Newsworthy Articles

News and Media Update February 24, 2023

Cities & Housing

Mayors of four major U.S. cities - Mayors Eric Adams of NYC, Lori Lightfoot of Chicago, Karen Bass of L.A., and Sylvester Turner of Houston - met in Chicago. Housing was a main topic of discussion as all their cities needed to address concerns of their unhoused populations. Mayor Adams shared about NYC's pilot program to transition 80 unhoused people into permanent supportive housing without going through the shelter system. As the mayors discussed other critical issues like policing and racial equity, they built solidarity around key concerns facing their cities.

Mayor Eric Adams and Mayor Lori Lightfoot last year during a trip to Chicago. Photo from Associated Press via the New York Times

NYC is facing an urgent housing crisis for asylum seekers as well. With the city in dire need to house asylum seekers, a coalition of faith-based institutions led by the New York Disaster Interfaith Services has proposed a plan to leverage church space as shelter for arriving migrants. The plan would allow churches to take up to 19 single migrants and reimburse the costs associated with food and temporary beds. The proposed plan is awaiting the City's response.

Another proposal involving more than 50 diverse houses of worship to provide shelter for up to 19 migrants per night has been proposed to the City. Likewise, the houses of worship would be reimbursed for sheltering the asylum seekers.

Simultaneously, there are also efforts to protect houses of worship from luxury housing developments. Park Church Co-op, originally named the English Lutheran Church of the Messiah that offered English language services to the then-newly-settled German immigrant community, is facing a possible demolition by real estate developers but the community is fighting back. Caring for the community that the organization created in Greenpoint, residents are calling on the development company and the Attorney General to redirect this sale.  

Photo of Park Church Co-op with a sign posted at the door that reads, “Community Center Not Condos” showing community defiance to private real estate development. Photo by Jamie Hook via Greenpointers

Centers of Community

Houses of worship are playing critical roles in issues beyond housing through their space. Heart of the City Neighborhoods, a local organization in East Buffalo that has been working on housing and food security, sees faith-based organizations as channels that already have the trust, love, and care of their community. In their pursuit of linking housing and food security, the organization has been partnering with local churches to obtain grants to fill in vacant lots with single-family homes and affordable apartments. Its future plans include advocating for more grocery stores, supermarkets, and farmers markets in the area.

In Virginia, a local church became a new site for a child development program that supports pregnant women, infants, toddlers, and parents, providing services such as early learning, health and development screening, and family support. The program’s previous site, a local high school, needed to reclaim the space and the church was able to meet a great need in the community, exemplifying mutually beneficial community partnership.

These examples of spaces of worship serving as community service and support reflects their roles from the past. See this list of historic sites in NYC, including houses of faith, that served as safe houses along the Underground Railroad. With strong ties to abolitionist causes, these sites remind us of how houses of faith can contribute to greater movements in the city.

Photo of Brotherhood Synagogue in Gramercy Park,which played a significant role in the Underground Railroad. Photo via untapped new york

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