Archive | Written By Advocates

The Knowledge Series

The Knowledge Series is a project dedicated to sharing information with our communities on how housing discrimination manifests today. Throughout this week, we will share a series of posts that delve into the history of housing discrimination and what it looks like in our everyday.

Please read our previous posts: Part 1, Part 2, & Part 3.

Part 4: Why do these systems continue to exist?

Systemic housing discrimination is still present in modern-day. While it is illegal to discriminate against someone based on race, Black families are still negatively impacted by discriminatory practices, both past and present. When discriminatory practices are used, ending those practices is not enough for people to experience equity–reparations must be made to repair the harms that have been caused. Since the United States has not participated in reparations for Black families, they are still experiencing extreme disparities, especially in housing and financial security. 

We’ve discussed in previous posts that Black people make up 51% of the homeless population in Orange County, while only making up 12% of the general population. American slavery and systemic racism, backed by Jim Crow laws, set Black communities back hundreds of years in their attempts to accumulate wealth and assets. Laws throughout the South mandated racial segregation in almost all public facets and denied Black people basic civil, economic, and social rights, including the right to vote. This continued through the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s (and some would say still continues today), making the idea of property ownership and asset accrual for Black families nearly unattainable (“Jim Crow Era,” 2020).

These historical elements, as well as more modern practices such as redlining, white* flight, and gentrification, have had a substantial impact in our own backyard. The wealth that Black communities were able to generate in places like Durham, was systematically taken from them throughout the 20th century through such practices. Additionally, the Northside District of Chapel Hill has been heavily gentrified by UNC students in search of off-campus housing.  

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was built by enslaved Black people who were exploited for their labor. In the 19th and 20th centuries, Black employees of the university were funneled to the Northside District because it was one of the least proximate areas to campus at the time (DeWulf, 2017). Northside has been a predominantly Black neighborhood for 175 years, but it is now experiencing gentrification as UNC students seek affordable off-campus housing. 

Off-campus living has become increasingly popular for college students in Chapel Hill (with 50% of UNC students currently living off-campus). Many students moved to the Northside District specifically for its relatively affordable rental prices. Furthermore, as the university has grown in geographic size, the Northside District is now comparatively closer to campus than many other off-campus housing options (Cheek, 2017). Nearby Carrboro, also being heavily gentrified, has many high-quality restaurants, thrift stores, and boutiques that add additional appeal for college students. The interest in off-campus housing has driven up rent prices throughout the Chapel Hill-Carrboro community, as landlords see no issue with charging college students above-market rents and has pushed Black residents out of the Northside, a reduction of 60% between 1980 and 2010 (DeWulf, 2017).

As Northside becomes more and more “desirable,” middle-class families have also moved into the area. This further isolates longterm residents of the Northside District from their own community. Since white families moving into neighborhoods like Northside make, on average, two times what Black families make, they are more likely to take advantage of low property costs in historically Black neighborhoods in order to buy homes (Badger et al., 2019). Many of these families renovate their new homes, increasing property values, which leads to increased taxes for entire neighborhoods (Badger et al., 2019). As other middle-class families (typically white) see families that look like them and nice-looking houses they are more likely to purchases homes in the same neighborhood, further gentrifying the area. 

Durham, as we discussed yesterday, has also been deeply impacted by housing discrimination. Specifically, the impact of redlining on Black communities in Durham has led to long-lasting disparities for Black neighborhoods. In the 1950s-70s, a phenomenon known as white flight occurred throughout the U.S. This was a process of white people moving out of urban areas, particularly those with significant Black and Brown populations, and into suburban areas, in an attempt to distance themselves from communities of color. White flight causes areas to suffer economically from reduced tax income (due to population losses) and also contributes to harsh policies (Semuels, 2015). 

In recent years, Durham’s downtown has also been impacted by gentrification as it has become host to many luxury stores, critically-acclaimed restaurants, and crafty boutiques. When businesses like these move into an area they make it difficult for residents who have lived there for decades to keep up with the rapidly increasing cost of living. The practice of gentrification throughout Chapel Hill, Durham, and the rest of the Triangle, has made housing inequality and segregation even worse (DeMarco and Hunt, 2018).

Black people in the United States face racism every day, but it is often overlooked that racism is deeply ingrained in the housing search process. Things like credit checks, background checks, reference letters, and requiring multiple months of rent upfront disproportionately and negatively affect Black people in their housing search. When you throw in systemic barriers and racist practices, like redlining and gentrification, it imposes a greater hardship on low-income and communities of color. Discriminatory housing practices like redlining and gentrification may not seem racist at face value, but hopefully, the posts in this Series have provided some context to the deeply systemic racial barriers that have plagued Black families in their goals of financial independence and housing security for hundreds of years. 

Join us tomorrow for some insight into the work CEF is currently doing and to hear why our mission is so important. CEF is actively working to provide resources to Members experiencing homelessness and/or financial hardship and to dismantle oppressive policies and practices that create a cyclical experience of poverty and housing insecurity for Black people and other people of color. This advocacy work, along with continued education among Staff and Advocates, helps us provide the best support for people experiencing homelessness and financial insecurity in Orange and Durham counties. 

*In general, CEF uses APA grammar rules in our writing. The APA says that the names of race and ethnic identities should be capitalized, as they are proper nouns. For this series, and moving forward, CEF is intentionally leaving “white” (when referring to a racial identity) lower-cased. We recognize that by capitalizing words we are giving them power and we do not want to encourage white power in any way. Unlike the AP’s explanation for why they are choosing to lower-case “white” we want to be clear that we believe white people do have a shared experience–that is one of privilege. We also believe that undoing racism is the responsibility of white people and worry that implying that white people do not have a shared experience (as the AP does) is a dangerous tactic that is aimed at discounting the responsibility that white people have in undoing racism and white supremacist culture. Ultimately, we know that race is a construct but that racial differences are not. They are real and need to be addressed directly. For any questions or clarifications around CEF’s choice of words please contact ari rosenberg (arir[at]communityef.org).

Badger, E., Bui, Q., & Gebeloff, R. (2019, April 27). The Neighborhood is Mostly Black. The Homebuyers Are Mostly White. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/04/27/upshot/diversity-housing-maps-raleigh-gentrification.html?searchResultPosition=1

Cheek, S. (2017, April 6). Competition for housing helps drive Chapel Hill rent up to highest in state. The Daily Tar Heel. https://www.dailytarheel.com/article/2017/04/increase-in-chapel-hill-rent-prices-driven-by-competition-for-housing

De Marco, A., & Hunt, H. (2018). Racial Inequality, Poverty and Gentrification in Durham, North Carolina. North Carolina Poverty Research Fund. https://fpg.unc.edu/sites/fpg.unc.edu/files/resources/reports-and-policy-briefs/durham_final_web.pdf

DeWulf, S. (2017, March 2). Saving Northside, the largest black community in Chapel Hill. Omnibus. http://mejo457.web.unc.edu/2017/03/saving-northside-the-largest-black-community-in-chapel-hill/

Jim Crow Era. A Brief History of Civil Rights in the United States. (2020, July 28). Georgetown Law Library. https://guides.ll.georgetown.edu/c.php?g=592919&p=4172697

Semuels, A. (2015, July 30). White Flight Never Ended. The Atlantic. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/07/white-flight-alive-and-well/399980/ 

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The Knowledge Series

The Knowledge Series is a project dedicated to sharing information with our communities on how housing discrimination manifests today. Throughout this week, we will share a series of posts that delve into the history of housing discrimination and what it looks like in our everyday.

Please read Parts 1 and 2 of the Series.

Part 3: Where does this manifest today?

In our last blog post, we briefly discussed the historical roots of American racism, white supremacy, and how it relates to the current wealth gap between white* and Black families. In this post, we’ll discuss the relationship between racism, white supremacy, and housing inequality in the U.S. today. 

In the 1930s, the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation (HOLC) began rating communities based on economic and housing factors. These rankings were used to determine eligibility for mortgages, dictating who could and could not buy property in these neighborhoods. The effects of these ratings were astronomical, as poor communities (often primarily composed of Black families) were generally given poorer rankings, families in these neighborhoods were unable to obtain mortgages to purchase homes. The rankings from the HOLC have had long-lasting impacts. Today, almost 64% of communities rated “Hazardous” by the HOLC, remain largely composed of people of color (Mitchell & Franco, 2018). Furthermore, these communities are still experiencing the impacts of the economic discrimination that ensued following the HOLC’s racist community rankings. 85.82% of neighborhoods ranked “Best” by the HOLC are still majority white (Mitchell & Franco, 2018).

These rankings have had lasting impacts. In Durham, for example, between 2007-2014 almost four times more trees were planted in “Best” neighborhoods compared to “Hazardous” neighborhoods (De Marco & Hunt, 2018). In addition to providing beauty, trees increase residential property values and are often a sign of better-maintained neighborhoods.

The More You Know: The HOLC’s Hold Hits Close to Home
A Durham Case Study
Literature Review: Racial Inequality, Poverty and Gentrification in Durham, North Carolina
Allison De Marco & Heather Hunt, Summer 2018
The practice of redlining was defined by the HOLC’s rankings of largely-Black communities as “less safe” and therefore having a “lower lending ability.” These communities were rated as “Hazardous,” considered the riskiest for lenders, and colored red on maps. Although the HOLC outwardly described their ratings as based in economics, they intentionally redlined historically Black communities to prevent investment in those communities.
The HOLC said that the rankings were to determine “creditworthiness using a range of criteria, including race, immigration status, and class.” In Durham, the redlined neighborhoods most closely corresponded with Black, rather than poor, neighborhoods, indicating that not all factors were weighed evenly. At the time, Durham had a thriving Black business community and not all of the redlined communities were poor.      
Regardless, they were still redlined by the HOLC’s rankings, written off as the least desirable communities to invest in. This made it immediately difficult for families to either move out of or invest in these communities, as their address was commonly a deal-breaker in applying for loans and mortgages.  
The HOLC effectively worked to dismantle the successful economic systems that Black residents had miraculously built for themselves in Durham. Redlining stifled economic development and doomed communities to a cycle of poverty and racial housing segregation.  Though Black Durhamites had created ways to build wealth and obtain land and homes, these communities were then stripped of the wealth-building opportunities they had diligently curated for themselves. Several redlined neighborhoods in Durham are still in a cycle of poverty, as residents are unable to accrue the wealth necessary to move or invest in the community. Although the HOLC is no longer in use, the negative effects are still being felt by Black families today.        

De Marco, A., & Hunt, H. (2018). Racial Inequality, Poverty and Gentrification in Durham, North Carolina. North Carolina Poverty Research Fund. https://fpg.unc.edu/sites/fpg.unc.edu/files/resources/reports-and-policy-briefs/durham_final_web.pdf

Eventually, even heavily segregated urban neighborhoods became undesirable for many white families. Instead, white families chose to leave cities and move to areas on the outskirts of major metropolitan areas, known as suburbs. This process, known as “white flight” or suburbanization, led to an incredible amount of divestment from cities–affecting everything from schools to infrastructure. Black families often lacked the resources needed to move to the suburbs, forcing them to remain in communities that could no longer support their basic needs. This made home and land ownership even more difficult to obtain as banks did not want to invest in dwindling cities.

Soon, the suburbs got old for white families too. Upon moving back into cities, white families decided to aesthetically beautify them by putting in lavish patisseries, designer boutiques, fancy restaurants, and new, more expensive apartment buildings. This is the modern process of gentrification and has further increased housing disparities between Black and white communities. Many Black families cannot always afford the increased property values and, therefore, increased taxes associated with gentrification and are forced to sell their homes because they can no longer afford to stay in their neighborhood. 

Durham and Chapel Hill have been so heavily gentrified by white, middle-class college students and families, that the homelessness rate has grown over the past 5 years, despite direct efforts to lower the rate. Tomorrow we will dive into how these systems directly manifest in Orange County and Durham. We will work to better understand how redlining, white flight, and gentrification have taken hold in modern communities and how Black families have been disproportionately affected.

*In general, CEF uses APA grammar rules in our writing. The APA says that the names of race and ethnic identities should be capitalized, as they are proper nouns. For this series, and moving forward, CEF is intentionally leaving “white” (when referring to a racial identity) lower-cased. We recognize that by capitalizing words we are giving them power and we do not want to encourage white power in any way. Unlike the AP’s explanation for why they are choosing to lower-case “white” we want to be clear that we believe white people do have a shared experience–that is one of privilege. We also believe that undoing racism is the responsibility of white people and worry that implying that white people do not have a shared experience (as the AP does) is a dangerous tactic that is aimed at discounting the responsibility that white people have in undoing racism and white supremacist culture. Ultimately, we know that race is a construct but that racial differences are not. They are real and need to be addressed directly. For any questions or clarifications around CEF’s choice of words please contact ari rosenberg (arir[at]communityef.org).

De Marco, A., & Hunt, H. (2018). Racial Inequality, Poverty and Gentrification in Durham, North Carolina. North Carolina Poverty Research Fund. https://fpg.unc.edu/sites/fpg.unc.edu/files/resources/reports-and-policy-briefs/durham_final_web.pdf

Mitchell, B., & Franco, J. (2018, March 20). HOLC “Redlining” Maps: The Persistent Structure Of Segregation And Economic Inequality. National Community Reinvestment Coalition. https://ncrc.org/wp-content/uploads/dlm_uploads/2018/02/NCRC-Research-HOLC-10.pdf

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The Knowledge Series

The Knowledge Series is a project dedicated to sharing information with our communities on how housing discrimination manifests today. Throughout this week, we will share a series of posts that delve into the history of housing discrimination and what it looks like in our everyday.

You can find Part 1 of the Series here.

Part 2: When did this start?

In this post, we hope to illustrate a more detailed picture of the birth of American racism, and how its powerful influence has shaped both historical and modern American institutions. The United States has never been “the land of the free” – the enslavement of Africans, as well as Indigenous people, was common practice in this country from its beginnings. 

In late August of 1619, the first ship carrying captured peoples from African lands anchored at Point Comfort along the James River in Virginia. These seized individuals were sold into slavery and the practice of enslaving captured Africans quietly grew through custom, rather than by law, throughout the American colonies. By the 18th century, slavery was widespread throughout the Southeast and much of the Northeast. When the majority of the Northeastern United States outlawed the practice of enslaving people in 1804, the divide between the American North and South only furthered. The North came to view slavery as the morally corrupt institution it was (this did not negate their own everyday racism), creating tension with southern states, who relied on free enslaved labor to maintain their economy. 

The conditions that enslaved Africans and African Americans were subject to were despicable. As they crossed the Middle Passage, captured Africans were bound by chains on top of one another, sitting in their own urine and feces for days without being fed. Once in America, many enslaved people killed themselves and their families to escape slavery.  It speaks volumes that many enslaved people chose to die, or were willing to die, to escape the conditions of their lives. Black people who were enslaved were brutalized by plantation owners, they worked nearly all day, and were kept in dingy and broken housing units. Many chose to make the tumultuous journey to escape enslavement by fleeing northward during the 19th Century. But, this did not always lead to freedom.

Fast forward through the Civil War, which was about the institution of American slavery (specifically, the South’s “right” to maintain their economy, that needed enslaved labor to survive). While slavery was legally abolished in the U.S. in 1865, the South maintained inherently racist and exclusionary policies that kept Black people from both advancing economically and participating in civic life. Jim Crow Laws, voter registration policies, and internalized racism led to continued economic discrimination and physical, verbal, and emotional violence towards Black people at the hands of white* people. 

Black people in the U.S., though legally “free,” were still confined and unable to have the same freedoms as whites. Directly following the Civil War, Black men were often only able to find work as sharecroppers, renting plots of land in exchange for a portion of their crops and revenue. Free Black men were often treated unfairly and conned out of resources and profits. Black people were also prevented from participating in public education, creating big discrepancies in literacy and understanding math–greatly impacting their ability to find employment outside of manual labor and their ability to understand finances. Additionally, Black people were prevented from buying their own land due to white supremacist laws and explicitly racist and exclusionary wealth-building policies. These discriminatory practices made it almost impossible for Black families to accumulate wealth at the same levels as white families. And, for those who were successful at building wealth (many, many Black families were very successful at building wealth despite all of the racist laws and people trying to hold them back), there were countless setbacks–including having money and property literally stolen, beatings, fires, and murder (For specific examples, please visit these sites: Freedmen’s Savings and Trust Company, Tulsa Race Massacre, Dismantling Hayti in Durham).

Throughout the 1970s and into the 21st century, practices like “white flight” and gentrification made it difficult for Black families to access safe and affordable housing and effectively attempted to bar Black people from building wealth in the same ways as their white counterparts, through land and property ownership. Property ownership, as well as free labor, have always been the quickest ways to accumulate wealth in the capitalist system which the U.S. subscribes to.

Having assets that can be leveraged increases access to capital and makes it easier to continue to accumulate assets. Imagine one person being able to do this for 400 years, while another can’t. What would be the difference in their wealth accumulation? In 2017, the Survey of Consumer Finances released data showing that the difference in median wealth between Black and white families was striking, $17,600 compared to $171,000–meaning Black families’ median net worth is about 10% of white families (Dettling et al., 2017).

When we consider this history, along with the disproportionate stats we discussed in Part 1 of The Knowledge Series, we begin to see how historical systems manifest in modern-day. Policies and practices in the late 19th and 20th centuries made it extremely difficult for Black families to build and accrue wealth and have led to racial housing discrimination and segregation today. Come back tomorrow to learn more about racialized housing discrimination and why the primary residence ownership for Black families is 28% lower than white families (Dettling et al., 2017).

*In general, CEF uses APA grammar rules in our writing. The APA says that the names of race and ethnic identities should be capitalized, as they are proper nouns. For this series, and moving forward, CEF is intentionally leaving “white” (when referring to a racial identity) lower-cased. We recognize that by capitalizing words we are giving them power and we do not want to encourage white power in any way. Unlike the AP’s explanation for why they are choosing to lower-case “white” we want to be clear that we believe white people do have a shared experience–that is one of privilege. We also believe that undoing racism is the responsibility of white people and worry that implying that white people do not have a shared experience (as the AP does) is a dangerous tactic that is aimed at discounting the responsibility that white people have in undoing racism and white supremacist culture. Ultimately, we know that race is a construct but that racial differences are not. They are real and need to be addressed directly. For any questions or clarifications around CEF’s choice of words please contact ari rosenberg (arir[at]communityef.org).

Dettling, L., Hsu, J., Jacobs, L., Moore, K. & Thompson, J. (2017, September 27). Recent Trends in Wealth-Holding by Race and Ethnicity: Evidence from the Survey of Consumer Finances. The Federal Reserve. https://www.federalreserve.gov/econres/notes/feds-notes/recent-trends-in-wealth-holding-by-race-and-ethnicity-evidence-from-the-survey-of-consumer-finances-20170927.htm

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The Knowledge Series

The Knowledge Series is a project dedicated to sharing information with our communities on how housing discrimination manifests today. Throughout this week, we will share a series of posts that delve into the history of housing discrimination and what it looks like in our everyday.

Part 1: Who is affected by homelessness?

Every year in the U.S., communities receiving funding from the McKinney-Vento Act (a U.S. policy that provides federal funds for homeless shelters and other homelessness programs) are required to hold a Point-in-Time (PIT) count in the last week of January to tally all sheltered and unsheltered individuals experiencing homelessness in their area. Data from the most recent PIT counts show there are a projected 9,268 people experiencing homelessness throughout North Carolina. In 2019, the PIT count in Orange County revealed that 131 individuals experienced homelessness on any given night. In the City of Durham, the PIT count revealed 338 individuals experienced homelessness every day in the city.

These numbers are disheartening because at CEF we believe that housing and financial security are human rights. Unfortunately, these rights have not been previously available for many Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC). Today, Black folx are still discriminated against in the housing and employment processes at greater numbers than any other racial group. In taking a deeper look at PIT count data, the numbers show us explicitly that Black people in the U.S. face racial and systemic barriers to obtaining housing and financial security.

Of the 131 individuals experiencing homelessness in Orange County, 51% are Black, despite making up only 12% of the population. Of the 338 homeless in Durham, 78.6% are Black, while making up only 37% of the population. These outrageously disproportionate percentages of homelessness for Black residents of Orange County and the City of Durham are a clear example of the systemic racism which has historically and explicitly barred Black families from accruing wealth through property ownership. The systems which discriminate against Black folx still have a significant impact on communities today, because of the generational trauma garnered through slavery, the Jim Crow South, and the still ever-present institutional racism which is inevitable in a society whose institutions were founded by and for white* men, and only white men. 

Come back tomorrow for a blog post diving more deeply into these historical policies and systems which have created modern-day disparities which we must address. We will discuss the historical impacts of slavery and the further, blatant discrimination that Black people in the U.S. faced at the hands of Jim Crow laws in the South. Flowing into modern 20th and 21st century American history, we will use these historical structures to analyze and understand how these systems still create vast disparities for Black folx in the housing and financial sectors. 

*In general, CEF uses APA grammar rules in our writing. The APA says that the names of race and ethnic identities should be capitalized, as they are proper nouns. For this series, and moving forward, CEF is intentionally leaving “white” (when referring to a racial identity) lower-cased. We recognize that by capitalizing words we are giving them power and we do not want to encourage white power in any way. Unlike the AP’s explanation for why they are choosing to lower-case “white” we want to be clear that we believe white people do have a shared experience–that is one of privilege. We also believe that undoing racism is the responsibility of white people and worry that implying that white people do not have a shared experience (as the AP does) is a dangerous tactic that is aimed at discounting the responsibility that white people have in undoing racism and white supremacist culture. Ultimately, we know that race is a construct but that racial differences are not. They are real and need to be addressed directly. For any questions or clarifications around CEF’s choice of words please contact ari rosenberg (arir[at]communityef.org).

NC Coalition to End Homelessness. (2019, May). 2019 Homelessness in North Carolina. https://www.ncceh.org/media/files/files/7bd752c5/2019-nc-pit-infographic.pdf
Root, Corey. (2019, April ). Homelessness in Orange County. Orange County Partnership to End Homelessness. https://www.ocpehnc.com/point-in-time-count-data

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Sharing news from Jon & Janet for the CEF family

CEF Co-Directors, Jon Youngpenn, Donna Carrington, and Janet Xiao

Message from Jon & Janet, CEF Co-Directors

CEF has been our heart and home for nearly a decade. After ten years of learning and growing with all of you, we are feeling called toward a new path and will be transitioning out of our roles this spring.

Each day for the past decade has been indescribably full to the brim. One of the guiding values of our community is that “we are all creative, resourceful, and whole,” and we have seen this reflected in a million ways through individual people and in our powerful collective work. This strong and vibrant community of Members, Advocates, staff, partners, and supporters is made up of people that we’re proud to call lifelong friends and teachers. What’s emerged from CEF’s momentous growth over the past decade is an organization that is impactful, innovative, trusted, and purpose-driven. We are grateful to be able to make this transition at a time when the organization is flourishing, financially healthy, and poised for its next stage of growth.

This past September, Donna Carrington, who has been a core leader on our team for the past six years, stepped in to support CEF as a Co-Director. We are inspired by the wealth of experience that Donna brings and confident that her intentional and values-driven leadership will continue carrying CEF forward with love, wisdom, and abiding dedication.

As CEF prepares for this transition, CEF’s Board of Directors, leadership, and broader staff team are engaged in an organizational discernment process to envision and build its future shape. This is a wonderfully rich and healthful moment in the life of the organization, and we are truly excited about what’s to come. We hope you’ll join us in actively continuing to support CEF, and in celebrating as this transformative organization continues to bloom!

In Love and Gratitude,
Jon and Janet

 

Message from CEF Board of Directors

Dear CEF Family,

CEF is entering another season of growth and change in the New Year. In 2019 we worked with over 1000 Members with the support of 220 Advocates, celebrated 121 Members gaining jobs and 138 Members moving out of homelessness into housing; and in exciting news, CEF Members have now saved over $1,250,000 collectively towards their personal goals. As we continue to deepen the work of CEF in our community, we are very excited to announce Donna Carrington’s promotion into directorship from her previous role in CEF’s Durham office supporting Member Services and programming. Donna, and the CEF staff and board, will be continuing to deepen our commitment to sustainability and equity in our organization, our work, and our community. Together will be undertaking a lot of intentional work to support the development of the new leadership structures CEF needs in order to grow and flourish at this point in our organizational life. 

Jon and Janet have played an incredible role in the transformation we’ve all experienced since CEF started as an organization in 2009. They have brought immense dedication, vision, soul, and roll-up-your-sleeves dedication to their work. Thank you, Jon and Janet! While we can’t help but feel sadness about this change, we are also excited to take this next step with the organization and begin a process of discernment and transition. Jon and Janet will both be sharing great wisdom with the rest of the CEF community to support a smooth and healthy leadership transition.

We know there will be a lot of questions, and we welcome the curiosity of fellow community members even while we may not have all the answers in the immediate future. We are excited about the future possibilities for us as an organization, and deeply grateful for the contributions of everyone who has participated in making CEF the incredible community it is today!  We are designing a process and an interim strategy that gives us the space and time we need to be thoughtful during the period following Jon and Janet’s departure.  You can learn more details here with the “Transition Details and FAQ.” 

Sincerely,

Eric Breit and Brian Smith

Co-Chairs, Board of Directors

We’re so grateful to the whole CEF family for being an amazingly supportive community. As we enter another big year for CEF, and as we continue to adapt and grow, we hope you’ll keep doing what you do best at CEF—whether that’s volunteeringdonatingcoming to meetingsbuilding program partnerships together or singing with the Advocacy Choir. Or, if you are looking to get more involved,we hope you’ll reach out!

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Meet Our 2019 Chapel Hill Interns!

Meet Serena.

Serena Singh

What brings you joy?

Advocating for what I believe in brings me so much joy. I have seen firsthand the power of activism, and every baby step towards tangible change is always so refreshing. Additionally, the people closest to me bring me more joy than anything. No matter what’s going on in my life, I know I can depend on a core few to stand in my corner.

What about CEF excites you the most?

The perspective I have gained on oppressive systems and the world as a whole definitely excites me the most. I learn so much every single day I’m in the CEF Office, and I am incredibly grateful for the advocates I’ve met, the members I’ve worked with, and other community individuals I’ve had the opportunity to have meaningful discussions with.

Share a story about a meaningful moment that you attribute to your experience with CEF.

One of the first meetings I ever had as a full advocate, I was asked to help a member write a paper for a class that was due at noon. It was 11 and we only had an hour, but together we cranked it out — MLA format and all! She was so appreciative and gave me the biggest hug. That was a fantastic way to begin my experience with CEF!

What brings you joy?

People and the little things around me bring me joy! I love seeing how people interact with each other and the world around them – I get joy from my everyday interactions with people, whether it’s talking with an old friend or sharing a moment with a stranger.

What about CEF excites you the most?

Everything! I love the philosophy at the heart of CEF – it’s so genuine and inclusive. I really love getting to know more people from the community. CEF is so exciting because I get to build relationships with really great people while also engaging with issues of injustice in a meaningful way.

Share a story about a meaningful moment that you attribute to your experience with CEF.

I ran into a member I had been working with every week a few semesters ago on the bus the other day! She had gotten a job that she’d been wanting for a long time! It made me so happy to catch up with her.

Meet Sophia.

Sophia Janken

Meet Joy.

Joy Stouffer

What brings you joy?

Running, cooking, reading books (especially realistic or historical fiction). Sitting on my porch drinking coffee.

What about CEF excites you the most?

I love that I can collaborate with a wide variety of people, from members to staff to other advocates, in order to convey that each and every one of us is important and should be heard.

Share a story about a meaningful moment that you attribute to your experience with CEF.

My freshman year I worked with a member who needed immediate housing. We had to call several shelters in the area and finally secured him one at a spot in Durham. This experience was meaningful to me because I realized that housing is definitely not a guarantee–each night in your own home is a gift.

What brings you joy?

Conversations that lead to meaningful connections bring me the most joy. There is so much to learn from the people around us and I could sit and listen to stories of lived experiences all day. It makes me happy when someone can trust me and I can trust them – creating a bond.

What about CEF excites you the most?

The members excite me the most because they come in with hope for a better quality of life and it’s exciting to be on the passenger seat helping them while they drive and take control of their life.

Share a story about a meaningful moment that you attribute to your experience with CEF.

I was working with a member from Russia for about 2 hours and we ended up talking more about his time there and lessons he’s learned.

Meet Inaara.

Inaara Mohammed
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Meet Rosa: CEF Staff Interview

Rosa joins CEF's Staff in Durham in a new position as the Office Services Coordinator in Durham!

What led you to this work at CEF?

—Being a Member of CEF and seeing how they directly impacted my life in dealing with stuff with my credit. When I found out there was a position open, I was passionate about working here. This is a job I will have that feels meaningful, and I will go home knowing I made a difference.

Where do you find energy for your work at CEF and where do you expect to find challenges?

I try to handle each situation as if I was the Member. I will try to handle each situation the way I would want someone to handle my situation, if that makes sense. I think it’ll be challenging to keep that work-home balance. It will be challenging because I am both a Member and an employee of CEF. It will be challenging to turn on and turn off that work feeling!

What strengths and perspectives do you bring to CEF?

The strength I bring is that I can directly relate to the Members of CEF because I myself am currently dealing with homelessness. I feel like I bring a perspective of hope, because I mean we don’t expect an employee of CEF to be dealing with homelessness themselves. Hopefully I can inspire someone else to think, “This too shall pass.”

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Meet Tanner: CEF Staff Interview

What will your role be at CEF?

My fellowship at CEF will focus on workforce development and employment in the Chapel Hill Office. A job is a source of income, stability, and security, but it can also be a source of dignity and purpose. We know that an employment search depends on more than a resume — it depends on criminal histories, credit, transportation, and housing — and so my work will touch on these issues as well. I will also lead convenings of service providers, local governments, and employers in the county, working to connect organizations, share data, and create spaces for advocacy.

What strengths and perspectives do you bring to CEF?

I studied Public Policy and Economics at Duke, and hope to combine a racial-equity lens with my training in policy and socioeconomic determinants of life outcomes. I’ve also spent time working on access to HIV/AIDS treatment in South Africa, social policy research at the Brookings Institution, and government/non-profit partnerships in low-country South Carolina. After graduation, I worked at the NC Department of Justice, focusing on predatory loan practices, the opioid epidemic, and sex trafficking, and then spent time at a consulting firm in Washington, DC. I’m new to CEF and know that I have lots to learn; but I am surrounded by members, staff, and volunteers who are brilliant and compassionate teachers, and I hope to draw from their wisdom as I find my grounding in this new work.

What led you to this work at CEF?

What struck me about CEF was not only its effectiveness, but its unique relationship-based approach to service. Relationships make CEF work, and that’s the kind of organization I wanted to join. CEF is also uniquely positioned in anti-poverty work: we really do see everything. There’s no better way to do this work than at the ground level – in the trenches with members every day — there’s also no better way to learn. I’m incredibly fortunate that my role lets me be creative – designing new systems, building community partnerships, and testing new ideas. Our Members bring incredible ability and potential, and I’m lucky to work alongside them to realize their goals.

Where do you find energy for your work at CEF?

I find energy every day in our team – Jon, Sarah, Diiv, Leah, Yvette. I also get a lot of energy from Members. Our wins are shared together as a team, and the victories are deeply energizing. Sometimes those wins are big, like finding a job or a home. Sometimes they’re small, like finishing a resume or securing an expunction. When the caffeine wears off, it’s sharing these moments with the CEF community that keeps me going.

Where do you expect to find challenges in your work?

Barriers to finding employment are real and substantial. At times, I feel frustrated. I can’t always convince an employer to hire someone with a criminal history or find a simple way to make a living for a highly qualified senior. I can’t fix every problem. The work is high stakes, and so it can be emotionally draining. But CEF’s approach offers an answer for this challenge: it is trauma-informed, relationship-based, and supportive of self-care. It seeks to build on strengths, not dwell on challenges. We have fantastic community partners and resilient Members, and with that, there will always be a path forward.

Anything else you’d like us to know?

IF YOU ARE AN EMPLOYER, contact me! (tannerl@communityef.org) Let’s talk about who from CEF would be a good candidate. It takes partners on all sides to do this work, so join us.

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Meet Krista: CEF Staff Interview

Krista: CEF Durham's Neighborhood Engagement Specialist

What made you interested in working for CEF?

I really admire not only the heart that goes into all of CEF’s work, but also CEF’s dedication to constant self-improvement.  As an organization, CEF is always looking to do better and more conscientious work, and that’s something I really wanted to be a part of.

Why do you feel connecting with people is so important?

Connecting with people is what makes this work continue to feel worthwhile even when systems and structures feel like they’re defeating you.  It’s all too easy to feel hopeless after a while, but having solid relationships with members humanizes the daily and drives our work.

Tell us about yourself/background:  

I’m from South Carolina and came to Durham for college.  I studied French and International Studies in college and am enjoying living and working in Durham as a resident rather than a student.

What inspires you?

My coworkers! Working in the nonprofit sector has found me surrounded by dedicated, passionate, hardworking people who strive to make Durham a better and more accessible city.

What do you think will be your greatest challenge in this position?

Definitely balancing the number of different spheres my job occupies.  I have a bit of a jack-of-all trades job, so managing a variety of partnerships, often with very little overlap, is going to be an interesting logistical challenge.

What projects are you most excited about?

I’ve really enjoyed tackling the overhaul of how we present our laptop referral program.  It’s given me the ability to work through how we create our member goals and look at things through both the member and advocate perspective and to create something that will hopefully be with CEF for many years.

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Meet Joy: CEF Staff Interview

Joy Shaver: CEF's Financial Coaching Specialist & Americorps Literacycorp Member

Why do you feel connecting with people is so important?

I agree with Dorothy Day who said, “We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes in community.” I keep learning over and over that I need connection with others. True relationships where we risk being ourselves and seeing another person or the beautiful mess they are is the only way any of us can thrive in a world that increasingly seeks to divide us.

What inspires you?

The amazing resiliency and willingness to risk that I see every day at CEF inspires me every day. Whether it is a Members risking trusting an Advocate to help them navigate complicated situations, or an Advocate risking looking silly by doing something that they have never done before to accomplish a Member’s goal. I am always amazed by the vulnerability that is embraced at every level of this organization. And if something doesn’t work the first time no one gives up they just get creative and try something new.

Tell us about your background

I was born and raised in Detroit. I spent my undergrad years in Indiana and then moved to Seattle for four years. I moved to Durham in 2013 to start my Masters of Divinity at Duke, which I finished in 2016.  I have a diverse background in terms of employment. I have done project management for a small technology company, churches, and relationship driven nonprofits.

What do you think will be your greatest challenge?

Honestly, learning the intricacies of our financial system has been a whole lot more challenging than I expected. I didn’t think I was an expert when I started but I thought I understood our financial system a lot better than I actually did. Every time I learn something new it I’m amazed at how well members are navigating a really opaque system.

What projects are you excited about right now?

I’m really excited to help make our internal system better so that our Advocates and Members have more resources at their disposal! It’s a bit of a learning curve for me but I’m really excited to work with our Resources and Financial Coaching team to make our resources more useful!!

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CEF: Community Empowerment Fund

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