Thursday, July 11, 2019

How do we ensure decent and affordable homes for everyone?

This is a message that I am bringing to Pacific Yearly Meeting, our annual Quaker gathering, at Walker Creek
Misty, a formerly homeless woman now housed in supportive housing, recently
joined our GPAHG team and is sharing
 her vision of how to end homelessness, using our GPAHG logo
Ranch. This is a distillation of some of the best practices for ending homelessness. 
My wife Jill Shook and I have formed a nonprofit called Making Housing and Community Happen that helps organize and educate people to advocate for affordable and homeless housing. Using a faith-rooted approach similar to that of the Friends Committee on National Legislation, we organize congregations to advocate for affordable and homeless housing policies at the local level.
Addressing homelessness has been a long-standing and deeply felt concern of mine for decades. As an AFSC youth coordinator, I organized youth to make sandwiches to give to homeless people living on the street. My wife Kathleen of blessed memory (a Methodist pastor) and I were involved in a hot meal program at her church that fed nearly 100 people each month. Over the past couple of decades I have come know many homeless and formerly homeless people personally. Jill and I currently have a formerly homeless man living in a back house in our home who helps us maintain our home in exchanged for free rent. Here is some lessons we have learned:
Direct service is a first step towards solving the homelessness crisis. Providing much needed food, blankets, and temporary shelter alleviates suffering, but doesn’t end homelessness. What ends homelessness are homes. A homeless woman said to me just yesterday, “We like getting food given to us, but we’d prefer to be able to make our own food in our own kitchen.”
Housing First: Evidence shows that the best practice for ending homelessness is Housing First, which provides permanent supportive housing (PSH). Instead of temporary shelters, people experiencing chronic homelessness are given secure, affordable housing along with supportive services. In our city, 95% of those in PSH stay housed. Some have become effective advocates for PSH.
Homelessness Prevention. One of the best ways to reduce homelessness is to prevent it from happening in the first place. A large church in our city spends over $70,000 each year to provide emergency funds for people on the verge of being evicted so that they can stay in their apartments.
 Another important tool is Rapid Rehousing, getting people back into housing as quickly as possible before they become traumatized living on the street. The longer people are on the street, the harder it is to get them housed and self-reliant.
Using church land and facilities.. Claremont Meeting is an excellent example of using their facility to provide shelter and supportive services to homeless people. Family Promise is a nation-wide program in which a dozen or so churches work together and let homeless families stay in their facility for a week at a time while case workers help them to find jobs and permanent housing. These programs provide services that help people to become housed. Some churches have excess land, or may have declined in numbers, so they allow affordable housing developers to build on this unused land, at no cost to the church. Jill’s book Making Housing and Community Happen describes what churches have done to create permanent affordable housing. She also provides background on theology, policy and organizing techniques to help congregations to develop affordable/homeless housing.
Affordable Housing. Providing people with affordable housing helps keep them from falling into homelessness. The fast-growing homeless population consists of seniors, and most of them become homeless because of fixed incomes and rising rents. Our current homelessness crisis began when federal fund for affordable housing was slashed during the Reagan administration, and every  administration since then has cut back HUD funding. The need for affordable and homeless housing is so great that Union Station, the homeless service provider in our city, has hired a full-time advocate. We work with him and advocates from United Way in a city-wide campaign to build support for more affordable housing in our city.
Empowerment and Accompaniment. Serving homeless people meals provides an opportunity to get to know our homeless neighbors and also to invite local homeless service providers and “housing navigators” to help them to become housed. Some homeless service providers are equipping and training homeless and formerly homeless people to be advocates and share their powerful stories with decision makers. Empowerment/accompaniment is a model that Jill and I use in our work. We value our homeless friends as partners and allies in the struggle for housing justice.
If you’d like to learn more, contact Anthony Manousos at and/or go to:


Monday, July 8, 2019

California’s homeless community college students park overnight in school lots

“My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.”–Isaiah 3:18
Jill and I have been concerned for some time about the problem of homelessness facing nearly 20% of community college students. We’ve seen and talked to homeless community college students who were hanging out in our neighborhood. We know a dean at PCC who is doing what she can to address this problem. Unfortunately, there are no easy solutions, apart from more affordable housing. So it’s heartening to hear that a bill is being considered by the state legislature that would allow community college students to sleep in their cars overnight in school parking lots. This isn’t an ideal solution but it’s a step in the right direction. We’d like to see a caseworker assigned to students facing homelessness who could help them to be housed.
Homelessness has come to California’s public colleges, just as it has to every other institution in the state. In the community college system, a recent report found that 19% of nearly 40,000 students surveyed had been homeless at some point during the previous year. Some community college campuses have food banks, and all are required by law to make showers in their athletic facilities available to homeless students. But few of the 114 community college campuses offer housing to any of their 2.1 million students, let alone homeless ones.
So Assemblyman Marc Berman (D-Palo Alto) has come up with a creative idea: Why not let homeless students who live in their cars park overnight on campus? Although that’s not a solution for homelessness, it would offer a short-term fix for homeless students with cars who are already working on a long-term answer — getting a college degree to broaden their options and increase their earning power.

California just added baby teeth to its housing laws

They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.”–Isaiah 65:21
Jill worked very hard to help the city of Pasadena to craft one of the best Housing Elements in the state. The HE sets guidelines so that cities can meet their housing goals for different income levels, based on the Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA). Currently cities are required to plan to meet these goals (through zoning and other means); they aren’t required to actually meet them. And if they don’t plan for these goals, there are few consequences. The Governor’s latest bill provides some teeth-the LA Times calls them “baby teeth”–to enforce these laws. This is a baby step in the right direction. We need laws that will encourage people to “build houses and inhabit them” rather than prevent housing from being built in order to preserve the “character” of a city.
In January, not even a week into his new job, Gov. Gavin Newsom made a big, bold threat to cities that have stalled or shirked their responsibility to build enough housing to meet their community’s needs.
Don’t build housing? You won’t get state transportation dollars, the governor warned.
Six months later, Newsom is settling for a more incremental, but still necessary, change. The Legislature is expected to sign off this week on a bill that would allow a judge to impose steep fines — up to $600,000 a month — on cities that willfully flout the state’s “fair share” housing law, which requires that jurisdictions plan and zone for enough market-rate and affordable housing to meet population growth.
Note one big difference: Newsom originally wanted to hold cities responsible for actually producing enough housing to meet state goals. The compromise with the Legislature merely requires them to plan for enough housing.

An African American Perspective on America's Housing Crisis, and How the White House is Addressing It

Jill and I live in a neighborhood that was once predominantly African American and now has become gentrified, with Latinos and whites replacing many of the long-term African American residents. Approximately one quarter of African American residents have left our city in the past 15 years, largely because of soaring housing prices. We know only too well how hard it is for African Americans to purchase and keep a home. That’s why we are sharing this article written by Charlene Crowell and published in the July 4th issue of the  Pasadena Journal, a locally owned and operated African American newspaper. It presents a perspective worth keeping in mind: our nation’s housing crisis has had a much more severe impact on the African American community than on whites because of policies that are either racially biased or don’t take into account the historical legacy of racism in our country. As people of faith, we are called to treat all people without “partiality” and to make sure that everyone is treated fairly, regardless of skin color, socio-economic background, or ethnicity (see Galatian 3:28 and James 2:1).
A Harvard report finds that only 36% of all consumers could afford to buy their own home in 2018. With higher priced homes in 2019, the affordability challenge worsens.
“It is equally noteworthy that once again this key report shares how consumers of color continue to face challenges in becoming homeowners, noted Nikitra Bailey, an EVP with the Center for Responsible Lending. “According to the report, only 43% of Blacks and 47% of Latinos own their own home, while white homeownership remains at 73%.
“This 30% disparity deserves further examination and proportional remedies,” continued Bailey. “Greater access to safe and affordable credit, better fair housing enforcement, preservation of anti-discrimination laws – including disparate impact – can play a role in eliminating homeownership gaps. Further, as the future of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are publicly debated, a renewed commitment to serve all creditworthy borrowers must be embraced.”
Calvin Schermerhorn, a professor of history in Arizona State University’s School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies and author of The Business of Slavery and the Rise of American Capitalism, 1815-1860, holds similar views to those expressed by Bailey. In a recent Washington Post op ed column, Schermerhorn addressed the historic disparities that Black America continues to suffer.
“One-fifth of African American families have a net worth of $0 or below; 75 % have less than $10,000 for retirement,” wrote Schermerhorn. “The enduring barriers to black economic equality are structural rather than individual…. “Escalators into the middle class have slowed and stalled, and the rung of the economic ladder one starts on is most likely where one will end up.”
On the same day as the Harvard report’s release, President Donald Trump signed an executive order that establishes a new advisory body that will be led by HUD Secretary Ben Carson. A total of eight federal agencies will work with state and local government officials to remove “burdensome governmental regulations” affecting affordable housing.“Increasing the supply of housing by removing overly burdensome rules and regulations will reduce housing costs, boost economic growth, and provide more Americans with opportunities for economic mobility,” stated Secretary Carson.
If Secretary Carson means that local zoning rules favor single family homes over multi-family developments is a fundamental public policy flaw, he may be on to something. However, this focus misses the crux of the affordable housing crisis: Wages are not rising in line with increasing housing costs. And now, after the housing industry continues to cater to more affluent consumers, while many older adults choose to age in place, the market has very little to offer those who want their own American Dream, including some who are anxiously awaiting the chance to form their own households.
Builders have historically, not just of late, complained about the time it takes to secure permits or the series of inspections that must be approved during construction and before properties can be listed for sale. What is missing from this new initiative is a solution to the financial challenges that average people face.
It was scant regulation and regulatory voids that enabled risky mortgage products with questionable terms that took our national economy to the brink of financial collapse with worldwide effects. Taxpayer dollars to rescue financiers while many unnecessary foreclosures stripped away home equity and wealth from working families.
Time will tell whether new advisors and proposals remember the lessons from the Great Recession.

Friday, July 5, 2019

Housing Justice: Decent and Affordable Housing for All is Possible, Si, Se Puede!

I gave this PowerPoint presentation today at ICUJP's Friday Forum and was very grateful for the positive response. I was able to connect with a Methodist pastor who want us to help raise awareness about homeless housing and advocacy in the Methodist community.

Par of my talk was livestreamed. You can see it at: Video of ICUJP Housing Justice Presentation

I also have posted 10 Solutions to Our Nation's Housing Crisis You can read them by scrolling down to the end of my presentation.

I was impressed today what journalist Robert Scheer wrote about the moral challenge of homelessness. His words definitely apply to Pasadena, where the disparities in wealth are acute and where the City Council is considering building million dollar condos and a deluxe hotel in the civic center on top of the Julia Morgan YWCA, right next to Centennial Place, where 140 formerly homeless people are living. We want this site to be used for homeless housing and public use and are mobilizing the community to save our civic center from Mammonization. 

     Scheer, who has lived in California most of his adult life, sees the question of how we approach homelessness amid blatant affluence as one that gets to the core of our humanity.
     “The fact of the matter is, we’re kind of in this Dickens world of London,” Scheer says. “We have extreme wealth in San Francisco and Los Angeles, and points in between. And yet we have the most abject misery.
      “I do want to encourage people to realize that we are actually talking about a notion of what is civilization,” he adds. “I think that you can’t be a city of the future, which is what L.A. advertises as, [unless you are] welcoming to people who all look different ways, come from different backgrounds, have different skill sets, different employment opportunities.”

To find out how you can influence national housing  policy, check out:

At the California state level, check out: