Friday February 8th, Missioning Prayer and Despedida (Send-Off)
This past Friday, over 100 leaders from IPL, OTOC, and the TPS Alliance of Nebraska gathered to hold a Prayer Service that celebrated both culture and faith for the 9 members of the Omaha community who are representing Nebraska at the TPS Summit in Washington DC from February 10—February 13. The Opening prayer and focus statement were given bilingually by Pastor Juan Carlos Veloso, along with Fr. Chris Saenz, who gave the Blessing to the travelers.
The group traveling to Washington DC was made up of 6 TPS holders, 2 seniors in high school who are the US citizen children of TPS holders, and a Creighton University student. The group flew to Washington DC on Saturday and is currently participating in advocacy, leadership training, and the March for TPS Justice on Tuesday, Feb 12.
IPL helped organize testimony surrounding Tax Increment Financing for Omaha landlord, Dave Paladino. Paladino Development Groups has thousands of low-income units that rent to a wide range of tenants, including many refugees. In the unprecedented hearing, over ten opposing testimonies shared stories of Paladino’s treatment of tenants and business practices, lack of maintenance and upkeep, and unsafe and unsanitary conditions. TIF cases tend to be automatically approved, but the city council, who listened for over an hour and a half to emotional, moving testimony, voted to postpone to vote for three weeks. They want to look into TIF approval laws, which currently do not allow decisions to be made based on the applicant’s other business practices. Click hear for complete Omaha World Herald coverage of the TIF hearing.
IPL continues to research Omaha’s substandard rental housing and complaint-based code enforcement system, and looking at national best practices, especially a proactive inspection ordinance. Leaders continues to call the City of Omaha to adopt a rental registration AND inspection ordinance so that all rental properties are routinely inspected. The testimony at this hearing showed city council and city staff that Yale Park is not the only substandard property in Omaha. Council member Pete Festersen said in his remarks that the City Council Planning Committee, which has been meeting regularly since Yale Park last September is getting ready to release it’s recommendation on what the city can do to address substandard rental housing. It is clear the tides are turning in the city, and that there is growing attention to substandard rentals and city code enforcement. The question is, when the committee’s plan is released, will it prevent another Yale Park?
Mental Health Emergency Resources
Tuesday, Nov. 20th at 6:45 pm
Hear from Miles Glasgow of Region 6 Behavioral Healthcare about their emergency response programs to help provide mental health services during high stress situations. Information about Mental Health support and education programs will also be available.
Improving Rental Housing in Omaha
Tuesday, Nov. 27th at 6:45 pm
As Yale Park Apartments illustrated, substandard housing in Omaha is a plague on neighborhoods and families. OTOC leaders will discuss the continued state of substandard rental housing and measures our community can take. Since we are all stakeholders, let’s organize to ensure public health and safety.
Refugee Experience: the resettlement process, different immigration paths, and the refugee culture groups in Omaha
Cold temperatures did not deter forty comunity from showing up at the Urban Abbey to learn more about the refugee experience from Alana Schriver, OPS Refugee Specialist. Despite the weather, the room was filled with old faces and new.
Ms. Schriver taught her listeners the difference between several terms:
To be designated as a refugee, one must cross a national border to escape from war, violence, or persecution. Persecution is defined as a life or death situation. Poverty is not a reason to apply for refugee status. Refugees are vetted in their country of residence and then by the country of destination- this takes years.
Asylum seekers –
Individuals seeking asylum from war, violence, or persecution. Asylum is not granted to families. Each individual, regardless of age, must prove that he/she is being targeted. Those seeking asylum are required to accept asylum from the first country that offers it. For those who reach the U.S., no legal representation is guaranteed to help the seekers through the vetting process.
A few months a year, the Urban Abbey, a coffe shop/bookstore/Methodist Congregation partners with OTOC, IPL’s sister organization, as community partners. As community partners in June, OTOC receives 10% of the coffee bar sales in the month (drink up in June!) as well as hosts learning opportunities at the Abbey with IPL. This June action teams are hosting four great Issue Cafes to learn more about some issues they are working on. Please join us at any and all of these events, and learn about issues affecting Omaha families.
Events are located at Urban Abbey, 1026 Jackson Street
– June 5: How we can change the Narrative for Substandard Rental Housing. 6:45-8 pm
Join leaders to hear stories and statistics from housing experts about substandard rental housing in Omaha and what we can do to change that situation together. Learn what LaVista and other cities are doing to make sure rental housing meets basic safety codes.
– June 13: Nebraska Medicaid Expansion: Now it’s up to You. 6:45-8 pm
Join leaders to learn about why Nebraska needs to expand Medicaid, the current petition drive, and how you can get involved today to help give all Nebraskans opportunities for affordable health insurance.
-June 19: A Merciful Alternative to Payday Lending. 6:45-8 pm
The Payday Lending Action Team will sponsor a presentation by Jerry Byers of Community Debt Solutions about an experimental, non-profit alternative to payday lenders that would offer short-term, small-principal loans to borrowers with limited access to credit.
– June 28: What is the Ban the Bag Campaign? 6:45-8 pm
Join environmental sustainability leaders to hear from Omaha City Council members Ben Gray and Pete Festersen about the Ban the Bag ordinance being introducing that would ban plastic grocery bags in the city of Omaha.
Each year, IPL participates in Omaha Gives!, a charitable giving day through the Omaha Community Foundation. To help celebrate giving and IPL, the Board of Directors and Advisory Boards hosted an After Work Gathering on May 23, the Omaha Gives! day. One hundred forty people gathered at Hardy Coffee at the new development in North Omaha, Seventy Five North. We were excited to partner with Seventy Five North to show off their new facility and the great work they are doing in the North Omaha community. Several local refugees made delicious foods for the crowd to try, and no one left hungry. During the event, attendees had an opportunity to give online through the Omaha Gives! website, and give they did! Thank you so much for your contributions to IPL during Omaha Gives for our continued work in the community.
185 Donors gave $18,495 through the OmahaGives site
32 Donors gave $15,000 by check or OCG account as Challenge
For at Total of: 217 Donors gave $33,495 during OmahaGives—our highest total ever
$522 Cash and Contributions (so far) after OmahaGives and
$1000 First Place Participation Prize for 4 pm to Midnight—We did it again!
for OmahaGives 2018
Thank you, Thank you, Thank you
We also ranked very well among other organizations:
We won First Place for Medium organizations during the 4 pm-12 am time period
We were 5th Place overall for Medium Sized Organizations (Top 2%)
We were 4th Place of 58 Social Advocacy Organizations (Top 5%)
We were 40th of 950 Total Organizations (Top 4%)
Scroll down to see pictures from the After Work Gathering.
Photo credit to AJ Olnes, Creighton University senior
Executive Director Joe Higgs and Project Intern Greta Carlson spoke as part of the Sustainability Leadership Presentation Series (SLPS) at Metro Community College about how to use organizing for environmental sustainability. Over 100 faculty, staff, and students watched the webinar in universities across the state of Nebraska. The presentation taught about how leaders can use the cycle of organizing and organizing practices to organize their communities and enhance their sustainability efforts by growing power through their community. Joe Higgs used the example of how IPL trained OTOC leaders formed their environmental Sustainability Action Team to work on local environmental issues in Omaha. OTOC leaders first kept hearing that people were concerned about environmental issues after a great flood in 2011. Then, at an issues conference, enough people were interested and willing to take leadership, that an action team has formed and is now working on issues like the city’s new waste contract and potential ban on plastic bags. These issues use power to talk to and influence city council members as they create policies that affect the environmental sustainability of Omaha.
To view IPL’s presentation online, follow this link.
To learn more about Metro’s SLPS program, follow this link.
Nearly 40 people attended a discussion at Urban Abbey, focused on the problems of substandard rental units and what can be done about them. IPL trained leaders on OTOC’s Housing and Neighborhood Revitalization Team sponsored the event and attendees included landlords, renters and interested citizens.
His talk was followed by guest speaker Gary Fischer–Family Housing Advisory Services Legal Counsel. He gave an in-depth report about both substandard rental housing and evictions. His presentation included handouts of maps showing eviction notices throughout the city. He said two traits correlated to eviction notices: poverty and locations which are highly populated by African Americans.
Mr. Fischer said Council Bluffs enacted a landlord registration and inspection ordinance after there had been five children who died in fires in substandard housing units. Fees from that plan pay for inspections. Omaha faces resistance of landlord registration and inspection because reliable landlords do not want additional costs/burdens when they are being responsible. He noted that additional problems come from substandard housing units that have lead and dander, both adding to health problems, especially for youth. Other youth agencies are working to address this.
Mr. Fischer talked of how evictions affect school children and distributed maps and data showing which schools are most impacted. Karen McElroy, who had visited Liberty elementary along with Joe Higgs, told how that school makes a great effort to work with families who are impacted by evictions.
Mr. Fischer was followed by Terri Mahoney, a member of the Housing team, who gave a brief history of her lifelong experience as a renter and of the problems and uncertainty she has faced.
Intern Greta Carlson shared information about a program she and OTOC have developed to educate refugees and immigrants about tenants’ rights and responsibilities. It has been presented numerous times and in multiple languages.
People broke into small groups to discuss problems and possible solutions. Gloria Austerberry then brought everyone together to listen to results of the talks and hear possible solutions Attendees had the opportunity to become more involved through a variety of options listed on a signup sheet.
If you are interested in getting more involved with substandard rental housing issues in Omaha, email Charlie Gould at email@example.com
IPL Executive Director Joe Higgs and other leaders are teaching about leader development in congregations this spring. The trainings revolve around the importance of including justice in our institutional missions, developing leadership in our institutions, and tools for creating relationships that lead to leadership development. The trainings reached 193 leaders throughout the four-part series, with 78 different people attending several of the four sessions, including those who were new to organizing and those who are experienced, from over sixteen different congregations, including members from some new congregations we are starting to work with. Trainings were held in different locations throughout the city to allow many parts of the city to be involved.
Session 2 about developing leaders at St. Benedict the Moor
Urban Abbey hosted three different Issue Cafes in the Month of February for leaders and community members learn more about relevant issues happening in Omaha.
Michael O’Hara from the Sierra Club (pictured left) spoke about the logistics of the city’s upcoming solid waste policy. Why do we need to care about the trash system? 1. It really affects the environment- methane outputs from landfills, trash trucks driving around, etc. 2. How many trash bins fit in your garage- we would like choices about what size and how many bins each household needs. The OTOC Environmental Sustainability Action Team urges citizens to contact their city council members to ask for community involvement in the planning process and for the council to be engaged and aware when reviewing and choosing a proposal. For talking points about how to contact your city council members, click here
Julie Kalkowski (pictured above) also came and presented about the importance of financial independence- and how that can actually affect your health. Julie has developed a Financial Hope program that is helps single mothers to become financially independent. Julie is currently recruiting 400 single mothers to join her program as part of a study about the effects of financial independence on health. Through Julie’s experience and expertise on financial independence she also encouraged the Predatory Lending Action Team to keep working to get limitations put on predatory pay day lending. Julie sees the affects of these debt cycles in her anti-poverty work. Want more information about Julie’s program, click here. To learn more about Pay Day Lending regulation, click here.
Jo Giles, Policy and Training Director for Strong Nebraska (pictured right), was OTOC’s guest speaker at the March 27 meeting of the Urban Abbey Series. The Coalition for a Strong Nebraska is a coalition of 85 non-profits who are committed to ending poverty through public policy engagement.
Ms. Giles biggest message was that non-profits can lobby. While the coalition does not lobby itself, it will train people in lobbying skills.
The discussion then turned to an overview of some bills being considered currently in the Unicameral in the areas of Property tax, Healthcare, Education and Civic Engagement. Ms. Giles noted that a big factor influencing the passing of a bill is the ability of the state to pay for it. As of Tuesday, Nebraska is experiencing a $200M budget shortfall.
Those bills that have a priority designation have the best chance of getting out to the floor. Sen. Vargas’s LB194 about Pay Day Lending has been named his priority bill, but has still not left the Banking Committee. We will have to wait and see if it will make it to the open floor.
For additional information on learning how to lobby, receiving a weekly update on legislation, or finding a tutorial on using the legislative website, look here.
The Institute of Public Leadership (IPL) wants to make it clear how grateful we are to you, our supporters. Your contributions of time and money are making a difference, and we would like to show you specific examples of how this is true. Here is a list of people who our donors have invested in this year:
IPL Board Member Allison Latenser shares about the meaning of IPL in her life: ““The training I have received from IPL has enabled me to form a connection with different kinds of people from all over Omaha. Together we have discussed our concerns and our hopes for this city. We have identified possible action steps and informed ourselves through research. We have worked hard on our presentations and have approached our elected officials as a team to ask for their support in making positive change for the community.”
Your generous donations and a grant from the Omaha Community Foundation have made possible a new IPL project to teach refugees about their rights and responsibilities as tenants. Our goal is to teach refugees who are renters how to address housing issues so they have decent, safe homes and good relationships with their landlords. Understanding your rights so you can better stand up for them is part of the education philosophy of IPL and what we are teaching leaders to do.
IPL has hired three bilingual interpreters who were refugees and who have been in Omaha for several years as leaders. Our interpreters are Lah Wah who speaks Karen, Netra Gerung who speaks Nepali, Gilbertine Niyonzima who speaks Swahili and Kirundi. They give presentations to refugee communities in schools, churches, and resettlement agencies. One of the three, Gilbertine Niyonzima, shares her thanks for this program: “I am thankful to IPL for funding this education program for new refugees in the US, which teaches tenant and landlord responsibilities in a language he/she understands. I am privileged to help them understand things I was so confused about a couple of years ago. I am glad this program allows me to help my community and get paid to do it.”
This year IPL has had many interns thanks to your support. Over the summer, three students from Creighton worked with OTOC action teams and Executive Director Joe Higgs to learn about organizing and researching issues. We also had an intern from University of Nebraska Law School who helped develop the Refugee Rental Rights and Responsibility trainings. They all did amazing work and we hope to continue working with students in the future.
Our newest intern is Greta Carlson who is a part of the Lutheran Volunteer Corps, a service corps organization that places young people in organizations throughout the country. She will be a part of IPL for an entire year and is working full time with us. She arrived in August from Texas and has been involved in Refugee Trainings, IPL leadership, OTOC Action Teams, communications, meeting people and building relationships, and learning how to handle the cold. Here’s a small snippet of why Greta is thankful for IPL:
“I am so thankful to IPL for giving me a job! But this is a lot more than just a job for me. I’ve truly enjoyed building powerful relationships, learning about the method of social change that IPL teaches and OTOC uses, and practicing skills I can use for the rest of my life no matter what I am doing. This whole year is like a training session for my life!”
Your support enables IPL to invest in many training opportunities for community leaders. We are part of several nonprofit coalitions which help us be more effective in our leadership and policy development work.
You help us send leaders each year to national training programs for community organizing through the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) and Interfaith Education Fund, our own national network of community organizations. These week-long workshops allow emerging leaders to meet leaders from all over the US and learn the concepts and best practices of community organizing.
All of these training opportunities lead to personal growth for the individuals who attend and better equip our organization with the skills we need to have a real impact on the common good in Omaha. Here is a message from Charles Gould who is on the OTOC Housing Revitalization Action Team, OTOC Leadership Team, and attended an IAF National Training earlier this year:
“Thank you for the opportunity to learn more about organizing. I got to go to a national training this year where I learned the value of sharing the principles of organizing. I’m glad to be a part of an organization that is building community in a meaningful way by teaching those leadership skills.”
The Institute for Public Leadership gives leaders the tools they need to gain power and have a voice. This year, San Andres Lutheran Church, a Spanish-speaking church in South Omaha, became a dues paying member of OTOC.
Many members of the church are originally from El Salvador and have Temporary Protected Status (TPS), an immigration status given to Salvadorans living in the US in 2001 after an earthquake made it unsafe to return. Many of the 250,000 Salvadorans with TPS in the US have made their home in Omaha for the past 17 years. Now, the current administration may be ending TPS for people from El Salvador.
IPL trained leaders have been getting to know these new Leaders and are helping them share their stories through newspaper articles, community meetings and dinners so that they can grow the number of their allies fighting for their right to stay in the country. IPL is helping this group learn to better organize and have a collective voice. Pastor Sergio Amaya of San Andres Lutheran shares his thanks for the support and training:
“I am grateful that IPL and OTOC are helping Omaha get to know our Salvadoran TPS community. We have begun building relationships that will make our community stronger and a better place for us all. Our Salvadoran families are hard working, and most own their homes and have children who are citizens. We need your help to be able to continue to make Omaha our home.”