IPL After-Work Gathering

Join IPL and friends on Wednesday, May 22, 2019

5pm-7pm at the Storz Mansion,

home of Dr. Wayne and Rhonda Stuberg at 3708 Farnam St.

In affiliation with Omaha Gives! 2019, give online to IPL by clicking here

Drop in on May 22 for Conversation, Appetizers and Desserts from cultures around the world. Beer, Wine, and Soda will also be served.

Please RSVP online here or call the IPL office at 402-344-4401

Colleagues, Spouses & Friends Welcome

Gottlieb Storz Residence 1905–1907, Fisher & Lawrie. 3708 Farnam St.
The Storz house was built by Gottlieb Storz, a prominent Omaha businessman who founded the nationally recognized Storz Brewing Company in 1876. The brewer enjoyed two very successful decades in business, and became one of the city’s wealthiest citizens. Like many financial and civic leaders of the day, Storz built his impressive mansion in the Gold Coast District. The style of the house is best described as Jacobethan Revival, with its beige brick walls with decorative limestone trim, steeply pitched roof, parapeted gables, dormers, two-story bay windows with stone mullions and transoms, and a deep, arched entry porch. The interior has twenty-seven rooms, all elegantly finished with a noteworthy assemblage of materials and detailing. A magnificent Tiffany glass skylight covers the solarium, the most distinctive room in the house. The top floor houses the Adele and Fred Astaire Ballroom, the only local memorial celebrating the Omaha roots of the famed brother and sister dance duo. The Storz family occupied the house until 1989 when it was purchased by businessman Michael Gaughan, who gave the building to Creighton University in 2002. After leasing it as a residence the University sold the building in 2007 to Dr. Wayne and Rhonda Stuberg, our gracious hosts for this celebration. This information was collected from the Internet sites: Wikipedia, Omaha LHPC, and SAHARCHIPEDIA

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.



Read More . . .

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.

Read More . . .

June Issue Cafes at Urban Abbey

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.

IPL After Work Gathering a Smashing Success

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.

The results:

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

PLUS!

$522 Cash and Contributions (so far) after OmahaGives and

$1000 First Place Participation Prize for 4 pm to Midnight—We did it again!

 GRAND TOTAL:

$35,017  

 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 Directer presents at Sustainability Leadership Presentation Series at Metro Community College

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.

Leaders gather to learn about rental housing issues

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.

The evening started out with Dennis Walsh, a Housing team member, who gave a presentation, with maps and fact sheets , about the city’s housing code violations since 2015. The data showed trends toward a growth in both the number of rental units in Omaha and the rising costs of those units. It also pointed out how violations and demolitions tend to be concentrated in certain zip codes. To access these maps, follow these links: Click here for graphs, Active Housing Violations by Year, Jan 2018 Active Housing ViolationsActive Violations Bar All Zip codes

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 charles.gould@cox.net

 

Spring Training reach leaders across the city

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.

st. benedict sess 2

Session 2 about developing leaders at St. Benedict the Moor

St. Luke Sess. 1
Session 1 in West Omaha at St. Luke UMC