Archive | Research + Publications

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/ 

0

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

0

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

0

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

0

2019 Annual Report: We Grow Together

As CEF has grown and blossomed over the years, we have been reminded, time and again, of the importance of being nimble and adaptive as we grow. As you will see in this report, 2019 was no different. In the enclosed stories you will learn more about CEF’s deepening advocacy work; read about the programs we’ve built and strengthened; hear directly from Members, Advocates, and Staff about their connection to CEF; and see our quantitative impact.

0

Meet Kristina: Advocate Program Coordinator in Chapel Hill

Kristina joined CEF’s Chapel Hill team in June of 2019 as Advocate Program Coordinator. We are so grateful for the talents and gifts she brings! Read more about Kristina below.

In your own words, how would you describe the work you do at CEF?

I am the Advocate Program Coordinator in Chapel Hill, so I oversee 80 to 90 active Advocates in the Chapel Hill office. I’m in charge of recruiting and selecting new Advocates, training them to make sure they understand the foundation and the values of an Advocate, and ensuring that they feel entirely prepared and supported during Member meetings. I also work on making sure that the Advocate program is evolving alongside CEF, particularly in terms of our racial justice work. 

What led you to work with CEF generally, and also in this particular role?

I knew a few friends who worked and volunteered with CEF, and they spoke so highly of it. I also knew that I wanted a job that was more direct-service focused, because I had done internships in the past that felt very removed from the communities their work impacted. I really believe, first and firmly, in person-to-person connection and relationship-building, which is why I was so drawn to the role.  

What experiences, strengths and skills do you bring to your work at CEF?

I hope I bring a lot of empathy to the role. I care a lot about people’s identities, where they come from, and what experiences they’ve had that shaped them as people, because I think that we are often a product of our experiences and where we come from. Long before me, there’s been discussion of the racial wealth gap and racial justice at CEF. But I believe that before you can begin those conversations, you really have to know who you are and how you show up in the world. So it’s been an exciting thing to bring some tools that I’ve used in trainings or retreats in the past to this role. 

I also bring a lot of enthusiasm and joy. I hope that when things are difficult and frustrating, I’m able to bring a little bit of light and positivity to that. For Advocates who are on the front lines, who are interacting with folks who are constantly going up against really difficult barriers in the systems that they’re operating in, I think it’s really important to have someone who can remind them that there’s so much good in the work they’re doing despite a lot of the bad. 

When you think about your work at CEF, where do you find energy and renewal?

For me, it comes back to the people. It has been both really exciting and also, at times, really shocking to see just how strong and resilient people are. Coming into the role, I think I possessed some naiveté about how a person can handle stress, crisis, and trauma. I thought that those experiences would consume one’s whole person, because they are so heavy. And to see that people are just so multifaceted and hold so much joy and love and show up and be present on top of everything going on in their lives is really, really energizing and motivating for me. I just continually feel compelled to be in the same space as these people.

I like working in the office. Most of the time if I’m doing work, even if it doesn’t involve anyone immediately in the office, I would rather be in the office doing it. I’ve found the ability to laugh, cry, and hug someone there. It’s a space that holds all of these really complex relationships that are built on community and family, in a way that I didn’t understand could be so comforting.

Kristina and PeeWee at CEF’s 2019 Holiday Party

When you think about your work at CEF, where do you find challenges and how do you seek to find the best way forward?

The things that have been most difficult for me to process have been when it doesn’t feel as if there are solutions or options for folks, when you’re sitting with someone and it feels like you’ve done everything that you can. It has been a challenge for me to understand that sitting with someone and being frustrated with them or sad or just present with them, also has a lot of meaning. I’m a doer, I like to do something and complete it, so it’s been really challenging to learn that there are things that I can’t do and systems that I can’t just fix, and then figuring out how to move forward with that.  I’m trying to internalize that it can mean just as much for someone to act as an emotional support, as it can to support someone in filling out a housing application. I overcome that challenge by constantly leaning on those around me. Other Staff and Members have been a really incredible source of perspective, learning, supervision, and mentorship in this challenge.

What has your work looked like for the 9 months you’ve been at CEF?

I was working with Jess McDonald, who was previously the Advocate Program Coordinator in the Durham office, to reshape and revamp the Advocate training curriculum. We were trying to make it a bit more foundational, speaking more to the core of CEF. For us, that meant ensuring that the curriculum around the racial wealth gap, trauma-informed care, and the coach approach was really robust, because we view those things as the three central pillars within the Advocate program. Jess and I really tried to ensure that Advocates know how to show up as people, to see Members as creative, resourceful, and whole human beings, and of course, be cognizant of their identities showing up into this space. The harder skills will follow, because those things come with time and we can never teach someone how to do everything in a 12-hour curriculum. But what we can allow people to do is take a moment to reflect on themselves, on who they’re going to show up as in the space, who Members are going to see them as, and try to make sure they can do that in a way that actually empowers folks. 

Other than that, my work has been a lot of figuring out the needs of different Advocates, because they’re all unique people who have whole lives outside of our organization. I’ve reflected a lot about making sure that we aren’t asking too much of them, which is why in Chapel Hill, we’ve moved to having two Advocates in all Member meetings. I think this really gets back to the core of support: here are these two Advocates who don’t know everything about the systems that they’re working within, and a Member who has a great deal of lived experience. And so let’s put two Advocates in the meeting so they can be learning and listening at the same time. Having two people in a meeting doesn’t hinder the relationship that is built, and it allows for a bit more support. 

In your opinion, what makes CEF’s Advocate Program special?

There are so many things that go into the magic of what CEF creates, and the Advocate program is a large part of that. I’ve met so many incredible Advocate volunteers who are so entirely dedicated to this organization. I think that it’s actually this pandemic that has fully solidified that for me: there are 40-plus people who have volunteered to make Community Care Calls to Members during this time.

When you become an Advocate, you become entirely dedicated to this community. They’re really on the front lines of ensuring that Members are seen as creative and resourceful and whole. A lot goes into ensuring that they actually do this every day, and I think that we do a really good job of making sure that they do.

0

Get to Know Donna, CEF’s New Executive Director!

Donna Carrington, CEF Executive Director

CEF is deeply proud and excited to share that Donna Carrington, a skilled and passionate CEF Staff member, has been promoted to the position of Executive Director! Over the past year, CEF has worked to restructure organizational leadership to better fit the growth and change we’ve experienced through a decade of work. Donna’s appointment as Executive Director marks the beginning of this new structure, and we are excited for Donna’s strategy and vision as we move into the next decade.

Message from CEF’s Board of Directors:

“The Community Empowerment Fund Board of Directors and Staff have been deeply and intentionally working together to envision the evolution of CEF over the last four months. The Governance Committee is thrilled to welcome Donna Carrington as CEF’s new Executive Director! The Board has worked closely with Donna during this transition and we are deeply confident in her ability to lead us into the future. Over the last 5 years, Donna has worked in multiple roles at CEF, most recently as Co-Director and Member Services Coordinator, providing leadership in the Durham office and community. Along with her leadership gifts, she brings the expertise of lived experience to her work. She knows CEF like the back of her hand and she lives our values every day. We are excited for our community to embrace her in this new role and we look forward to working with her!”

A Bit About Donna

Originally from West Virginia, Donna’s family moved to Durham when she was a child. She attended public schools in Durham and eventually enrolled at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she studied Spanish Language & Literature with minors in English and Psychology. Donna joined CEF five years ago and has been leading our Durham team as Co-Director since September 2019. Donna currently resides in Chapel Hill with her partner and four children.

Read more about Donna’s life story, the gifts and talents she continues to bring to her work, and her dreams and visions for CEF’s future in the following interview. *Please note that the interview was conducted in January 2020, before the COVID-19 pandemic affected the United States.*

CEF’s 2016 Holiday Party in Durham

Q: How did you first get involved with CEF?

Donna: After graduating from UNC, I moved back to Durham, got married, and had my first three children. Then I ended up homeless in Durham for the first time. We were at the Durham Rescue Mission. The experience taught me a lot. I don’t think it ever occurred to me what could happen without skills, without knowledge. It was a shock to our system in a lot of ways.

I originally came to CEF as a Member. I was in HomeStart, which is a local family and women’s shelter in Chapel Hill. And CEF used to do the Opportunity Class on Sundays over there. I’d be apprehensive, but I would go, and when I would get there, I would be so happy because I was learning things that I didn’t have any idea how to do. I think it was just realizing that it could be better and could be different. And I just needed help to figure that out.

By the time that I took the Savings Specialist position at CEF, I had moved out of the shelter, I had gotten my own place, and had gone through a process of seeing how hard it was in Chapel Hill to find a place to live. That really taught me some lessons about my own resilience, and that I needed to be resilient for other people. 

Q: Can you tell us about all the different roles you’ve had at CEF since you first got involved?

Donna: The Savings Specialist position was my first position at CEF. Next, I offered services as a Housing Specialist. Housing was one of those places where I knew that I had a story, and I knew I had some experiences that I could share with people, but I also understood how hard it is to navigate all these systems. I really loved doing the Housing Specialist position because it made me the front line of people feeling comfortable at CEF.

Donna speaks at the 2018 Mayor’s Landlords Roundtable in Durham

Q: In your most recent role as Member Service Coordinator, you’ve been providing service delivery to Members in CEF’s Durham office.  This job entails ensuring Members are receiving the services and resources they seek while working with Advocates, assisting Members in reaching their goals, and identifying strategies for building Member-Advocate relationships. Can you tell us about the “why” behind your work in this role?

Donna: From being CEF’s Housing Specialist, I became the Member Services Coordinator in Durham. Before that, there wasn’t anyone with lived experience at the table and I knew that was important. That was probably the hardest position for me, because I think it was the first time that I realized how different it is to be at a table saying you’ve been a person of lived experience and how other people interact with you. Also, I think it was a place for me to say to other providers, ‘There needs to be more people like me and you need to invite them. And they need to feel like what they say and who they are is equally valuable as you are’. So that’s been sort of the role that I’ve been in for the last year. I’ve seen it come to its fruition. 

Q: How did you begin your current role at CEF as Executive Director? 

Donna: I always fully invested in every position I was in. CEF was doing work to make sure that we were being intentional about our values, which meant that we needed to diversify our staff. We really wanted to make sure that our leadership reflected our Member base, because it’s important for people to know that leadership looks just like that. I also wanted to be able to talk about my story, where a person who has struggled with mental illness, had children struggling with mental illness, has gone through a divorce, has gone through abuse, trauma, all of these different things—how that person is now at the level of where I am, at these tables, having these conversations, and to just have a different view that I can bring to these conversations that other providers can’t.

Q: So you’ve talked about the “what” and the “how” and the “who” regarding your time at CEF. Can you talk a little bit about the “why”?

Donna: My 16 year old daughter has always seen me fight for our family. She’s always seen me fight for other people. And I think that’s why I do it. I know if I can make one person feel like they’ve accomplished something, if I can be alongside one person to get housing or figure out how to do this one thing, I think that’s what I’ve been set here to do. I think the other “why” is, I want to be what didn’t happen for me, which was to have someone further along than I was on this path. I think if there had been that, maybe I wouldn’t have gone through some of the pitfalls that I went through, cause I would have seen, oh, there is a possibility.

CEF Spring Graduation 2017

Q: What do you see as being really special about CEF? What do you consider to be a part of the “special sauce”?

Donna: The way we do this work is because we want to know people, and we want to be with people, and we want to be on their journeys, and we want to learn, and we want other people to learn. And that has been the single place that I’m always solidly in value. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t times when things are hard or when we don’t have answers. And that’s usually the hardest time for me. I want to have an answer for somebody. 

But to have a person own their own path is important to me. I’ve learned that I might have a plan and think that I might know something, and someone will show me something different. And that something different is usually so beautiful, and never a place that I would’ve gotten to. I really, really like it when people surprise me and do something different and really are part of their own process. I know that a lot of times, to have been in that battle with them or on that path with them is just as important. And I think that’s where that special sauce is. Like, at CEF, this person knows me. Even if I mess up something, they’re like, okay, let’s figure out how to do it, let’s figure out how to fix it. 

Q: When you think about your work in this new role as ED of CEF, where do you find challenges and how do you seek to find the best ways forward?

Donna: I think the biggest challenge I’m seeing is having lots of conversations about what CEF is at our core, what we do, and how we do it. That’s where I see things going in the future: making those assessments in conversation, and really being solid about what our boundaries are and what we do. Why are we in this work? What makes us unique? I think what makes us unique is the fact that we want to make relationships with people and that we want to fight alongside people. 

Donna, Janet, and Maggie attending a conference on behalf of CEF in 2017

Q: What do you see for CEF’s future? What things might remain the same? In what ways might we grow?

Donna: I love the model of engaging college students. I don’t think it should be the only way we get volunteers, but I think there’s something about having conversations with students who might be coming in without lived experience, and asking questions, and wanting to think more critically. I want them to work alongside other people in our community who have had different lived experiences. 

I see CEF going more into advocacy and I think about what that will look like. That could be a place where our values can operate in a better way. Maybe we delve into advocacy more because that is a place where we can come as a collective with not only people from college institutions, but with people who have lived experience saying, ‘Hey, actually this matters to us.’ 

I want CEF to be a place where people stay for a long time. It’s important that we’re really thinking about what it means for us to do direct service that fulfills that relationship but also doesn’t put us in those places where we’re doing too much.

Q: Thank you, Donna! Is there anything else you want to add or share?

Donna: I always want to build a community where there’s people that I can be me with. And I’ve been very intentional about building a non-biological family, having my coworkers and people that I get to know being part of that family. I think that’s the way you have to operate in the world in order to get through things. You have to be able to love the people around you, to care about the people around you, to be a support to them, to get support from them. 

I think a lot about having been at CEF for five years—that’s a long time. One of the things I always tell people is I tend to be a “lifer” at things. It just never occurs to me that I wouldn’t be here every day.

On top of stepping into this position and really growing into things, there’s also that sadness that I’m trying to wade through, of students and Staff leaving over the years. I’m being very, very intentional about moments, conversations, things like that, because that’s all I’ll have. They tell histories.

5

Annual Report 2018 : “it takes a collective”

“We are overwhelmingly grateful for the opportunity to grow with the over 1,000 Members and 250 Advocates who show up every day to care for each other. It encourages us to learn from and lean on one another as we move forward together. Thank you for believing in this community of boundless support as we grow towards the abundant possibilities we have before us.”

0

$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

1
CEF: Community Empowerment Fund

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

cef