Monday, April 27, 2020


During this Covid 19 crisis we have an opportunity to help create more affordable and homeless housing and to prevent homelessness. This is both an immediate and long-term need that we want the Pasadena City Council to address during its May 4th session, which will begin at 2 pm on Monday afternoon. Please join us in supporting homeless senior housing at Heritage Square South and a strengthened Eviction Moratorium.  Please email the Pasadena City Council at: 

We want the City council to give its final approval to the Heritage Square South project—69 units of homeless senior housing--on May 4th. Note that your letter must be 200 words long for it to be read during the City Council meeting. Below is a sample letter plus additional talking points. It is recommended that you briefly describe yourself, including what part of the city you live or work or worship in. If you have a moving personal story, please include it or use it instead of these talking points. If you have time to personalize your letter, it will be more effective. If not, please use the following template. Every letter submitted will be counted and will have an impact on our City Council members!

Dear Mayor and City Council members,
[As a long-term resident of Northwest Pasadena who attends Orange Grove Quaker Meeting]. I thank you for your unanimous approval of homeless senior housing at Heritage Square South in 2018. I urge you to give final approval for funding this project. At that time, you wisely urged the current developer to submit a proposal asap. Seniors are a growing segment of the City's homeless population and urgently need housing. According to the 2019 Homeless Count, one third of Pasadena’s homeless population is 55 years old or older. Many are on the street because of rising rents and a lack of affordable housing. Heritage Square South is an ideal site since it has wide-spread community support from churches and neighbors in Northwest Pasadena. It is close to a pharmacy, grocery store, restaurants and public transportation. It is next door to another senior facility that can provide supportive services. Using this site for affordable housing is appropriate since  it was purchased with HUD funding for this use.  It will not use the City's General Funds and may add tax revenue since the project also includes commercial use. The sooner we house our city’s elderly homeless population, the better!

1.    There has been overwhelming public support for housing homeless seniors at this site from churches and neighbors. Over 1,000 letters and signatures were gathered to support this project. Hundreds of people have shown up in support during Council meetings. Opposition has been minimal. That’s why the Council unanimously approved mixed use (homeless senior housing and commercial) for this site in December 2018. The Council was so eager to house homeless seniors that it fast-tracked this project by quickly identifying an experienced developer to come up with a proposal and vet it with the community asap. That process has taken two years. It will take another two or three years to complete the project once it is approved.

2.    The Covid 19 crisis has shown us that homeless seniors are the most vulnerable population and therefore have the greatest need for housing. According to the 2019 Homeless Count, one third of those experiencing homelessness in Pasadena are 55 years old or older, and many are homeless because of rising rents. The sooner that this population is housed, the better.

3.    This is an ideal site for seniors. It’s near public transport, pharmacy, grocery store, and restaurants—everything that elderly people need. It’s also next door to another senior housing center (Heritage Square North) so resources can be shared.

4.    If the project is delayed, it could jeopardize funding. This land was purchased with HUD money for affordable housing 15 years ago and at some point the money will have to be returned if the site isn’t used for this purpose. Since this project doesn’t require money from the City’s General Fund, now is the time to act and let this much needed project move forward.  

Strengthen Pasadena’s Eviction Moratorium.  

GPAHG is partnering with the Pasadena Tenants Union (PTU) to urge the Council to strengthen the Pasadena’s Eviction Moratorium ordinance and make it consistent with LA County’s Eviction Moratorium. Our Homeless Housing Subcommittee supports this as a homelessness prevention measure because 14% of those experiencing homelessness report that eviction was the cause (2019 Pasadena Homeless Count, p. 15). Pasadena recently passed an Eviction Moratorium that would delay eviction for three months and have a 6 month payback period. Tenants are required to supply landlords with proof of  loss of income related to Covid 19 crisis. This ordinance will probably not prevent, but only delay eviction since most tenants will not be able to repay their rent in such a short time frame and providing documentation could be onerous. 

Here are some of the provisions of the LA County's Eviction Moratorium that we would like Pasadena to adopt:
  • Renters will have 12 months after the moratorium ends to pay any back rent (Previously six months)
  • Landlords may not impose any new pass-throughs or charge interest or late fees for unpaid rent during the moratorium period;
  • Landlords may not attempt to collect interest and late fees incurred during the moratorium period after the Executive Order is terminated for renters covered by the Rent Stabilization Ordinance and the Mobilehome Rent Stabilization Ordinance;
  • Payment plans that allow landlords to accept partial payments from tenants during the moratorium are encouraged;
  • Tenants may provide self-certification of their inability to pay rent, and landlords must accept this as sufficient notice;
  • Landlords may not harass or intimidate tenants who choose to exercise the protections under this moratorium
To learn more about how to write an effective letter to your city official, check out:

Saturday, April 25, 2020

An Interfaith Quaker Reflection on the Pandemic

I recently took part in a deeply meaningful discussion called "Revelation in a Time of Plague" that was organized by an interfaith group in Boston. Religious leaders from the Abrahamic faiths explored the questions listed below and came up with some profound responses that helped me to think about this crisis from a spiritual and religious perspective. 

This is a good time for thoughtful reflection as well as compassionate action. In this blog I respond to the following questions from my Quaker Christian perspective and encourage you to do likewise and share them with your friends and religious community. (FYI I have modified these questions so they are relevant to non-theistic faiths.)
  1. What do you see as the role of God/Truth/Buddha nature in this pandemic?
  2. What is the role of spirituality and religion?
  3. What is the role of people of faith?
  4. How can we connect more with our spiritual being and God/Truth so that we can help the world overcome this crisis?
  5. What do we tell our children when they ask why is God doing this and/or why this is happening?
  6. And many others
Here's the link in case you want to take part in this discussions during the next few weeks:

If you scroll down, you can read  statements from Quaker organizations as well as from the Parliament of the World's Religions related to this crisis. I have been involved with the Parliament for many years and it played a significant role in my spiritual development. What they say in this statement reflects some of the most enlightened religious thought on this planet. 

Here are some thoughts I plan to share with my monthly interfaith spiritual practice group, facilitated by my friend Jeff Utter:

Historically, especially in pre-scientific times, epidemics or plagues have been seen a a punishment from God or the gods. Priests have told their followers to appease the offended gods by making sacrifices. This kind of thinking still persists and there are those who see this pandemic as a sign of Divine Wrath and the “Last Days.”
The Hebrew Bible offers a somewhat different perspective. In the most famous plague, or series of plagues in the Bible, Pharaoh was commanded by God not to make sacrifices but to liberate an oppressed people from slavery and oppression. Whenever pestilences or disasters occur, Hebrew prophets often see the cause as a failure of the rich and powerful to act justly, especially towards the poor. For example, Habukuk describes a series of disasters that befell his people and then speaks truth to power:

“‘Woe to him who piles up stolen goods
    and makes himself wealthy by extortion!
    How long must this go on?’
 “Woe to him who builds his house by unjust gain,
    setting his nest on high
    to escape the clutches of ruin!
You have plotted the ruin of many peoples,
    shaming your own house and forfeiting your life.
 The stones of the wall will cry out,
    and the beams of the woodwork will echo it.
 “Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed
    and establishes a town by injustice!” (Habakuk 2)

Most modern religious leaders do not see plagues as a divine punishment even for injustices such as this, but rather as a time for moral reflection and action. We don’t know why God sent, or allowed, this lethal contagion. We do know that God calls us to “love mercy, act justly and walk humbly” (Micah 6:8). And that’s what many are doing: first responders, doctors, nurses, grocery store employees, and yes, advocates for social justice. Many ordinary people are performing acts of extraordinary kindness. Our friends and neighbors have brought us groceries, cookies, flowers, even toilet paper for which we are deeply grateful.
I see God’s role during a pandemic as our collective conscience and comforter. And that’s also the role of God’s people. We can’t overcome this crisis by hunkering down in solitary confinement. We are called collectively to do what we can to alleviate suffering and to help find a cure not just for the disease but for the social attitudes that have made this disease worse than it should be. The most deadly social disease is selfishness, our American belief in rugged individualism. As people of faith, we are called to reject this false philosophy and lift up the importance of community.
Finally, here’s what would I tell children during this crisis. I would say that this disease is scary but we’ll get through this as we have gotten through bad times in the past. We don’t know why bad things like this happen, but when they do, we need to take care of ourselves and be kind and helpful to others. That’s what God calls us to do. We are better together.

Post Script: Twenty years ago, I was led to write a sci fi novel called "Relics of America" that predicted a pandemic that took place in 2020 and led to the fall of the American empire. So it is strange to see this novel unfold in real time. The American empire is crumbling before our eyes and a new world order will emerge from the rubble. I am confident that our Quaker and interfaith peace community will be part of the effort to create a sustainable and equitable society in the aftermath of this pandemic. An updated version of apocalyptic sci fi  novel is now available at 

Here's  a description of the novel: 

Science fiction novel set in 2061. War has been abolished, but this new age of peace and prosperity has come at a terrible cost. In the year 2020, a genetically engineered super-virus, created in an American laboratory, wiped out nearly half of the world's population. American scientists tried to cure this plague, but failed. Humanity was saved only through a miracle drug created by an Egyptian scientist named Dr Hathout who demanded that nations disband their armies before he would share his remedy. Most countries disarmed and received Mubarak's cure. Only America stubbornly refused. As a result, its population was decimated by plague. Threatened with extinction, the last Americans were finally given the cure and allowed to live, with their antiquated weapons, in what used to be called New England. The dream of a peaceful world is endangered when Hathout is abducted by terrorists. A band of intrepid Americans risk everything to restore democracy and freedom.

Quaker responses to the Pandemic:

When Quakers get together in small groups for a time of silent worship and reflection, we call it "worship sharing." During this time of deep listening, we ask each other "queries" or open-ended questions. Here are some queries from today's Quaker gathering of Southern California Friends:

How have you been able to act from your spiritual heart in these times? Are there ways your meeting could help?

How are you sustaining hope? What practices are you using that are working for you?

Are there people entrusted to your care? How are you helping with their-or your-experiences of loss, loneliness, lament and longing? What helps them – and you- connect with sources of light and love?

Is there something else on your heart that you feel led to share?

A Quaker Social Justice Response:

A Quaker Spiritual Response:

Dear God,

You know we are created for community, not confinement. 

 We are greatly challenged in this time of isolation. Help us find new ways to create community and to retain the love that gives us life.

Thank you for technology that helps us continue to accompany one another around the world in work and in relationship.  Help us be creative in ways we can bring joy to one another.  

Be with all the people who are suffering, both with health concerns and with economic worry.  It is affecting so many people around us, not the least of which were already suffering through dislocation and poverty. 

Let us hope that out of this crisis, we become stronger and more resourceful.  May we encounter new ways of seeing and being in this world that can help humanity prosper. 
Remind us that you are near.  As the hymn goes, “We need thee every hour, oh precious Lord.” Keep opening us to staying in relationship with your fresh and lively spirit. 

Help us make some sense of this loss, this fear.  Help us face our own humanity through your presence, you who never sleeps, you who never stops loving us, you who accompany us in the most difficult times. 

Help us.  Heal us.  Heal our suffering.  Heal our communities. Heal our world.  

Let us say, “Thank you, and thank you, and thank you.”


Shared by Gretchen Castle, General Secretary of FWCC worldwide

November 2018, over 8000 of us gathered in the Toronto convention center to participate in the eighth convening of the Parliament of the World’s Religions. We were shoulder-to-shoulder, face-to-face, hand-to-hand together to affirm “the promise of inclusion, the power of love: pursuing global understanding, reconciliation, and change.”
Now we are physically separated from one another in a time of a pandemic crisis, and now more than we knew at the time we must grow together even more closely to meet our current crises. The rapid global spread of COVID–19 forces us to recognize how interconnected we are in the physical world. It invokes in us the need to find new ways to bring comfort to one anotherto cooperate with one another, and to overcome the ravages of disease and death
We also acknowledge the heroism of those in the medical professions and all the workers in hospitals and other medical facilities directly fighting the disease. We are grateful to those who continue to provide essential services so that those in isolation can meet their basic human needs of food, clothing, and shelter. We are humbled by their courage and dedication.
It is true that the current pandemic forces a physical separation in order to check the spread of a physical disease. But this should cause us to recommit ourselves to fostering generative soulful attachments to one another, and our ethical attachments to other parts of the earth.
We humbly ask you to keep three things in mind:
First, you are not alone. It is understandable that when we hear the words “global crisis” we focus on the word “crisis” rather than “global.” This pandemic is affecting all of us, irrespective of race or religion, and there are oceans of empathy available to us from every part of the world. We are all in this together.
Second, no one is expendable. Those who can avoid suffering by isolating themselves, yet choose not to, which includes unsafe gatherings of religious communities, are putting vulnerable populations at even greater risk.  Suffering in this time of peril is unavoidable, but it must not be borne by the most vulnerable: the poor, the sick, the elderly, the essential low-wage workers, the medical personnel.All have irreplaceable worth.
Third, we must protect and care for one another. The mobilizing power of persons of faith and of faith communities is unmatched, and is needed now more than ever as hate speech and violent rhetoric spreads across virtual platforms against vulnerable communities. As all of our religious traditions teach us:“Be kind.”
The Parliament joins interfaith and interreligious organizations across the globe to utilize our diversity of beliefs and practices and remains committed to serving as a convener of the interfaith movement, virtually, to continue working together for a world-wide community that embraces love, compassion, justice, and peace.
Stay connected to the global interfaith community by:
• Joining Our YouTube Community - Explore recordings of past Parliament convenings and programming, and for the next two months enjoy never before released full-length video programming. Released bi-monthly. 
• Joining the PoWR Partner Community on Facebook - Stay connected with members of the global interfaith community from around the world on our official Facebook group. 
• Joining Upcoming Virtual Climate Events - The current pandemic impacts virtually all dimensions of daily life, but also serves to remind us of the equally threatening interconnected crises that loom beyond our immediate consciousness: climate change, nuclear arms proliferation, and the scourge of inequality in all its forms, to name a few. This April, we are hosting two webinars and sharing special climate prayers from faith leaders from around the world in celebration of Earth Day.
• Visiting the Parliament Website - Explore the ForumsClimate HubInterfaith DirectoryMember Hub, and thousands of articles & blogs on the Parliament website.
• Volunteering with the Parliament - Remote volunteer opportunities are available year-round, connect with our team and support the work of our ongoing programs.
We remain in humble service with hope for humanity that stretches around the globe.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Join our effort to address the growing housing crisis during the Covid 19 pandemic!

April 2020
To Our Friends and Partners,

On behalf of our MHCH team (pictured above), we send you warm greetings and hopeful news. The spirit of Easter and the advent of spring remind us how hope triumphs over despair, and life triumphs over death.

We need that message of hope now more than ever. As we write this, we are “sheltering in place” until the risk of contagion passes. We have the blessing of a home, but others are not so fortunate. Some are homeless, and others at risk of losing their homes because they are unable to work to pay their rent or mortgage. Their situation can seem hopeless, yet we see this as a time of unique opportunities and renewed hope.

We have been actively participating in coalitions that have helped to pass eviction moratoriums in Pasadena, Monrovia and Whittier with the goal of keeping people in their homes. To make this happen, we've been part of a constant flurry of emails, Zoom calls, and published articles.  We've also made public comments  at online City Council meetings. These successful efforts give us hope and encouragement.

Click on picture of Jill above to see a video of Marshall Fundamental School presenting their affordable housing projects at City Hall--part of the educational work that Jill does for MHCH.

To learn more about the many ways we are doing our housing justice work, we invite you to click on the pictures below to enjoy engaging vignettes about what each of our subcommittees is up to during this time of pandemic. Their enormous dedication is humbling. Please note that the financial need for our Congregational Land Committee is especially acute .

With joy and heart-felt gratitude for your friendship and partnership,

Jill Shook and Anthony Manousos
Co-founders of MHCH

P.S. As we seek to flatten the curve by sheltering in place, we are grateful that technology like Zoom enables us to connect with people over long distances. For this reason, we invite you to our 7 pm PST Tues. April 28 Zoom meeting with expert panelists: “Addressing homelessness in a time of pandemic: immediate needs and longer-term solutions.” Scroll down for the Zoom link.

Greater Pasadena Affordable Housing Group
(GPAHG) Monthly Meeting
"Addressing Homelessness in a Time of Pandemic: Immediate Needs and Longer Term Solutions"

Time: Apr 28, 2020   7:00 PM Pacific Time

Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 938 623 501

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Our subcommittee leaders, pictured above right, developed a five-year strategic plan for MHCH with the help of Leadership Pasadena. 
Please send checks to the address below. It is preferable to send large donations by check to reduce online fees and so we can thank you   personally. Checks should be made out to "Social Good" with MHCH in the subject line.

Making Housing and Community Happen
c/o Jill Shook
1628 N. Garfield Ave
Pasadena CA 91104

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