By: Tony McCray
Unity in the Family represented Pensacola and Northwest Florida at the Center for Fair Housing’s Sixth Annual Gulf Coast Regional Justice Leadership Summit in Mobile from May 18th to the 20th. The theme for this year’s Fair Housing Month commemoration was “Shared Opportunity in Every Community” which reflects the importance of every person in America having access to the same housing choices and economic possibilities. The Center advocates that where a family lives determines which schools their children will attend, what community benefits they will receive, and the job opportunities that they will have access to. The goal of the Justice Leadership Summit is the continued development of the Community Advocacy & Justice Policy Initiative (CAJP) to meet its mission of serving as a full service fair housing center, to advocate and enforce fair housing and related civil rights laws, and educate the communities they serve in order to promote more healthy, inclusive communities.
The policy initiative was envisioned to connect with disadvantaged communities to address issues of injustice for low-income families and communities. For example, through this initiative the Center continues to respond to the serious challenges emerging out of the Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Ivan, and the economic and environmental devastation left by the BP Oil Spill. These Gulf Coast regional disasters have led to regional planning by community partners. The Center’s network of regional partners includes Unity in the Family Ministry in Pensacola and representation from groups out of Mississippi and Louisiana.
Teresa Bettis, the Center for Fair Housing’s Executive Director reported that the 2016 Summit goals to create new leaders, share relevant information, and provide tools and connections to strengthen shared work across the Gulf South was achieved with over 50 participants from multiple areas of work primarily in Alabama, with partners from Florida, North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, and Louisiana.
The Summit participants reached unanimous agreement that every issue that they focused on is related to other issues and that they can build stronger collective strategies through this process. This strategy is strengthened when residents are linked to the people who are affected to the broader impact of what is happening in minority and poor communities and why it is happening.
Agreements on Solutions & Visions include:
Leverage and prepare for funding that could come through the BP Oil Spill Restore Act and BP Settlement dollars as the catalyst for bringing additional private and public investment low income and minority communities.
The Economic Justice vision include functional small business incubators, renovation of downtowns, affordable and sustainable housing, and heritage tourism, clean water systems, a working transit system, regular community cleanups,
The Restorative Justice vision includes increased GED programs inside prisons and expansion of supportive reentry programs; deeper investigation and assessment of current prison conditions, data collection and public reviews of systems that are not working.
The group will also facilitate more education and awareness across all of these issues across the Gulf Coast communities.
Center for Fair Housing will facilitate a monthly planning and coordination meeting that will lay the foundation for a successful and transformative summit in 2017. Unity in the Family extended an invitation to the participants at the Center for Fair Housing Summit to attend the Gulf Coast Regional Equity to Achieve Prosperity Summit in Pensacola on August 19th and 20th in Pensacola at the Grand Hotel.