In a tightly packed special meeting of City Council, over 100 Dallas Area Interfaith leaders spilled into overflow areas in support of new regulations that would give greater protections to Dallas renters. Leader Ericka Ventura (at podium in photo above) declared the organization’s support for proposed regulations that they had helped create, including more frequent inspections, higher standards for air conditioning and water heating, more explicit steps for mold remediation and stiffer penalties for landlords.
Dr. Barry Lachman, Asthma Coalition of Texas president (and leader with Beth Shalom) said he was “appalled” by what he saw in a tour of apartment complexes in the Bachman Lake area.
Rev. Jesus Belmontes of San Juan Diego Catholic Church argued that poor living conditions hurt children the most, asserting that Dallas “has failed its most vulnerable.”Read more
Bachman Lake residents lined up at the podium with photos depicting bedbugs, mold, leaky windows and malfunctioning air conditioning — all of which came from a neighborhood inspection of apartments involving 60 resident leaders – organized byDallas Area Interfaith. On Monday, resident leaders held a press conference urging the city’s Housing Committee to adopt their recommendations in a bid to toughen up Dallas’ housing code. One leader, Patricia Vega, has two children with asthma living in an apartment with mold in the bedroom and a broken window that leaks when it rains. Said Dr. Barry Lachman, President of the Asthma Coalition of Texas and leader with Temple Shalom, “no family should ever have to live under the conditions we saw in Bachman Lake.”
The housing committee agreed, and city council will vote on the proposal next month.
Said one Dallas Morning News columnist:
“There was a time I thought of Dallas Area Interfaith as a well-intentioned moral voice for the downtrodden. But now I am seeing a politically smart organization that is acting on…issues from payday loans to substandard housing.”
The fight started last fall, when a group of church women approached DAI to learn what their rights were. Months later, and after several parish assemblies at San Juan Diego Catholic Church, resident leaders got a seat at the table. They recommended that the city strengthen its minimum standards for rental housing by requiring that landlords pursue proper bedbug fumigation and mold cleanup when asked, and guarantee functioning air conditioning — particularly during summer months. DAI also asked for improved record keeping, expanded inspections and more meaningful enforcement.Read more
“It all started with a group of women,” said Dallas Area Interfaith (DAI) organizer Walker Moore, that “wanted to know what their rights were.” With the guidance of DAI, the ladies went on to organize several meetings — at local churches and in apartments — to formulate a strategy to address mold, dilapidation and crime.
In November, extra chairs had to be hauled out to accommodate 160 people who gathered at San Juan Diego Catholic Church at a meeting in which they brought specific issues with apartment conditions straight to the police chief and City of Dallas elected officials. They and the audience listened with approval as Mayor Pro Tem Monica Alonzo and Roberto Garcia, a Dallas police senior corporal, vowed to help the residents.
DAI leaders have since submitted a list of the worst apartments they have seen to the city’s community prosecution code team, and are currently working altering the city code to increase the frequency of mandatory apartment inspections.
[Photo Credit: Nathan Hunsinger / Dallas Morning News]Read more
After undergoing a congregational development process in partnership with the North Texas IAF that involved 3,000 parishioners – 600 of which participated in small group encounters led by 80 ministry leaders — leaders of St. Joseph’s Catholic Parish in Arlington, Texas were astounded by the number of stories about payday lending.
Dozens of “horror stories” detailed the debilitating effect of predatory loans on families, motivating parish leaders to work with their organizer address the problem locally. In October, parish leaders stood with the Texas Conference of Catholic Bishops to publicly launch a campaign calling on the City of Arlington to better regulate payday and title loan lending. And within one month, leaders — along with allies — celebrated success.
Arlington City Council members voted unanimously to become the first city in Tarrant County to “cap loans and require payday and auto title businesses to register and adhere to fair business practices.”Read more
To those concerned about anti-Muslim sentiment in the country, Huffington Post writer Carol Kuruvilla recommended to “get involved with your local interfaith network.” She cites Dallas Area Interfaith organizer Josephine Lopez-Paul:
Working together toward a common cause is what really builds interfaith relations, according to Josephine Lopez Paul, Lead Organizer of the advocacy group Dallas Area Interfaith. “These protests and rallies come and go,” Lopez Paul told HuffPost. “But the slow patient work remains.”
Fr. Daniel Kelly of St. Joseph Catholic Church and North Texas IAF – in partnership with the Texas Catholic Conference — hosted a press conference at his church announcing a coordinated interfaith effort to place limits on payday and title loan lending. Says Kelly, “every week another member of my parish tells me a horror story about one of these loans. They debilitate our families.”
Congregational members and allies were joined by the Catholic Bishops of Texas in the public call for tougher regulations.Read more
With over 400 graduated participants since 2010, Dallas Area Interfaith-established Skill Quest is making a name for itself through effective long-term job training. Says columnist Mercedes Olivera, Skill Quest is “doing its share to help reduce Dallas’ poverty rate, one of the highest in the country.”
Skill QUEST Curbs Dallas Poverty by Helping Workers Move Into New Careers, Dallas Morning News
Common Ground leaders from Milwaukee joined up with Dallas Area Interfaith leaders in Arlington, Texas to disrupt a Nationstar Mortgage shareholders meeting; they ultimately succeeded in securing a meeting with Nationstar CEO Jay Bry.
Common Ground leaders are in a two-pronged fight to block the use of taxpayer funds for the construction of a (privately-owned) Bucks stadium AND to secure upwards of $30 million from Nationstar to rehabilitate foreclosed houses and prevent further foreclosures. When Common Ground asked Dallas Area Interfaith for assistance, DAI leaders gladly joined the fight (see photo above).
Bucks, owned by three New York City billionaires, is courting Milwaukee elected officials to secure millions in taxpayer-funded subsidies for a proposed stadium. One of the billionaires, Wesley Edens, also owns Nationstar Mortgage, currently responsible for 300 foreclosed properties and 1,600 loans being paid by families in danger of foreclosure in Milwaukee.
Leaders argue that not only do Bucks owners not need taxpayer funding, they do not deserve it, due to their shoddy treatment of families struggling to pay their mortgages and neglect of foreclosed properties which leaders argue contributes to increased blight.Read more
With renewed focus on local and winnable immigration reforms, Dallas Area Interfaith leaders are lending its significant muscle to a push for water breaks for construction workers and enforcement of wage theft laws.
After DAI briefed the Dallas City Council on the need for a rest break ordinance to protect the health of construction workers, the Council took the step of charging the Economic Development Committee to work with stakeholders to craft an ordinance.
Leaders simultaneously initiated a wage theft enforcement strategy with Representative Robert Alonzo, the County Sheriff’s office, County DA and Dallas Police in August, resulting in a commitment to enforce wage theft laws. DAI is set to provide the District Attorney and police with cases to prosecute and leaders are additionally developing a civic academy strategy to educate victims and perpetrators of wage theft.
[Photo Credit: Workers Defense Project - Dallas]Read more