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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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.

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!

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

Learning and supporting TPS efforts

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.



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IPL research pushes City towards best practice

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.

Need for enforcement

IPL trained leaders with OTOC’s Housing and Neighborhood Revitalization Action Team testified neutrally (read Gloria Austerberry’s testimony here), saying that Paladino does have a bad reputation among tenants, but works well with housing agencies that have case workers to hold him accountable. He meets the standards that are enforced, but when there is no enforcement, he gets away with neglecting properties and using a business model that seems to exploit tenants (read Hannah Wyble of Restoring Dignity’s testimony at the hearing for examples), proving again that proactive inspections of units will keep properties up to code when landlords don’t do it themselves.
Several testifiers called for inspections on all of Paladino’s properties if he is to qualify for tax dollars on his new development project, and guarantees that rent will remain at market rate (read testimony by Jack Dunn from Policy Research Innovation and Rosalyn Volkmer).

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?

Issue cafes educate about refugees, mental health, and housing

Upcoming Events:

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:

Refugees

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.

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