Monday, September 3, 2018

Launch of Making Housing and Community Happen, a new nonprofit devoted to housing justice and community development

temple city homeless coalitonI am thrilled that Jill and I are launching a new nonprofit called Making Housing and Community Happen. We now have a fiscal sponsor called Social Good, which gives us 501 (c) 3 status as well as the support we need to do our work. Our first Board of Directors meeting is taking place this week and we plan to have an official launch party on Saturday, Oct 27, at Throop Church (stay tuned for more details). 

You are invited to take part in a free webinar about her new One-Year Housing
 Justice Institute:

Tuesday, Sept 4, at 11 AM PST, 12 PM Mountain, 1 PM Central, 2 PM EST

The link is:

The One-Year Institute will be comprised of a cohort of no more than 14 passionate and committed people of faith who will learn ways to address housing/homeless crisis in their communities through local churches, partnerships and policy. Participants will practice within their own community a theology of advocacy, land use, and housing as part of God’s mission and the human right to housing.

Here is some background about our new project's activities, goals, and history.

What Making Housing and Community Happen does:

Making Housing and Community Happen equips congregations, community leaders, and neighbors with practical tools needed to transform their communities, to end homelessness, and stabilize the cost of housing through education, advocacy and organizing.  This is done in a three-pronged approach:

Education: One-day housing justice institutes and a one-year housing justice cohort along with other initiatives that are educational in nature such as bus tours, workshops, course work, and speaking engagements.

Advocacy: Nurturing the N. Fair Oaks Empowerment Initiative and Greater Pasadena Affordable Housing Group (GPAHG), thereby equipping advocates with the strategies and tools needed to do research, reflection, and action on behalf of housing justice and community transformation.

 Organizing:  Listening to and organizing around the community’s stories, dreams and concerns; developing leaders able to equip other leaders, leaders who see and feel the pain, visualize the community and church assets, and who are able to establish appropriate partnerships, such as affordable housing developers, and other nonprofits like LA Voice.

·   Our target population

Compassionate leaders within their communities wanting to be equipped to learn how to transform their community and address homelessness and affordable housing.  These include pastors, religious leaders, congregation members, homeless service providers, educators, city council members and staff, developers, and city planners.

The geographic community we serve

Each separate project focuses on a specific geographic area. In the case of the North Fair Oaks Empowerment Initiative it focuses on North Fair Oaks Avenue between Howard Street in Pasadena, California and Figueroa, in Altadena.   This target area has 18 businesses, 10 churches, and many apartments, nonprofits, and nursing homes.  

Housing Justice One-day institutes are less site-specific and focus on broader communities and cities where it is being held. The year-long cohort institutes which will train leaders throughout the country how to zero in their own communities.  

·    The number of people we will serve

Ultimately, we are serving those who cannot afford housing and those who are disenfranchised. We focus on empowerment and advocacy rather than on service. Our institutes range from 20-120 leaders being trained.  Generally, all of the institutes, the Greater Pasadena Affordable Housing Group (GPAHG) and the North Fair Oaks Empowerment Initiative benefit those experiencing homelessness and lower income populations.  For example, we empower advocates to move our local city council in Pasadena to seek to house the 677 homeless persons and 19,000 households in need of affordable housing.  Success in our local work, informs the work we do outside of Pasadena. We also work with other cities that request our services, such as Monrovia and Temple City, CA, and Denver and Broomfield, CO, where housing justice initiative have been held.


The Greater Pasadena Affordable Housing Group (GPAHG) is chaired by Jill Shook and currently has 10-15 members. We have monthly general meetings, subcommittees and meetings with decision makers in coffee shops, homes, churches and the Quaker Meetinghouse. The three subcommittees we presently have focus on Inclusionary housing, permanent supportive housing and accessory dwelling units. In addition to meetings, we have hosted tours of best practice examples of affordable housing and candidates forums. We do research on specific housing policies, decide our positions, then plan and execute our strategy on how to pass these policies.

The mission of the North Fair Oaks Empowerment Initiative is to build a solid relational network of local indigenous leaders empowered and equipped to transform their N. Fair Oaks corridor from Howard in Pasadena to Figueroa in Altadena with and by their own community.  Goals emerge from listening to the dreams and concerns of the community and coming together to transform the community with and by the people. We hold simi-regular meetings in a community room of a senior affordable housing complex (Rosewood Courts), in a church community center, in a local coffee shop inside a Rio Meat Market or the Boy’s a Girl’s Club. We discern and decide together our goals, strategies, partnerships and next steps.  This initiative currently employs one staff person very part time, Janet Randolph, who guides the ongoing process and future planning of the initiative.

The Housing Justice one-day institutes are led by Jill Shook and serve to connect key people within congregations and their community to local housing justice leaders. Participants are equipped with an overview of biblical principles on land use, historical background of US housing policy as well as current best practices and practical tools needed to end homelessness and address the cost of housing.  There is a focus on church assets and advocacy.  Various players in the community where the institute is being led are invited to speak and teams are encouraged to be formed from among the attendees.  The goal is to instill agency with their passion for helping their community. The first institute was in Broomfield, CO. Either other institutes have been conducted for the Habitat for Humanity staff of Colorado; in Denver, CO, for faith leaders throughout the city; Temple City, CA; Pasadena, CA; and Monrovia, CA.

Project History

In 1991 Jill Shook saw a need for Lake Avenue Church, a 5,000 member congregation, to reach out to the low income community surrounding it in a way that would transform the educated and affluent church members by having genuine relationship with the community.  She formed a team to look at best practices for afterschool programs throughout the Los Angeles and San Gabriel Valley, asking  both the students and the directors, “What is working or not working about your program?” and “What would you do differently if you started your program today?”  From this survey they developed their best practices and goals and started in the fall of the 1997 tutoring one night a week, with 10 tutors and 20 kids.  STARS has now grown to a full-blown program that runs every night with hundreds of tutors, hundreds of children, and is run by former students of the program.  As the director, Jill Shook was always conducting informal evaluations of the program as she picked students up to attend the program. As she listened, she realized many of the students were dropping out and asked them why.  The majority said that they had to work or babysit so their parents could pay rent.  That’s when she realized that she needed to find housing that they could afford in order to break that cycle of poverty.  She learned about Agape Court, a faith-based HUD project that had 44 units of affordable housing right in their neighborhood.  They had openings so she started moving families in and their lives were transformed.  Parents did not have to work 3 or 4 jobs, they were not over-crowded with 3 to 10 families in a home as she had seen in the community, and all of the students that moved to Agape Court ended up going to college.  That’s when she realized that she needed to promote an amazing model like this.  When she was researching ways to improve the STARS program, she traveled across the US to visit church-based afterschool programs and noticed that many had built affordable housing available to community members.  That’s when she decided to gather up all the stories of how these churches built affordable housing and create a book.  Making Housing Happen was first published in 2006 and a revised edition was published in 2012 after the 2008 mortgage meltdown in order to include how churches are addressing the foreclosure crisis.  
 In 2000, Jill Shook left STARS and immersed herself in local housing advocacy.  She joined a group called AHA, Affordable Housing Action, which is today called the Greater Pasadena Affordable Housing Group.  This group has a long list of successfully winning campaigns and getting policies passed to help address today’s housing crisis.  In 2001 GPAHG helped to pass the city’s inclusionary housing ordinance where 15 percent of all new housing is set aside as affordable. To date, this one policy has produced over 533 affordable housing units within high-end housing and provided over $20 million for Pasadena’s afford housing trust fund. That fund has been leveraged to create an additional 691 units, many of these affordable to Pasadena’s homeless population.  This kind of policy fosters development at its finest which serves to undo years of segregated housing and more.  
Some have described Pasadena as two cities, the Northwest and then the rest.  Jill Shook chose to purchase a home in the Northwest in 1994 in an African American community which has become gentrified.  A host of federal policies served to segregate communities across the US and that has been true for Northwest Pasadena.  Despite good intentions about moving in to be a good neighbor, as she improved her property and the value of her home increased, many of her lower-income neighbors had to move. She realized she had become part of the problem and was motivated to research and implement policies to address the cost of housing and gentrification and how to create mixed income communities.
                In 2000, Jill Shook became a member of the IMA, the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, which is the oldest association of African American pastors in the greater Pasadena area.  To address unemployment in the African American community they put on a employment resource fairs.  In 2015 Jill was voted to lead the job resource fair for that year.  Instead of doing it for the community, the goal was to do it with and by the community, using the planning of the fair as a tool to empower leadership to transform their own community.  To find the leaders for the fair her team surveyed 150 residents, nonprofits, churches and business leaders within the target area of about five blocks.  The survey questions asked what the hopes and dream were for the community and if they wanted to a part of the planning team.  Once the team planned and implemented the fair, about 500 people attended.  Since then they have continued other listening events to clarify goals.  The surveys indicated the primary concern was the street itself, North Fair Oaks:  The speed of traffic, safety, crime, accidents and appearance were all a concern.  A partnership with the Pasadena Complete Streets Coalition help to zero in on specific requests that could made to public bodies, including the city council.  The first people surveyed who said that nothing would ever change, after years of neglect on the part of the city, were now speaking at the city council asking for traffic lights, crosswalks and other traffic slowing measures.  Seven of the 15 requests, including a $268,000 traffic light have been granted. Once concerns about the street and safety are finalized, the goal of the group is to address the cost of housing and other concerns from the survey results. Presently the N. Fair Oaks Empowerment Initiative is needing additional leadership.
                Jill Shook has attended the CCDA, Christian Community Development Association, for the past 20 years, with over 4,000 people of faith coming together each year for conferences to discover ways to develop under-resourced communities.  In 2016 she planned an affordable housing bus tours for 65 CCDA practitioners.  Since 2000 she has typically done one or two workshops on affordable housing at the CCDA annual conference which attracted 75-100 in attendance.  Deb Meyers attended most of these workshops and invited Jill to her town to do all the workshops in one day.  In 2014 this became the first Housing Justice Institute.  With eight one-day institutes now finished, many are requesting a one-year cohort where they can go deeper.  Azusa Pacific University invited Jill to develop a course on housing justice for their masters of social work department.  She developed and taught the course in 2016 and 2017.  She plans to teach the same course over a year using in-person and other online tools for an in-depth plunge into how to do housing justice in their communities.

·    Needs that this project addresses

The North Fair Oaks Empowerment Initiative was started to help overcome the feeling of disenfranchisement and hopelessness in the North Fair Oaks area where many felt that nothing would ever change.  This initiative has helped to instill hope for change. In the process of transforming their own community hope has been resurrected in the community and individual lives.

In terms of GPAHG, the need being addressed is a dire lack of affordable housing in Pasadena.  47% of the residents of this affluent city spend over 50% of their income on housing, which is a major cause of poverty. Unaffordable housing creates stress, limited time for families and little expendable income to keep a healthy and vibrant city.  GPAHG wants to curb the exodus of those unable to afford housing near their places work and worship—forcing people to drive long distances to afford housing therefore creating traffic. Pasadena has lost over 24% of its African American population—displaced over the last ten years in large part due to the cost of housing.  Pasadena is losing its diversity both economically and racially.


Significant accomplishments to date

Housing Justice Institutes:

Since the first housing justice institute in Broomfield,
  •           two churches have broken ground to build affordable housing,
  •          the city council didn’t think there was a need for affordable housing until the they were shown research that none of the city staff could afford to live there,
  •          one city council member who attended a workshop was planning to get her PhD and leave the Council until she heard Jill speak and she decided to stay on the council and be a champion for affordable housing
  •          the city was in denial that there were any homeless in the community and are now out of denial and taking steps to address this need
  •          staff member over the Housing Authority was finally given housing vouchers and the tools she needed to do her work.
  •           a neglected very low income trailer park that has been blocked off from access to the city, as if it didn’t belong to the city, is now perceived as part of the city that needs the deserves attention. 

It is hard to say if there is correlation between the Housing Justice Institute for 100 faith leaders in Denver and how today Denver is one of the leaders in the nation on innovative housing financing and policy, some which we studied at the Institute.
In Monrovia, Mountainside Communion Church, which hosted an Institute in April has since taken the lead with the city to address homelessness, with a gift of $25,000 from the city.  They now have a partnership with LA Voice (whom I invited to speak the end of the Monrovia One-Day Institute) where they organizing a team that is looking at building a network to create an inclusionary housing policy, safe parking and more.

The North Fair Oaks Initiative:

This initiative has effectively created more connectivity and engagement for the surrounding community and has resurrected hope for those who felt nothing would ever change. They community has won a $268,000 traffic signal and 7 of the 15 traffic-slowing items we requested from the city. Today they are doing the traffic studies and analysis needed and planning the meetings that we attend.

Greater Pasadena Affordable Housing Group:

GPAHG has experienced numerous victories and accomplishments over the last twenty years.  To name a few, we have strengthened Pasadena’s Tenant Protection Ordinance, prevented criminalization of our homeless neighbors, increased production of affordable housing by 533 units by advocating for an inclusionary housing ordinance-like to biblical tithe with 15% of all new units set aside as affordable housing. We have even influenced state policy around Accessory Dwelling Units. We have also fostered significant structural changes, such as the creation of a Pasadena Housing Department. As mentioned earlier, a complete list can be found at:
oks forward to support of having, Board insurance, and fiscal accountability, and on line tools for fund raising.

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