry Allebaugh ( North Carolina Coalition to End Homelessness), Ryan Fehrman ( Families Moving Forward). Big ups also to Megan Noor and Gino Nuzzolillo for their phenomenal event coordination!

The Roundtable took place as part of the Unlocking Doors Initiative, a community collaborative coordinated by CEF. To learn more about this Initiative:

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CEF Advocacy Choir: “This song is for you!”

I dedicate this song to depression *yesss* recession *yesss* and unemployment. This song is for you.

Rooms go silent when they hear those first few words from Ms. Yvette, the director of the Advocacy Choir and a part of the Orange County’s staff team. What follows is the CEF Advocacy Choir’s signature cover of Smile. At this point, two years after the choir began, anyone who frequents CEF events knows the words by heart.

In an effort to pass a $5 million housing bond in November 2016, Maggie West, former Co-Director of CEF, and Yvette Matthews, Chapel Hill Advocate Program Associate, were searching for new ways to engage in advocacy in the Chapel Hill community.

We had just moved into our new office,” says Maggie, “and as a part of our housewarming party, we organized a sing-along, and it was beautiful. So that spurred our thinking about how people like to sing together.

Ms. Yvette says, “we sat round kind of brainstorming on what we could do and because I have directed choirs all my life and sang all my life, we came up with the idea of having a CEF Advocacy Choir.” They knew they could use that musical potential as an approach to cultural organizing, which Maggie defines as, “using culture as a tool for advocacy and organizing, because those tools are the things that change hearts and minds.

So the first opportunity to try it was when we were trying to encourage voters to vote yes for the bond referendum on their ballots that election period. It just wasn’t super well-known.” The original group of CEF staff, Advocates, and Members that started the Advocacy Choir began covering ground on a daily basis to spread the word about the bond. They went to every church and community event in Chapel Hill that would let them sing, sometimes going to as many as three a day. In November 2016, the bond was passed.

choir

Since then, the Advocacy Choir has endured. “We’ve still got a good eight people as the core group,” says Ms. Yvette, “so we continue to do it. Anytime we’re invited we go. If everybody can’t go I’ll go by myself, you know, and just represent.”  In just the past several months, the choir has performed at the Loreleis Spring Concert in Memorial Hall, the CEF Art Show, the Northside Festival, the Maggie-We-Love-You-Party, and a few other smaller events. They perform in a variety of environments, from town council meetings to festivals, giving people a voice, uplifting crowds, spurring joyful dances all at once.

While one component of the choir is to encourage celebration and cohesion in the community, the choir, as seen in the housing bond campaign, is also a strong force for political activism and social justice. Ms. Yvette points out one aspect of the choir that makes it especially effective. “The CEF Advocacy Choir has the element of surprise because people don’t think that we can sing,” says Ms. Yvette, “but we get up there and we blow them away, it’s always good to have the element of surprise.”  

It makes sense that people are surprised by the choir—it’s not your typical sort of activism. “In campaigns since [the housing bond] we’ve been super effective singing at town council meetings where in that context, it’s both invitational and disruptive in a powerful way,” says Maggie. “It sort of makes you take a step back. I think it just changes the space entirely and I think what I’ve noticed in that context is it’s also like a rallying moment for the Members and Advocates. It’s like, ‘All right, we’re owning this conversation.’ And seeing the effect it has on people’s pride is really powerful.

David, a CEF Member and one of the original members of the choir, says that in the choir, “We love to sing because we are family. We’re just strong together because, you know, if anybody’s got any difference in the choir, it disappears when it’s time to sing, because everybody’s ready to go for it.

As a co-founder, Maggie has seen CEF evolve from the organization’s very beginning. To her, the choir represents a resurgence of some of the values and culture it was founded upon. “CEF came out of another organization that was based really in storytelling and art,” Maggie explains, “what I’ve seen over the last couple of years is a resurgence of that in our community and in our space. The choir being part of it, as well as quilting, Talking Sidewalks, the art show—things that are about lifting up people’s own voices and creativity. That was our roots really, it was where we came from, and seeing it come back to that is really powerful. This is not just as a service organization, this is a place you belong. This is a vibrant place where we want you to bring all of your gifts.”

David says being a part of the choir and the CEF community is “an experience like, you know, somebody can bake a beautiful cake, and maybe you can taste the cinnamon in it, but the person over there might taste something else. But still, that’s a good darn cake.”

See the Choir!

Ms. Yvette is already writing songs and strategizing to have the greatest impact in the upcoming election season. Needless to say, there are many opportunities for new people to get involved, so reach out if you would like to join the choir!

Sing with Us!

Call Yvette at 919-200-0233 or reach out via email at yvettem@communityef.org
to get involved and be notified about upcoming rehearsals and performances!

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A Decade Ago, Yvette Mathews Was Unemployed and Struggling. Now She’s a Key Advocate for Affordable Housing in Chapel Hill.

Yvette Mathews is the captain of the ship in our Chapel Hill office!  Today, the Indy Week featured her amazing work in our office daily, as well as her leadership in organizing to address the growing affordable housing crisis in Orange County — including through song! We are so grateful for her phenomenal daily presence and the gifts that she brings to CEF.

The Community Empowerment Fund’s small basement office in Chapel Hill bustles with activity as Yvette Matthews scurries in and out, racing to pick up an incessantly ringing phone between guiding those looking for help and sharing a joke with students passing through. She deftly switches from task to task, directing the flow of people into and out of the office like an air traffic controller.

While it looks like she’s moving one hundred miles per hour, this is more or less a normal Thursday for Matthews.

“I’m a pretty good multitasking kind of chick,” says Matthews, a sixty-year-old office manager with short, slightly graying hair and a narrow face that usually frames a smile. “So I can hear you talking here, hear them talking there, and still do what I need to do.”

Read the article here: https://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/a-decade-ago-yvette-matthews-was-unemployed-and-struggling-now-shes-a-key-advocate-for-affordable-housing-in-chapel-hill

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Introducing the CEF Housing Justice Fellowship!

We are launching a new one-year fellowship program focused on local housing access and advocacy! Beginning in July 2018, two Housing Justice Fellows (each with four years of Advocate and volunteer leadership experience at CEF) will begin working in our offices to launch new initiatives that directly meet the felt needs and opportunities in our Durham and Orange County communities.

What is the vision for each Housing Justice Fellow?

Liz Brown, 2018 Durham Fellow

In Durham

to develop CEF Members’ capabilities to lead in local affordable housing and anti-poverty advocacy

  • Supporting Member engagement in policy-making and advocacy to build political power in decision-making
  • Deepening relationships with local advocacy partners
  • Developing creative pathways for Member ownership and leadership within CEF
  • Cultivating leadership within CEF to sustain this work for coming years

This fellowship will drive participation of Members in local policy and systems leadership, whose personal stories and wisdom have a transformative impact on policy-making and political dialogue.

Leah Whitehead, 2018 Chapel Hill Fellow

In Chapel Hill

to develop and pilot an initiative with partners to collaboratively increase housing opportunities

  • Recruiting and growing relationships with landlord partners
  • Working together with Members, Advocates, and collaborative programs to successfully secure stable housing for Members
  • Engaging in housing advocacy & Member organizing initiatives in Orange County
  • Crafting infrastructure and securing support to sustain this work for coming years

This fellowship will act as a force multiplier, collaborating with staff from 5+ housing programs across Orange County to jointly support sustained landlord relationships and successfully house program participants.

Who are the inaugural Housing Justice Fellows?

The two Fellowship positions have been crafted both with the felt needs of our two communities at heart, and the distinct gifts of two of our graduating Advocates in mind. Liz Brown and Leah Whitehead both have four years of experience as volunteer leaders with CEF, and will be able to hit the ground running on these catalytic initiatives.

Why Housing Justice?

Housing is one of the most complex pieces of the puzzle in the array of services that CEF helps Members to navigate. Rental housing costs have risen dramatically in Orange and Durham Counties over recent years, causing large-scale displacement of lower-income households and increased challenges in housing placement for individuals transitioning out of homelessness. In Orange County, 90% of renter households who earn less than $35,000 are cost-burdened, ie. spending an unaffordable proportion (more than 30%) of their income on housing. In Durham, for every 100 extremely low-income renter households, only 38 rental units are affordable to them. We know that systemic change is necessary and that we must take a long-view approach to opening up opportunities for CEF Members.

CEF has been an active leader in local systems advocacy and service coordination to address the mounting housing crisis, including everything from pursuing cultural organizing through our locally-famous Advocacy Choir, to anchoring a public-private city-wide initiative to increase housing opportunities for voucher-holders. CEF is strategically situated to effect community-level change alongside our direct efforts for change with individual Members. We have collaboratively built momentum and partnerships in affordable housing advocacy over recent years, and have an opportunity to lean into deeper, impactful responses to community needs through the work of these two Fellows.

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Cynthia

Cynthia

Cynthia has been working with CEF for 4 years and she is as resilient as she is caring. She worked with her Advocate Tamar and moved into a place of her own last summer and shared with CEF about her experiences pursuing her own mental health and a sustainable transition out of homelessness.

Where were you staying before you found your new home?

(IFC) Homestart. It’s challenging but also interesting. Learning from the other people; there to better myself. For me, it’s building a more solid foundation because of the things I’m learning from the other ladies. I’m learning how to reach my goal and how to keep it.

Where were you before then when you 1st connected with CEF?

Isolated, depressed, and mentally I was beat down. I was nowhere — I was not living, mentally. I might as well have not been living. Before coming into CEF, I was sucked into myself. I had to get rid of that old self because it took over me. My thinking was not good at all. Even though I  would think good things, my disease would take over all of that.  CEF was the first thing in my voucher package. They were the first thing I saw. Before then I would come in here and there, to do resume, or other stuff but not really focusing on anything here. Until I got my voucher something really clicked in me — it was my way out of everything. You really do help people, but I myself had to do stuff too. We had to do it together — we had to work together. I would bring in ideas and we would look at them together.

What does having a home mean to you?

It means getting back out into society and being a part of it — and being responsible for all my bills and paying for my own things. even though I didn’t always do the right things I always paid my bills because I always wanna have somewhere to stay. I will keep it, I have no excuse. I don’t see myself losing any of this.

It’s all timing. I feel very relieved, happy, joyous and cautious. I feel so much better than I have in so long, and I know I’m on the right track with my life and the things that I am involved with at this time. With my sponsor and going to meetings, I’m going to keep trying, keep doing what I’m doing, and I’m going to have a prosperous life.

What are some of the best sources of support in your life?

Along this journey here, it is the people I’ve gotten involved in. I used to not share anything about me, but I’ve realized I have to open my mouth and ask for help. I used to be really judgmental because I didn’t like myself, but I’ve grown to like myself more. The key has been to switch it around and love myself, and my self-esteem has risen too. Meetings, sponsor, advocates have been helping me out too. Advocates have been really nice, somebody understanding and willing to help with whatever else is going on. Y’all have a really good agency, and have a lot of really good resources. All it takes is you just have to come in and sit down. Waiting for a meeting every week has made me more patient and learn to be less selfish because other people need help too.

What is one of your dreams for yourself or your family, that you hope to see happen in the coming years?

Very simple- to learn to be productive and in my life choices so I can always continue or if nothing happens to stay where I’m going. Make good choices so I stay in housing and always have somewhere to stay. That’s my dream. To get somewhere, post up, and live a life like I deserve. Not looking over my shoulders, just enjoy.

What would you like to share with the CEF community?

If you’re ever in need and some of the choices that you’ve made in your life are in question, come to CEF, and sit down and come and talk to one of the advocates, and tell them what’s on your mind, and they will have the resources for you, whether it’s school, class, and they will help you. If you wanna open a free account, they have that too. I recommend it to anybody. Even if you’re still doing good, still come by and see what else you can get, on top of that.  

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CEF: Community Empowerment Fund

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

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