October Community Organizing Training a Success

60 leaders attended a 3 Day Organizer training on October 17-19. Three IAF organizers from Des Moines, Los Angeles, and Dallas led the training which covered topics about how we use and gain power, community organizing practices like individual meetings and house meetings, how to do power analysis, why organizing with institutions works, and more. The training was a great refresher for may leaders who have been around the block with community organizing, as well as trained several new leaders on the values and practices of community organizing. Leaders also met the new Organizer, Sarah Keeney, who starts at IPL and OTOC this December!

Issue Cafes in November

IPL partners with OTOC to provide Issue Cafes to educate the public around current events, the work of OTOC Action Teams, and ways people can become engaged on issues important to them.

Emergency Mental Health Services

A panel of speakers spoke about emergency mental health services currently available in the Omaha Metro area and new ones being planned.

Some resources shared:

Nebraska Medicine Director of Behavioral Health: Dr. David Cates

UNMC will be opening a Psychiatric Emergency Service next July. They are currently treating 3,000  psychiatric crisis patients a year, but a regular emergency room is not ideal for someone in psychiatric crisis where staff may not be trained for that and wait times for specific psychiatric care can take up to 24 hours. They are currently only discharging 47% of psych patients, but would like to be closer to discharge at least 2/3 of psych patients

Lasting Hope

Lasting Hope is CHI’s psych ER open 24/7 open to all ages. They also have 64 adult inpatient care beds, including 12 special care beds. There is always a trained mental health professional on duty in the ER.

Omaha Police Department Mental Health Coordinator: Lindsay Kroll LIMHP

Omaha Police Department just established a mental health unit. They are still collecting data about the mental health calls they receive and respond to. Currently, there are three therapists who acts as a co-responders who self dispatch on mental health calls to arrive with law enforcement. Therapists are trained to act differently than regular law enforcement, and can often diffuse a crisis without acting with force. The program is working well, but they only have 3 co-responders that only work regular business hours. Another program the police department has in an opt-in training for officers to become Crisis Intervention Trained (CIT) to better respond to metal health crises. This program is growing and offered to officers from across the state. They are also working to develop mental health first aid training for officers.

Director of Criminal Justice Behavioral Health initiatives at Region 6: Vicki Maca

Vicki works with the Stepping Up program for people who ended up in prison due to mental health emergencies. When the Mental Health system is not able to respond, many people end up in jail, and putting sick people in jail is not a good solution. The Stepping Up Initiative gives counties resources and support to reduce the mentally ill people in jail by bringing stakeholders together and collecting data about jail residents and their current care.  Then, the stakeholders develop a local plan to meet the following goals:

  1. Reduce the amount of people with mental illness in jails
  2. Reduce the stay of mentally ill people in jail
  3. Increase connections to community before release to provide a continuum of care and support
  4. reduce recidivism

Learn more about Region 6’s Stepping Up Initiative here



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Summer Training Series

Private and Public Relationships

The Summer Training Series closed on Monday, August 12 with IAF Regional Organizer Paul Turner leading a session on Public and Private Relationships to over 60 leaders. Private relationships are those with people like family and friends, the people you are authentic, relaxed, and comfortable with. Public relations are with who we encounter in our work, civic life, and churches. These public relationships are treated differently than private relationships- they are about getting things done, having tension and accountability, and performing the required role. For an moving example of a private relationship, read This Eulogy for a New York City Fire Captain who was killed in the World Trade Center. The idea of camaraderie is explored as different than friendship, requiring trust, accountability, and demanding better of each other of the well being of the whole and the greater community.



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Spanish Leadership Formation

80 Hispanic leaders from more than 21 different institutions gathered for a two-day leadership formation on June 21 and June 22. Sponsored by the Institute for Public Leadership, Omaha Together One Community, Catholic Campaign for Human Development and Inter-faith Education Fund, these participants learned how to connect one’s faith to relational organizing practices. The leadership curriculum was inspired by wisdom and faith tradition, using Scripture and theological readings. The training started with a shared meal at St. Pius X Catholic Church Friday night. Here, participants acted out Scripture in order to understand the purpose of community. Then, the training moved to College of St. Mary’s campus, where participants learned the purpose of baptismal community, collective leadership, pressure on families and communities and qualities of leadership. One of the participants, Jose Fortoso, stated that the training was a great learning experience and that he wished he would have this workshop earlier. The training closed with key learning points and goals that participants want to bring back to their congregations and institutions. This training has been available in various parts of the US, but we are hopeful that we can continue fostering the local Hispanic leadership.

June Issue Cafes: explore organizing and power generation

Environmental Sustainability with OPPD

On June 27, we had our final June issue cafe. 17 people attended to learn about three new OPPD programs: community solar, electrical vehicle rebates, and the low-income energy efficiency pilot. On April 1st, OPPD announced their community solar program that allows you to get affordable solar energy. Solar energy uses light from the sun to create energy, which serves as a clean and sustainable process. Each solar share is $0.69 per share for residents where each share represents 100 kilowatts per month. Then, another charge will be added to your OPPD bill. The shares, however, were completely sold out in just one month before they were even opened for commercial sales. The OPPD stronger suggested to enroll in the waitlist, which will help show the high demand and interest. Currently there are 250 on the waitlist, and you can join it too! The electric vehicle rebate program is a pilot program that incentives sustainable purchases. With a new electrical vehicle and a charging station, you can get a $2,500 rebate. A $500 rebate is offered for a charging station at home. Other rebates include dealership discounts and federal tax incentives. The low income energy efficiency pilot program partners with community philanthropies to educate and assist with homeowners with incomes at or below $32,000. The program allows professionals to go to each customer’s home in order to assess and fix any problems that decreases efficiency. Although this program is only for homeowners, the program wants to provide data that will potentially create a program for rental property as well. Overall, these programs can offer so much to our community!

Insight to Community Organizing with Paul Turner

Influenced by the investigative process in Robert Caro’s article “The Secrets of Lyndon Johnson’s Archives,” Paul Turner led a captivating discussion about different strategies for community organizing. 50 members of our community gathered to learn methods that will positively benefit our community in the future. Turner identified persistent curiosity as an imperative method to thoroughly research and seek truth. People must ask deeper questions such as “Why are things the way they are?” and “Who is benefiting from this?” From here, people can listen and organize people to take the needed action. Turner analyzed the etymology of the term “self interest” as “to be among and between.” Here, interests are natural and important. Often, however, these interests can be competing, but a community can align the individual interests into one common interest. A community can also utilize local knowledge to understand everyone’s needs more than others can, such as expert knowledge. This emphasis on community can help us come together as brothers and sisters to listen, research, and take action towards a common goal. We believe Sarah Tooley, a sophomore Creighton student, said it best when she stated that these “community practices can be translated into different scenarios in my life now and in the future.” These strategies cannot only be used for organizing work within the community, but aspects of one’s everyday life as well. It has proven to be beneficial time and time again, especially throughout the history of OTOC. We look forward to the next Summer Training Seminar July 8th where we will learn more about community organizing.

What’s in the Rental Housing Inspection Ordinance?

The Housing Issue Cafe provided an overview of the housing coalition’s long and hard work for housing advocacy. The new mandatory housing registration and inspections ordinance was explained, but there was a huge focus on what we as a community need to do next. The ordinance is only one step of many to create better affordable housing for Omaha. One huge emphasis was the need to create a plan for what to do when the tenants’ homes are not following up to code and tenants are displaced. What agencies are responsible? Where can the tenants be relocated? What does this mean about options for affordable housing? With five different speakers and about 45 people present, the Urban Abbey was filled with motivated and empowered people with the same good: provide affordable and decent housing for the Omaha community.

Next Steps you can take for healthy, safe housing in Omaha:



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IPL helps leaders build relationships to aid passage of American Dream and Promise Act in House

The American Dream and Promise Act, H.R. 6, passed in the House of Representatives on June 4

The bill passed with a 237-187 vote. Only seven republicans supported the bill, including our Omaha-area representative, Don Bacon. IPL has worked with leaders from the TPS association of Nebraska and OTOC Immigration Action Team to build relationships with elected officials and help communities across Omaha get to know their immigrant neighbors. In 2019 alone, leaders met with Rep. Bacon, attended town halls, and called countless times to build a relationship with him, have him get to know the TPS recipients and Dreamers in his district so that he ultimately supported this bill. Other positive community out reach and pressure is effective in making positive steps in the right direction (see this article about Chamber of Commerce support for Dreamers and TPS). Continue readying to see more about how relationship-building helped influence Don Bacon’s vote and the outcome of this bill.

“They’re in no man’s land, and we should provide them some security,” Bacon said. “I’ve committed to these guys that I would not forget them.”

Omaha World Herald

Building relationship with  Rep. Don Bacon

 Om May 7, the OTOC Immigration team and the TPS Committee secured a meeting with Rep. Bacon to renew his commitment to support legislation granting permanent status to TPS holders.  Rep. Bacon continued to encourage community education about TPS and reaffirmed his support for TPS. He committed to vote for a “clean” Dream and Promise Act, the only current legislation that would have a path to citizenship for TPS holders. He fulfilled this promise on June 4 by voting FOR H.R. 6!



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Formación de Liderazgo

Viernes 21 de Junio 5:00 pm – 8:30 pm (incia con cena) St. Pious X Catholic Church
6905 Blondo St, Omaha, NE 68104

Sábado 22 de Junio 8:30 am-7:30 pm
College of St. Mary
700 Mercy Rd. Omaha, NE 18106

Co-Patrocinado por la Camaña Católica para el Desarrollo Humano (CCHD) y la Interfaith Education Fund (IEF). Organizado en Omaha por OTOC y IPL

Este seminario es para lideres parroquiales que buscan:

  • Participar mas en la vida de su Iglesia
  • Se lideres efectivos en sus comunidades
  • Trabajar juntos para el bien comun
  • Luchar por “tierra, techo y trabajo” para todos

Para Inscribirse visita HTTPS://TINYURL.COM/OMAHAFORMACION

Nuestro entrenamiento es un taller en el estilo de un retiro. Asistir es gratis. Proveemos materiales y comida. Solo hay que registrarse. Incluye Misa el domingo. Este entrenamiento se ha hecho por tres años en: El Valle del Rio Grande, TX; Dallas, TX; Portland, OR; Des Moines, IA; y Albuquerque, NM.

Temas de Desarrollo de Liderazgo
• Entendiendo nuestro llamado de San Pablo para ser el Cuerpo de Cristo
• Que es la Misión de la Iglesia
• Presiones sobre las familias
• Aprender a escuchar con atención y encontrar nuevos líderes
• El poder que viene de ser creados a semejanza y imagen de Dios
• El Desafío del Liderazgo: Moisés y Jetro
• Cualidades de los líderes reflejados en las Bienaventuranzas
• Desarrollar un equipo para hacer el trabajo de la Iglesia

Líderes en Houston, Tx
Leaders in Houston, TX

Leadership Training for Spanish-Speaking Communities

June 21-22, Friday from 5:30-8:30, Saturday from 9-7:30
College of St. Mary
700 Mercy Rd. Omaha, NE 18106

Sponsored by Catholic Campaign for Human Development & Interfaith Education Fund. Locally coordinated by Omaha Together One Community and Institute for Public Leadership.

This training is for those who want to:

  • Participate more fully in the life of the Church
  • Be effective leaders in their communities
  • Work together for the Common Good
  • Fight for issues important to our Communities

Everyone is asked to register- use this link: http://tinyurl.com/omahaformacion

This retreat-like workshop is free, with materials & meals provided. Sunday Mass incorporated into Sunday Programing. This training has been done around the country in places like the Rio Grande Valley in Texas; Dallas, TX; Portland, OR; Des Moines, IA; Albuquerque, NM and is now available in Omaha!

LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT TOPICS:

  • Understanding our call from St. Paul to be the Body of Christ.
  • Our Baptism and the Mission of the Church
  • Pressures on Families
  • Learning to listen carefully and to find new leaders
  • The Power that comes from being made in God’s Image
  • The Challenge of Leadership: Moses and Jethro
  • Qualities of Leaders reflected in the Beatitudes
  • Developing a team to do the work of the Church

IPL After-Work Gathering

On Wednesday, May 22, 2019, over 160 IPL supporters atttended the After Work Gathering at the beautiful Storz Mansion. And, 200 IPL supporters gave during Omaha Gives!

200 Donors gave

$31,710 through the OmahaGives site

$14,245 by check or OCF account as Challenge Fund

for a total of

$46,120

AND…

$1,000  First Place Participation Prize for Medium Organizations from 4 pm to Midnight from TD Ameritrade

and

$1000 Third Place Cheer Page Prize for Carol Zuegner’s Cheer Page! that had 75 donors raising $10,000! from Mammel Foundation

 For a Grand Total of

Raised!

TPS Workshops: building partnerships and meeting allies

IPL hosted an event with OTOC Leaders and The National TPS Alliance of Nebraska Saturday April 6th for a bilingual workshop at First United Methodist Church. The event hosted over 75 people who were inspired by live testimonies of real TPS holders. Temporary Protected Status is an immigration status given to those who can not return to their countries of origins due to arm conflicts, natural disasters, epidemics, or any other temporary special conditions.

There were 2 workshops happening at the same time- one in Spanish for TPS recipients about how they could be a apart of the TPS Committee of Nebraska and work on advocacy efforts. The other session was for English speaking allies to learn about TPS and how to support our local immigrant families.

Both English and Spanish speakers who attended the event learned about the American Dream and Promise Act of 2019 which was presented to the House and the Dream Act and Secure Act in the Senate, which would provide long-overdue stability for Nebraska families and communities by offering a pathway to Permanent Residency and eventually Citizenship in the US for both DACA and TPS beneficiaries.

There were several opportunities to hear stories and speak individually with TPS recipients, and build relationships of friendship and support, as well as to take action with each other.

The event focused on 3 action steps that each attendee volunteered to take outside of the workshop that would create impact and awareness in our city.

  • By committing to making calls and sending letters/emails to Political Leaders in our community. (Talking Points; Support for Temporary Protected Status migrants and requesting leadership and co-sponsorship for Permanent Residency, To not remove the TPS program since it has helped refugees and immigrants since 1999 and can still save lives in the future, fight against deportation and family separation, legislative reform for immigration laws, provide immediate protections and authorizations for asylum seekers.)
  • Sharing the National TPS Mission and the testimonies of TPS holders to other Organizations, congregations, and schools, helps show light to this economically impacting issue.  
  • Attending other immigration events and planning meetings. The next Immigration and Refugee Action Team meeting is April 22 at 6 pm at Augustana Lutheran Church (3647 Lafayette Ave.)

Several Issue Cafes in February inform and motivate community leaders

Payday Lending Issue Cafe

35 leaders met at Urban Abbey on February 28 to hear from Ken Smith, lawyer with Nebraska Appleseed about the state of payday lending in Nebraska. With the passage of LB 194 in last year’s legislative session, a few small steps were made to close a loop hole that could allow payday lenders to register as “Credit Service Organizations,” give a once-a-year payment plan option, and require more reporting to the Nebraska Department of Banking. The first report came out in December 2019 (view it here). See our analysis here of what this report shows about the status of where payday lending happens, how many loans are made, what people have to pay, and the average percent rate of 404%.

Ken Smith also asked supporters to practice how to respond to common arguments for payday lenders:

  1. Payday lenders offer a valuable service to people who can’t go to other lines of credit.

Response: This is a good notion, but the issue is that fees are too high and don’t follow the basic parameters of other loan products. There is a lack of transparency in what you are signing on to and what your options are.

  1. There are no alternatives to these types of loans

Response: There are some loan alternatives from some credit unions and nonprofits. See the Community Hope FCU in Lincoln and a nonprofit start-up in Omaha (still working on getting their credentials to offer low-interest loans)

  1. Government should not make a habit of putting an industry out of business. The market should regulate itself.

We are not trying to put payday loans out of business, but just putting in reasonable requirements on loans. If you can’t meet those requirements, maybe you shouldn’t be in business. The Legislature actually exempted these companies from usury laws, which all other lenders have to follow, so we just want payday lenders to follow the same rules as everyone else.

Visit Pew Charitable Trust to learn more about efforts to reform payday lending around the country.

The evening started with a few minutes of the Frontline documentary Last Days of Solitary which shows the Maine solitary confinement system and the changes they’re made. The film really shows the inhumane conditions prisoners live in when they are considered a treat to other prisoners and staff, and are put in what Nebraska calls “Restrictive Housing.” Restrictive housing is defined as less than 12 hours out of the cell in a week. In Nebraska, the cells are 8 ft. by 10 ft. and include a bed, desk, toilet, and chair. Because of the massive overcrowding, inmates in restrictive housing are often doubled up in the small cell. There are currently 325 inmates in restrictive housing in Nebraska, and ten have serious diagnosed mental health issues.

Climate Change Issue Cafe

60 people gathered on February 26 to hear from Stonie Cooper, a state climatologist and meteorologist, about climate change and it’s affect on Nebraska

Rental Housing Coalition Issue Cafe

40 people gathered at the Urban Abbey for an issue cafe about the current status of code enforcement and efforts for proactive policy change. OTOC leaders and housing coalition partners presented how the current code enforcement system works (and doesn’t work), the proactive registration and inspection policy we promote, what ordinances and policies are being drafted and discussed by local and sate policy makers, and how we as citizens can a raise a voice to be a part of that policy decision. Attendees heard from Beth, a tenant recently displaced from her home because of substandard conditions. If Beth’s rental home had been inspected regularly and the landlord keeping up the property, Beth and her daughter would still have a home and fewer major health problems due to mold and cockroaches. Erin Feichtinger of Together explained the politics of the current situation- LB 85 still sits waiting for a vote in the legislature, with Omaha City Council and the Mayor drafting various ordinances. Until the ordinances become public, we still encourage community members to call their city council member and their senator affirming the need for rental inspections, so that as proposals are brought forth, all policy makers know what Omaha needs. The city council will be hearing several ordinances on March 5.

Solitary Confinement and its Affects on Mental Health Issue Cafe

Seventy-five IPL, OTOC and community leaders heard from Doug Koebernick about Solitary Confinement in Nebraska and the harmful affects concentrated isolation has on mental health on February 5th

There are many factors that lead to having such a large number of inmates in restricted housing:

  • Restricted housing is supposed to be for the protection of other inmates and staff, so you get put in when you’ve done something dangerous. There is no set amount, you just get reevaluated every 90 days on if it is safe to bring you back to the general population. 114 inmates have been there for over 180 days. Some inmates do not know why they have been sent there, and are not able to advocate for themselves.
  • Overcrowding and the older facilities that have less common and classroom spaces have lead to less programming available for any type of restorative justice approach to help people before they get sent to solitary, while they are in there to get out faster, or for any sort of reintegration process.
  • Overcrowding leads to many more issues like less oversight and lack of space to attempt any type of reform. The state penitentiary is twice as full as it was designed for, and also has twice the number of staff.

Negative Effects of Restrictive Housing:

  • Psychological damage and mental health from lack of human contact and extreme boredom. Often leads to self mutilation.
  • Impacts future behavior. Though this is supposed to be for the safety of others, the failing mental health while they are in can lead to more violence when they get out.
  • Disproportionately affects Spanish and Native American inmates.
  • Negative impacts on staff safety and mental health as well as retention and recruitment.

Links to more info on Solitary and the Frontline Documentary:

LAST DAYS OF SOLITARY | Watch S33 E19 | FRONTLINE | PBS | (Warning: graphic content)
https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/film/last-days-of-solitary/

JUDGE RELIES HEAVILY ON HANEY’S TESTIMONY IN CASE BANNING SOLITARY CONFINEMENT
https://news.ucsc.edu/2018/01/haney-canada.html

“WHY WE ENDED LONG-TERM SOLITARY CONFINEMENT IN COLORADO” BY RICK RAEMISCH
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/12/opinion/solitary-confinement-colorado-prison.html

MANDELA RULES- UN STANDARD MINIMUM RULES ON THE TREATMENT OF PRISONERS
http://solitaryconfinement.org/mandela-rules

2018 RESTRICTIVE HOUSING ANNUAL REPORT
https://corrections.nebraska.gov/sites/default/files/files/39/ndcs_rh_report_2018.pdf

OFFICE OF INSPECTOR GENERAL OF THE NEBRASKA CORRECTIONAL SYSTEM 2017/2018 ANNUAL REPORT
https://nebraskalegislature.gov/FloorDocs/105/PDF/Agencies/Inspector_General_of_the_Nebraska_Correctional_System/600_20180911-222502.pdf