Archive for category The Collective Story
KERA on point for what is really going on – has this on the state of hunger in the State:
A report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture released this week shows that Texas is the second worst in the nation when it comes to hunger, with some 16.3 percent of the households surveyed reporting low or very low food security for the period between 2006 and 2008.
Families facing very low food security in Texas reached 5.7 percent.
Overall, the percentage of families facing hunger reached 12.2 percent.
Mississippi reported the highest percentage of families facing hunger at 17.4 percent.
This year, agencies working with the North Texas Food Bank reported demand from families seeking help for the first time rose 36 percent, and distribution has grown by 46 percent.
Sharply rising unemployment and lengthy administrative delays processing food stamps have exacerbated the situation for many families.
Read the entire report from the Department of Agriculture and learn more about how community organizations are helping struggling families in North Texas on the Community Voices page of KERA’s Economy Web site.
Representatives from several organizations, including 2-1-1 Texas and the North Texas Food Bank and Tarrant Area Food Bank, can help families locate food pantries in their area and help them apply for food stamps.
As the Food Banks reach out for funds for food – others start to grow it – I think we will look back at this time and see that it birthed a whole new approach to food – local community grown food. A revolution as great as agriculture itself.
by Jennifer Guerra
Joanne Palek and her brother, Richard, have lived on West Court Street in Flint for 10 years. A few years ago, the abandoned house next door burned down. So they bought the empty lot from the Genesee County Land Bank for exactly $1.00, and then they started to plant.
“We had carrots, we had green beans, we put in broccoli this year, but it didn’t do anything,” explains Palek.
There’s yet another abandoned house on the other side of Palek. As soon as the city pays to tear the house down, Palek says she’ll likely buy that lot too.
“And I know that it’s gonna cost me in tax money and I’m not that flush,” says Palek. “But I would make sure the taxes were paid and Flint got the money for it, whereas right now they’re not getting anything.”
She’s right. Vacant land doesn’t bring in any money for the city. In fact, an Emory University study shows that failure to collect even two percent of property taxes from abandoned houses translates into $3 billion in lost revenue for a city.
It’s the Land Bank’s role to find new uses for all that foreclosed property.
Christina Kelly works at the Land Bank. She says they’ve sold more than 400 empty lots to residents like Palek, though the lots are more this year. They cost $25 instead of $1. But she says it’s still a good deal, not only for the person who buys the lot, but for the neighborhood.
“It actually is very transformative in a neighborhood when you have lots that are gardened and cared for by the community, you can really see visual changes in the surrounding properties,” says Kelly.
The Land Bank has teamed up with a bunch of other groups to form an umbrella organization called Edible Flint. It’s basically a one-stop shop for all your urban gardening needs. The Land Bank provides the land, some materials and support.
“Michigan State Extension provides training and seeds and plants as they are available,” says Kelly. “The Ruth Mott Foundation provides training and technical assistance, and Salem Housing has a tool bank. Any one of those is not as valuable as all of them together.”
And it’s not just for people who want to buy property. Groups can adopt lots for free and get help from Edible Flint. Edible Flint will supply seeds, plants, tools, even a master gardener, anything to get people to care for the vacant lots in their community and help cut down on the city’s huge blight problem.
Bobby Jackson runs the Mission of Hope Day Shelter in Flint. He adopted two vacant lots and planted all kinds of veggies.
Jackson points out all the vegetables in his garden: kale, collard greens, broccoli, cabbage, basil, cilantro.
Anyone in the neighborhood is allowed to come and pick vegetables. Several churches brought their entire congregations to eat from the garden. But Jackson says it’s not just about food.
“The neighbors commended us for making the whole area look better because it was just overgrown and nothing there. And now they had opportunity to have a place to come and share in the work because people that didn’t know their neighbor four houses down met in the garden.”
And he says, since the garden went in, there’s been hardly any vandalism in the neighborhood.
Now, it’s important to note that not every vacant lot can grow vegetables. And while Edible Flint tests the soil, the still a chance of lead and PCBs and asbestos, since Flint was a big manufacturing town back in its hey day.
Still, Joan Nassauer, a professor of landscape architecture at the University of Michigan, says rust belt cities like Flint and Detroit can still turn all those vacant lots into natural assets, even if it’s just a pleasant open green space that gets mowed on a regular basis.
“In a kind of ironic way,” says Nassauer, “these cities that are facing abandoned property, they have the opportunity right now to pause and do it better.”
So, there may not be a lot of hope for all the abandoned and dilapidated houses in Flint that have fallen into foreclosure, but the land still has room to grow.
I am picking up a pattern – do you see what I see? The issue is food. With millions unemployed or under employed, feeding the family is becoming a real worry. Food Banks are getting pressed. The old donate cans of beans or getting old food from retailers is not keeping up. My bet is that this crisis will morph into a new opportunity – for people to grow food in the cities for themselves and for their community.
What are you seeing?
Officials say the face of hunger in North Texas is changing, thanks to historically high unemployment and the nation’s deepest post-WWII recession.
As a result, thousands of North Texans are finding themselves seeking food assistance for the first time, thanks to unemployment, a reduction in pay or work hours and lengthy delays in the state’s food stamp program.
For the North Texas Food Bank’s partner agencies, the number of first-time clients has risen 36 percent.
Among those first-time clients is Plano resident and former healthcare administrator Ray, who shared this story. Ray and his wife volunteer at the food pantry as he continues to look for work.
“When I was laid-off from a well-paid position and my financial obligations began piling up, my wife and I ultimately had to choose between eating and paying the bills. It was then that I shook off my pride and sought assistance from Minnie’s West Plano Food Pantry.”
Overall, food distribution for the North Texas Food Bank is up 46 percent over the same time last year.
Unfortunately, the fast-rising demand has forced some agencies to turn people away due to short supplies.
With help from the campaign launched Tuesday, the North Texas Food Bank hopes to raise $5 million – enough to distribute 20 million meals –by the end of the year.
Learn more about the North Texas Food Bank’s campaign and hear some of the stories from your community here.
The North Texas Food Bank and Tarrant Area Food Bank are part of KERA’s Advisory Group for its Economy Project. Learn more about what non-profit groups are doing on the Community Voices page of KERA’s Economy Web site.
Monday on The American Experience: The 1930s:
Civilian Conservation CorpsIn March 1933, within weeks of his inauguration, President Franklin Roosevelt sent legislation to Congress aimed at providing relief for the one out of every four American workers who were unemployed.
He proposed a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) to provide jobs in natural resource conservation. Over the next decade, the CCC put more than three million young men to work in the nation’s forests and parks, planting trees, building flood barriers, fighting fires and maintaining roads and trails.
Corps workers lived in camps under quasi-military discipline and received a wage of $30 per month, $25 of which they were required to send home to their families. This program interweaves rich archival imagery with the personal accounts of CCC veterans to tell the story of one of the boldest and most popular New Deal experiments, positioning it as a pivotal moment in the emergence of modern environmentalism and federal unemployment relief.
The five-part series, “The 1930s,” draws parallels between our current age and the Great Depression era, examining the political and cultural life of America during one of history’s most tumultuous decades.
Learn more about the series and watch films online here.
WBUR is seeing a new story in Mass – the crisis is now affecting everyone.The crisis is growing in intensity and has momentum. The key is employment.
Also when you look at the end of the story, it also raises a new issue – the mega banks are protected but the local crisis is putting intolerable pressure on the local banks. It is the smaller banks that are failing.
The reason for these auctions is not the crazy interest-rate mortgages. It’s the recession. Nowadays, people are losing their homes the way they used to before the sub-prime crisis.
“Historically, people lost their home when they lost their job, they lost their health or they lost their spouse,” says Nick Retsinas, a housing market economist at Harvard University.
Unemployment is to blame again today. The number of foreclosure proceedings in Massachusetts has jumped an alarming 150 percent. (My emphasis)
In fact, people under foreclosure I talked to in Sudbury didn’t want to be interviewed for this story. They said they’re ashamed — to have lost their jobs; to have run out of savings; to not be able to make their payments.
Whitney Tilson, a Harvard Business School grad and money manager, said, “the number of distressed homes coming through the pipeline has actually never been greater than right now.”
Tilson says Sudbury is a good example of what this coming wave could do to the market. Only seven homes above $1,000,000 have sold in the town this year. Last year it was 43, and that was a bad year.
“The listed prices appear to show that prices are holding up, but that’s phony,” Tilson says. “So what breaks the logjam? The wave of foreclosures working their way through the pipeline.”
Foreclosed properties priced to sell will push housing prices down and push more homeowners under water and into foreclosure. And that could really hurt regional banks.
Unlike the sub prime mortgage crisis — which hammered national mortgage companies — in this instance, local banks carry more of these loans. When Massachusetts banks stand to lose as much as a few hundred thousand dollars a pop, they get more conservative about lending. Tilson says that will suppress economic recovery.
CPB have put our project on the front page of their site – Here is the link to the letter that Jack Galmiche sent on your behalf to Pat Harrison. In a quiet way, I think that we are making history. Proving to others and to ourselves how we can become a powerful agency for good in our communities.
Stephanie Walker blogs about her own experience here – she has become one of the most powerful voices in the movement to avoid being helpless. Here today she guest blogs on another new and powerful voice Magpie Girl (aka Rachelle Mee-Chapman ). Here is her Manifesto about how to keep your composure and spirit going when your life is falling in around you.
*8 Things that Helped Us
Turn Our Personal Housing Crisis into an Opportunity
By Stephanie Walker
Last year at this time, our house was on the market, our bank account was negative and my husband Bob and I were both unemployed. Things were not quite going according to plan. The plan, when Bob’s high-paying contract got cut short, was to sell the house, pay off our debts, rent and start over again. We didn’t want to sell our house, but it was the only way out. We were sinking way too fast. We needed a new plan. The new plan, we agreed, was to turn our financial disaster into an opportunity. Somehow. You know, the whole idea of never letting a good crisis go to waste. Our crisis, we firmly believed, could be an opportunity to reinvent ourselves, to learn, to re-prioritize. A challenge, indeed. But a worthy challenge. We may lose it all, but what we would gain in the process could be something more valuable than any house.
With that new thinking, we moved through our foreclosure story. Yes, it became a foreclosure story. We defaulted on our loan and received the “Notice of Intent to Accelerate” from the bank the week before Christmas 2008. In the end, to make a very long and exciting story short, we ended up selling the house in a short sale, narrowly avoiding foreclosure. We sold 90% of our possessions and moved to the suburbs of Chicago to live with my family. We’ve been here for three months. And in less than a week we will be moving to the San Juan Islands where we will be house-sitting for two years and living rent-free. Yes. From a $5,000 mortgage to rent-free. From Los Angeles, California to an island in the Pacific Northwest.
Here are 8 Things that helped us turn our personal housing crisis into an opportunity
1. Talking: I know, this is easier said than done. But now is not the time to keep your concerns, fears, resentments or pain to yourself. Talk about how you’re feeling. Share. Be vulnerable. Does this sound trite? Well, it’s not. Bob is not one to automatically share openly his darkest thoughts. But when he did, it helped not only him but me. It was helpful to know what he was struggling with internally so that I could be more patient or give him the space he needed. And he found that saying it out loud lessened the hold these fears had when internalized. Express it and let it go.
2. The pact: Bob and I made a pact with each other to turn our crisis into an opportunity. We promised each other that we would view every hurdle as an opportunity for growth. That this could be the perfect chance for us to learn how to be happy in the face of any circumstance. We promised to be at our best. And to be there for each other. This pact worked because we were both so profoundly committed to it. We understood that without this pact, our chances for happiness were slim. So we respected the pact and held to it. You can make a pact like this with yourself, but I recommend sharing it with another person so that they can help you keep it in existence.
3. Allowing Others In: Of course we were embarrassed about our situation. We felt like dummies. Idiots. Failures. But we trusted that our friends and family would not judge us as harshly as we were judging ourselves. And we let them in. I’m not saying we showed them our budgets or our credit report. But we did tell them what was happening along the way. We told our friends and family and eventually our neighbors. And then I started writing about everything on “Love in the time of Foreclosure.” We held nothing back.
When our bank account was overdrawn, they brought us homemade lasagna. When I was stressed, they took me out for happy hour. When we just needed to talk, they listened. When we had our estate sale, they were there first thing in the morning running the show. Our friends were amazing. Amazing. The best part about allowing them in on our financial problems, we didn’t have to pretend anything. I don’t know how we would have been able to actually hide our financial disaster, but I can imagine how stressful that would have been. This one requires letting go of your pride. To let others in means to truly be vulnerable. To say, like we did, We screwed up and are in big financial trouble. This is what’s going on. We’re committed to turning this into a good thing some how. We let them into our lives and into our “plan.”
A huge benefit to allowing others in? They have really good advice. Things you wouldn’t think of on your own, necessarily. They send you links to articles that have a wealth of information you need. They put you in touch with people who can help. They share their own stories about their tough times that not only allows you to feel better, but give you hope that if they made it through, you will too.
4. Have Fun: Just because you are facing losing everything, doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. This is so important. Yes, we were working our butts off. I had two jobs at one point. We were doing everything we could think of to market the house which included constant cleaning. We didn’t have discretionary funds. But we still had fun. We went for walks. Discovered new parks. Bob competed in the Grilled Cheese Invitational . We watched shows on Hulu. We went to the beach. Hiked in the mountains. Sat by the fire. Had friends over. We had fun. We were committed to being happy even in foreclosure. In this kind of a pact, fun is a key ingredient.
5. Exercise: I am prone to anxiety. When I was a kid I used to think I had a breathing problem. At least that’s what I would tell my parents when it felt like my lungs were incapable of fully expanding: “I think I have a breathing problem.” Well, I discovered that ‘breathing problem’ was actually anxiety. The best cure for anxiety – in my experience- is exercise. It’s hard because the more stressed I get, the less time I have for exercise. But if I don’t, I am only setting myself up for anxiety. Exercise helped me so much through one of the most stressful times of my life.
6. Daily Checkpoints: Every morning when we walked the Pug we would talk about what we would do that day. What we were committed to accomplishing and what we were going to work on personally. Some days I’d wake up so overwhelmed I didn’t want to have this conversation. Luckily on those days, Bob was on the other side (and vice versa.) He would talk me through it. We’d start with ‘clearing out the cobwebs’ before we would talk about our goals for the day. Then, at the end of the day we would recap. How did it go? Did we do what we said we would do? If not, what was in the way? What did we learn and what can we be grateful for? This might sound like it would require a very long conversation, but we were actually able to go through this in about ten minutes. The days we did this always went better than the ones we didn’t. You can create a pact, a vision statement so to speak, but it doesn’t live on its own. It requires constant re-presencing or it will die. Our pact to be our best, turn this crisis into the opportunity of our lives and be happy in the process needed daily care to thrive.
7. Make a Difference for Others: Have you ever noticed that when you have your attention on the well-being of others, you’re less worried about yourself? Well, I have. Bob and I met doing a 500-mile bike ride for charity. On that ride we both talked about how much easier the ride was when we were cheering others on. We’d be at the top of a hill before we realized how difficult the climb was when we were cheering other riders up the hill. The same is true in life. We’re all in this together. And there are so many with great need. In the midst of our foreclosure battle, we collected donations and went on a bus trip down to Mexico to visit an orphanage with a non-profit organization Corazon de Vida. Getting outside of ourselves and focusing on others made such a huge difference. It really puts things in perspective!
8. Believe: (insert cliche here.) I don’t know how to bring this point home without sounding completely cliche. But in the midst of a crisis, you must believe. Believe in your own strength to pull through. Believe that things will improve. Believe that you’ll be stronger for surviving. Believe that you are not alone. I voted for Barack Obama. I was inspired – and still am- by his stand for humanity. By his willingness to stand for and speak about belief and the power it holds. As he said during his campaign: “I’m asking you to believe. Not just in my ability to bring about change in Washington… I’m asking you to believe in yours.”
I found this via KERA who found this via NPR and the Washington Post – Ann Powers is finding the voice of the people who aren’t going to take it any more.
“We are more than 15 million individuals in the prime of our lives who have lost our place in the world of work. We call upon our representatives on Capitol Hill to help us directly, rather than assisting our institutions first in the hope that their recovery might also bring us along.
We declare ourselves too big to fail. But we are being pushed by circumstance from the comfortable middle-class to the terrified middle-class, and from the working poor to the hopeless poor. We have lost our savings, retirement, and, in many cases, our monthly income to sustain our lives. We fear homelessness and a loss of stability as we struggle with rebuilding our assets.
We can and will help ourselves. We take jobs for which we are over qualified. We work longer hours. We work odd jobs. We downgrade our lifestyles. We deny our children their birthday gifts and vacations. We try to educate ourselves to the options for cure and take positive steps every day.
But still our financial standing degrades, and we feel the journey of recovery will be long, and we will cry and stumble.
Despite the names chosen by officialdom to describe us, we are not displaced, dislocated, discouraged, disadvantaged, disaffected or disgruntled.
Instead, we are disappointed and disillusioned that the financial condition of our households is of secondary consideration to the economic stabilization of huge Wall Street financial firms, curiously declaring their own recovery just months after calling themselves near death.
In August, six of the seven biggest financial institutions reported quarterly profits that surpassed expectations, despite deteriorating loans on many of their balance sheets. Many of us, however, teeter closer to foreclosure, find ourselves in distressed sales or evicted from our homes.
We are distressed that the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has money to keep us unemployed for longer but not to get us back to work. In July, one in three unemployed individuals were jobless for 27 weeks or more. And, the number of workers who have stopped looking for a job rose to 796,000, up 335,000 over the past 12 months.
We feel disrespected that our government has committed trillions of dollars to get the nation moving again. Yet, we can see no change in our own daily lives.
Has any of this $1.5 trillion bought a single Happy Meal for an unhappy family? Has it sent the creditors that hound us by telephone into silence by making a mortgage or credit card payment for us? Has it bought us groceries or paid the utility or insurance or tax bills? Has it paid for our health insurance?
We declare that we are lost, lonely and forgotten, but that we vow to become loud, united and forceful so we will claim our rightful place at the center of the political debate. The body politic is seriously diseased if those of us who have been the very backbone of U.S. prosperity can be left without direct assistance when we are facing the loss of our homes, careers and all the possessions we need to maintain a safe home for our children.
Patience is no longer the order of the day. There is a rabble to be roused, virtual signs to be made and held up, marches, petitions, visits, phone calls and every manner of communications used to say to the public authorities now it is our turn. Now you must save us.”
It takes time to react – Public Radio and TV are pulling together a solid portfolio of resources to help us understand our relationship with money.
Here is WNED – Buffalo’s new series – Your Life, Your Money
You can watch the entire show or the parts that interest you the most – the POV is you!
APT and WXXI Pub TV in Rochester have a great series called Biz Kids. The public TV series where kids teach kids about money and business. It has a large number of sharp, to the point and relevant videos about money matters and kids. Check it out!