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Locating Our Projects Within Our Goals and Strategy

UUA-UUSC's response to the hurricane seeks to encompass both the destruction of the hurricane but also the massive lack of effective institutional response particularly the lack of a comprehensive dignified mid-term solution. We feel that those communities who suffered most both from the hurricanes and the aftermath, unjustly suffered precisely because of the entrenched inequalities in our society. We feel that the aftermath of the hurricanes of 2005 is still a crisis and opportunity in which it may be possible to transform that situation of inequality and build a more just and equitable Gulf Coast region. Our work is based on that vision of rebuilding towards justice, with a particular focus on supporting the voice and participation of communities of low-income people and communities of color to transform their situation. To this end, UUA-UUSC's overall programmatic goals are:

Programmatic Goals

The UUA-UUSC's Gulf Coast Relief Fund approved the following programmatic goals for the community fund:

  1. Support and strengthen the organization of low income communities and marginalized and racialized communities of color towards their active participation in the just and equitable rebuilding of the Gulf Coast Region, including their right to return, to affordable housing, and equitable education, employment and services.
  2. Pressure for a practical, dignified and just mid-term solution for the families who cannot return to their homes for the next six months to a year.
  3. Support and strengthen representative and grass roots organizations in the region involved in social justice as they build their capacity to work for, and with, low income communities and communities of color for an anti-racist, just and equitable rebuilding of the Gulf Coast.
  4. Create a community ministry that allows UUs to actively work with the people of the Gulf Coast in practical solidarity and allows for mutual learning about the issues of class race and gender.
  5. Strengthen our partners' advocacy work and develop our own direct advocacy work in support of the voices and agendas of hurricane survivors marginalized by class, race and gender.

Partnering priorities to carry out these goals

We focus on organizations that are reflective of, representative of, and local people who are members of, low income and vulnerable communities affected by both the hurricanes and institutional failure, prioritizing:

  • Groups disadvantaged by institutional racism, African Americans, Latino immigrants, Native Americans and Vietnamese. We will make a particular effort to support anti-racist leadership by people of color for people of color.
  • Groups disadvantaged by race, class, gender or sexual orientation
  • Groups in areas which have received little attention or assistance—western parishes in Louisiana and rural settlements between the coast Hattiesburg in Mississippi.

Through these goals and partnering priorities we hope to contribute to the following outcomes:

  1. Organizations on the ground that represent low income and communities of color will be strengthened in their ability to help develop and influence policy at the state and municipal levels.
  2. The creation of a broad based coalition of grass roots organizations, primarily led by people of color in New Orleans and Mississippi.
  3. Create a community ministry to bring the UUs together in practical acts of solidarity with the people in the Gulf Coast.
  4. Strengthen communities' ability to articulate and defend their rights in the reconstruction process.

In order to fulfill the programmatic goals outlined above, the working committee discussed and developed the following funding strategies, based on the original programmatic framework which served as funding criteria. The projects funded are outlined under each funding strategy to provide a clearer picture how they contribute to the overall goals.

Funding strategies to achieve our goals

1. Strengthen community organizations working for people's return and participation in an equitable reconstruction with a particular focus on leadership of people of color.

This work supported the strengthening of grass roots and community organizations, with an emphasis on those working with or led by people of color historically and currently in the region, to build their capacity to do their work in an anti-racist way and as much as possible come together to join forces. This included; advocacy for the right to a safe and dignified return, and New Orleans based work with the evacuees in order to facilitate communication and consultation among dispersed communities. There was a particular emphasis on strengthening grass roots organizations working in New Orleans and with the evacuees so they can get back on their feet, formulate common strategies and shared advocacy.

Projects in New Orleans

  • VIET – support for a team of outreach workers to help Vietnamese community with claims $25,000
  • PICO LIFT and PICO WIN – survivor organizing in Baton Rouge and New Orleans and advocacy for return $35,000
  • Neighborhood Housing Services (NHS) – staffing two neighborhood centers to provide services for returning residents in New Orleans $63,000
  • MIT-NHS – mapping of community organizations $20,000
  • MIT NHS – mapping of community organization, issues and identification of needs with partners $30,000
  • Neighborhood Math Project – (ICGR) community grief ritual $10,000
  • New Orleans Network – information and linkage for grassroots groups working on the ground $43,500
  • PICO ACT – support and advocacy in New Orleans for returning residents
  • $60,000 Jeremiah Group – organizing around electoral rights, restoration of schools and return $56,000
  • ACORN – support for organizing and returning residents including advocacy and gutting homes Zion Travelers Cooperative Center youth summer camp program for returned youth. $11,000
  • Tamb-o-rine and Fan Club of Treme New Orleans – work with youth evacuated to other cities to bring them back to New Orleans to visit and (seven trips of youth from different cities) articulate their rights and desires around return. $46,200
  • Neighborhood Housing Services – Supporting policy and advocacy work around housing and rebuilding in New Orleans. NHS is trying to link the community work they are doing into the broader policy discussions through newly formed non-governmental coalition. $45,000

Projects in Mississippi

  • East Biloxi C&RC a grassroots community center for coordinating the relief and rebuilding in East Biloxi for $15,000
  • Turkey Creek Community Initiative support for a grassroots community organization to organize around the land rights issue on the Mississippi coast $28,500

2. Practical assistance for organizations for rebuilding/repairing housing in low income communities

There was support for 3 concrete assistance projects, one in New Orleans, one on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and one in the River Parishes. Theses projects support African American led groups, helping low income families who have little recourse to financial aid, to gut and repair houses and return to their communities. These projects combine funds for materials, and linkage for UU groups to go down and do volunteer work with these groups. This includes work through ACORN to facilitate the clean up of homes and community centers in working class and low income neighborhoods.

Projects in New Orleans

  • ACORN – (as part of the above mentioned grant) support for their goal of gutting 1,500 houses in New Orleans

Projects in Louisiana parishes

  • Zion Travelers Cooperative – a community tool and equipment lending center for Phoenix community in Plaquemines parish and surrounding communities to help people who are returning to gut and rebuild

Projects in Mississippi

  • The Gulf Coast Baptist Missionary Society – materials and tools for ecumenical bi-racial teams coming down to gut and repair homes of low income people, with an emphasis on elderly and single mothers

3. Community Ministry by UUs to the wider community in the Gulf Coast

Support work by UU congregations to engage in advocacy, ministry, volunteer work etc with the communities on the Gulf Coast affected by the hurricanes. The goal was to have community ministers and volunteer programs in both Mississippi and Louisiana. The aim is that the volunteer programs work with community fund projects around practical assistance. The work camps are part of UU outreach to the wider community.

Projects in Louisiana

  • Baton Rouge Church Community Ministry – $80,000
  • Just works – week long work-camp in January in New Orleans $5,000
  • New Orleans Volunteer Coordinator $16,605

Projects in Mississippi

  • Just works – week long work camp in March in New Orleans $6,000
  • Mississippi community minister and volunteer coordinator $57,000

4. Advocacy and policy work around the right to return to communities, particularly New Orleans, right to retain land and fair access to housing and services to all survivors.

This provides support for legal, advocacy and policy work around the return to New Orleans, and fair access to housing, job and services for survivors in both Mississippi and Louisiana. This includes work on the protection of tenants' rights and prevention of unjust evictions in the hurricane affected area . We have tried to support proposals that particularly address the obstacles faced in areas where people of color and/or low income people who are being marginalized and ignored. The following issues were key:

  • Low income communities threatened by bulldozing and redevelopment
  • Low income people and people of color's access to assistance
  • The public housing residents' right to return to New Orleans
  • A viable solution for evacuees in hotels and threatened by eviction

Projects in New Orleans-Louisiana

  • The Advancement Project – $125,000 support for returnees right to their land and homes and advocacy work through the grassroots network in New Orleans
  • Jeremiah Group – $56,000 (Mentioned above in 1st program area)
  • PICO LIFT – $35,000 (mentioned above in 1st program area)
  • C-3 Hands off Iberville – support for the organizing efforts of public housing residents from New Orleans to return. $20,000
  • People's Hurricane Relief Fund – support for grassroots participation in the reconstruction plan for New Orleans. $56,540
  • Rethinking New Orleans Schools Support for a group of New Orleans youth from the public schools to develop proposals to transform the public school system after Katrina and work with media to communicate them. $27,000

Projects in Mississippi

  • STEPS – initial support for a coalition of grassroots, community and national organizations in Coastal Mississippi to work together on advocacy and provide technical support to members. $29,828
  • Coastal Women for Change Support for a grassroots organization of women of color affected by the hurricanes in coastal Mississippi to bring their voices to the table. $30,682

5. Workers Rights focuses both on exploitation and unfair labor practices by contractors in the Gulf and the lack of access to safe, fairly paid employment by returning residents

This area supports organizations addressing, documenting and responding to the unfair labor practices around the cleaning and reconstruction contracts in the Gulf area. We are striving to work for racial unity in this area and against the threat of increased racialization. This includes work against the exploitation and flagrant abuse of undocumented workers and the denial of safe fairly paid jobs for residents.

Projects in New Orleans-Louisiana

  • The Advancement Project – $125,000 (mentioned above) Support for the research, writing and publication of a report on the exploitative and unfair labor practices around rebuilding in New Orleans.
  • The Louisiana Workers Center - Support to a coalition on workers rights in New Orleans to establish a workers center there to support workers, provide access to services and educate and organize them about their rights. The Workers Center emphasizes racial unity. $124,620
  • Interfaith Worker Justice Support for national advocacy and policy work around worker rights in the Gulf Coast focused on compliance with Department of Labor laws and accountability for reconstruction contractors. $50,000

Projects in Mississippi

  • Mississippi Immigrant rights Alliance (MIRA) – Support for documentation of labor abuses, emergency assistance to workers in crises and organizing for claiming wages that have been withheld $40,000 (in two grants, one of $25,000 and one of $15,000

The UUA/UUSC Gulf Coast Relief Fund does not provide direct service or relief funds for individuals. We encourage individuals to inquire with local congregations and community organizations to see direct relief.

If you feel your proposed project fits within our UUA/UUSC Gulf Coast Relief Strategies, please contact Martha Thompson at the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee at mthompson @ uusc.org

Thank You,

The UUA/UUSC Gulf Coast Relief Funding Panel

For more information contact gulfcoastrelief @ uua.org.

This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations. Please consider making a donation today.

Last updated on Thursday, August 2, 2012.

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