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SUMMIT ON HOMELESSNESS AND POVERTY 2019

March 01 – March 03

CEF student Advocates at UNC and Duke are working together to convene the Abundance: Summit on Homelessness and Poverty 2019 on March 1-3. The Summit is bringing together over 100 students from across the country to think critically about the intersections of homelessness and poverty in the U.S., share experiences and workshop our organizational impact in our communities, and ultimately build a coalition of student organizations dedicated to addressing and dismantling systems that perpetuate hunger, homelessness, and poverty. The full Summit is at capacity but two keynotes and two events are open to the public!

Events Open to the Public

  • March 3rd 12:00pm – Jillian Johnson – CEF Summit Closing Keynote
    Jillian Johnson is giving the closing Keynote at the Summit! She is the Mayor Pro Tempore of the city of Durham, the co-founder of Durham for All, an organization working to build a multi-racial, cross-class, political vehicle in Durham, and a long-time community organizer and activist.  Click here for more details!

Last year, students at Brown University held the first inaugural Summit on Homelessness and Poverty. In doing so, they brought together a coalition of student organizations from across the country dedicated to dismantling systems that perpetuate hunger, homelessness, and poverty.

This year, CEF is partnering with UNC and Duke to host the Summit.  We look forward to welcoming students to our campus from across the country to engage in these critical topics.

Students from the 2018 Summit!
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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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Dear CEF Family

Dear CEF Family,

“What is CEF?” Truthfully, it can be hard to find words for this work that Members and Advocates do side-by-side, day-by-day.

Chinita will tell you, “CEF is not a service—it’s a healing process. It’s a community of members that become empowered, that believes that they deserve to be treated as humans!”

As a CEF Orientation Leader, Chinita has witnessed it first hand: CEF shows up for Members who are trying to meet their most basic human needs. Almost 7 out of 10 Members join CEF without a place to live, 3 out of 10 without any income. And while we know that safe homes and stable jobs are fundamental goals for many Members at CEF, we also know they are often just the step in that “healing process” on a journey towards long-term stability and true flourishing.

“I’m a living witness,” shares David. “When I joined CEF, I found that everything within me was not dead.” Before joining CEF, David found himself in the hospital, fighting illness and learning to walk and speak again. Working with his Advocates at CEF, he now has stable income and a two-bedroom home that he calls his own.

David’s home has been a space for him to heal, where he can lean fully into his gifts. Working with his Advocates, he is breathing new life into his small business—an alterations business aptly named “Graceful Stitches.” This year, his hand-sewn clothing was featured in the first-ever CEF Fashion Show. And, he just launched a project to craft quilts for every CEF Member that moves into a new home. “I am moving forward. I am strong and I am able to do things that I never thought I could.”

David’s story is just one point of light—and 2018 has simply been radiant. Everywhere we look, we find care, creativity, and resourcefulness illuminating our beloved community. We sense it in the celebratory glow of CEF Members whose collective savings reached $1,00,000 dollars this year. We hear it in the songs of the CEF Advocacy choir as Members and Advocates march side-by-side to vote for (and win!) a $10 million bond to build greatly-needed affordable housing. To be able to bear witness to the light of this community is a true gift.

By donating to CEF, you are fueling this radiant community. You are enabling Members not only to meet their basic needs, but to flourish and thrive. Your generosity enables the CEF community to shine more luminously than ever—to care for each other through the toughest of times, to keep “moving forward” and growing in strength together. Thank you for your incredible support.

With joy and gratitude from CEF’s Co-Directors,

 

Jonathan Young                   Janet Xiao

P.S.     Thanks to an amazing group of CEF donors that came together to match year-end donations, your gift to CEF will be doubled through December 31st, up to $30,000!

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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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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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Piggy Bank Bash – 2018 Celebration

When: Monday, October 29th, 6:00pm – 9:00pm

Where: GRUB Durham, 1200 W Chapel Hill St, Durham, NC 27701

Ticket Price: $30 (100% donated to CEF)

Your $30 donation gets you a ticket to:(discounts for Members/Advocates/Students)

🥘A delicious GRUB Dinner (w/ vegan options) & 1 drink!
👂A chance to learn more about CEF’s work in housing and economic justice!
🎶Songs by the CEF Advocacy Choir!
🎉Hang out and celebrate with the CEF crew!
⁉ What’s in the box?! Find out the secret!
💸The best part? 100% of ticket proceeds go to CEF!

The first 30 folks to use “EARLYPIG” get $10 off the regular price!

We have an exciting secret to share! Join us on Monday, October 29th to support the innovative work of the Community Empowerment Fund through a fundraiser hosted by GRUB Durham. This will be a night of education, food, drink, and camaraderie. There will be ample opportunities to learn about CEF’s work and mission at the event while meeting CEF members, supporters, West End neighbors, and more.

100% of the ticket proceeds benefit CEF. Purchase tickets here. The GRUB Durham team looks forward to celebrating and supporting CEF’s continuing work with you!



About CEF: CEF supports over 1,000 Members in Durham and Orange Counties experiencing homelessness or financial insecurity to gain jobs, secure housing, and build savings. Founded in 2009, CEF coordinates hundreds of trained volunteer Advocates, primarily from area universities, to work alongside CEF Members towards achieving their personal goals.

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CEF Featured in Prosperity Now’s Financial Coaching Design Guide!

Prosperity Now’s new “Financial Coaching Program Design Guide: A Participant-Centered Approach” is hot off the press! It’s an incredible guide for organizations interested in creating or refining a financial coaching program and it features great work and wisdom from CEF and other partners across the US! We loved working with the Prosperity Now team to bounce thoughts about what makes a good person-centered financial coaching program, and we learned a ton from fellow advisors as well!

Check out some samples below from CEF’s featured work!

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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: Community Empowerment Fund

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

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