Sunday, March 18, 2018

Florida Church Activists Tackling Social Issues

April 18, 2010 by  
Filed under World News


The members of Broward Organized Leaders Doing Justice, also called BOLD Justice, were 500 strong as they waved signs and red cheerleader pom-poms at Little Flower Catholic Church in Hollywood.

“We can’t wait for politicians in Washington, D.C., or Tallahassee to come up with ideas and decisions,” said the Rev. Travis Kern of First Evangelical Lutheran Church in Fort Lauderdale. “We need people here to help people here.”

The social action group, established in September 2007, has so far tackled dental care, affordable housing and unemployment. The group comes up with solutions for specific problems, then seeks the help of Broward elected officials and social service agencies.

The results: Broward Regional Health Planning Council created a program for affordable or free dental care for low-income residents; and WorkForce One, a government agency that helps the jobless find work, can now fix common computer input errors that delay unemployment compensation for laid-off workers.

Previously, people eligible to collect unemployment had to fix mistakes by contacting an office in Tallahassee by phone, a process marred by busy signals, being put on hold for extended time and other delays.

In response to the housing issue, Broward County’s housing authority has opened 358 new low-cost units in Pompano Beach and Deerfield Beach.

But Kern said the housing issue remains on the problem list because the county fell short of its goal of opening 990 units by the end of 2009, and because the need is growing.

In 2008, when the group began discussing housing, they found that 48,000 Broward households were paying 50 percent or more of their income on rent or mortgage.

“Two years later, 58,000 households face the same injustice,” Kern said. “We don’t just stand for those people anymore. We stand with them.”

Crime replaced dental and unemployment after a vote by the multicongregation consortium in November 2009.

Bob Drake, of the crime committee at Little Flower, said meetings with police departments, other law enforcement agencies and the American Civil Liberties Union since November revealed that crime is increasing.

He also said that residents are less likely to report crimes or offer tips to help solve crimes.

The committee concluded that people believe the police will not respond in a positive way, that reporting crime does not change anything, and that people are fearful of the police.

“The police say that people can call in anonymously but in these days of caller ID who would ever believe that a call to a police station can’t be traced in seconds,” Drake said.

BOLD Justice would like to see a proven anonymous program for reporting crime. They would also like a study to prove or disprove claims among the membership of racial profiling.

“We’ve heard story after story about good people stopped simply walking down the street, pulled over, searched and then let go,” Drake said. “Without hard data there is nothing we can prove — but that does not mean we let it go.”

BOLD Justice is led by co-presidents, the Rev. Simon Osunlana of St. John United Methodist Church in Fort Lauderdale and the Rev. Roger Holoubek of Maurice Catholic in Dania Beach.

Here’s how the organization works:

Church leaders meet under the umbrella of the Direct Action and Research Training Center. DART helps 400 congregations nationwide organize action groups that address issues such as healthcare, public transportation and elderly services.

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