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Social justice through the power of housing has never been more important than it is right now! One way you can take action for positive change is with a donation to Downstreet in support of equitable opportunities for safe, healthy, and beautiful housing to those who have been marginalized for decades.
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IN THIS ISSUE:
A Message from Our Executive Director
Black Roots of the Modern Housing Movement
Spotlight on Racial Justice
COVID SASH Success
Participate in Washington County COVID Forum
Attention Landlords! Grant Money Now Available!

Downstreet Updates
Project Updates
News Feed
#MasksOnVT
"In Vermont, the homeownership rate for Black households today is just 21%, lower than it was when the Fair Housing Act was signed. That's right: lower."
 
Maura Collins, VHFA Executive Director
from her August 2nd commentary published in VTDigger.

A Few Words from Our Executive Director

The Roots of the Modern Housing Movement
The 1960s were a tumultuous time in our country. The continuous mistreatment of people of color that persisted over centuries – from slavery, to Black Codes and Jim Crow Laws, to the racial segregation and discrimination in the South that lead to the Great Migration – culminated with the start of the Civil Rights Movement. Perhaps the most ambitious of all the campaigns to come out of the Civil Rights Movement was the well-known Chicago Freedom Movement (also known as the Chicago Open Housing Movement), led by Civil Rights activists Martin Luther King Jr., James Bevel, and Al Raby. The Chicago Freedom Movement lasted for over a year and ultimately inspired the 1968 Fair Housing Act.
 
But in the Northeast, another smaller, grassroots movement was gaining momentum. Dorothy Mae Richardson, a resident of the Central North Side of Pittsburgh, started the movement after realizing how difficult it was to find good housing options when she helped a blind African American couple with their search for a suitable home. According to a 2019 Pittsburgh newspaper article, Colin Kelley, CEO of NeighborWorks Western Pennsylvania explained that “she looked around and saw the deplorable conditions many neighbors were living in, and a passion for housing equality was sparked.”

Richardson formed a group called Citizens Against Slum Housing (CASH), which put pressure on neighborhood landlords to do a better job maintaining their properties. Her attendance at an Equal Opportunity conference in 1965 allowed her to give voice to her group’s growing concern over inequitable housing opportunities in Pittsburgh neighborhoods. With this momentum, CASH led the charge for new housing projects and stricter code enforcement, and then widened their focus to include the issue of homeownership.

In Central North Pittsburgh neighborhoods, redlining was preventing Black residents from getting mortgages to purchase their own homes. The determined group of Black women who created CASH transformed the group into Neighborhood Housing Services (NHS), an organization that “amassed a $1 million high-risk revolving loan for homeownership and home repairs.” This was made possible by a public-private partnership between NHS and 16 different banks that the women of CASH had persuaded to participate. The NHS model resulted in thousands of Black households having access to low-interest home purchase and repair loans.

Remarkably, all of Dorothy Mae Richardson’s work to create CASH and the NHS predated the federal Community Reinvestment Act, which was put into law in 1977. Her hard work and dedication to breaking down racial barriers to quality housing and homeownership inspired the founding of NeighborWorks America.
Dorothy Mae Richardson: A Visionary
SPOTLIGHT ON RACIAL JUSTICE

We encourage you to support businesses owned by people of color whenever possible. Here is a list of Vermont businesses owned by people of color.
Ta-Nehisi Coates to Address “Racial Equity and Housing Justice During and After COVID-19” on October 6!

NYU’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute, and the National Low Income Housing Coalition for a conversation on “Racial Equity and Housing Justice during and after COVID-19” on October 6, at 1 pm ET. Register today for this live-stream event. Be sure to submit questions for Ta-Nehisi through the registration page or via social media using #RacialEquityandCOVID

 
Recommended Reading

Whether your journey has just begun or you are on your way to understanding your relationship with racial justice, there are some excellent books written by Black authors that we'd like to recommend. Each has a link to purchase the book online from a Black-owned bookstore.

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
Author: Michelle Alexander
Subject matter: Systemic Racism in Our Justice System

How to Be an Anti-Racist
Author: Ibram X. Kendi
Subject matter: Civil Rights, Personal Memoir, Discrimination and Race Relations

Me and White Supremacy
Author: Layla Saad
Subject matter: Discrimination and Race Relations, Prejudice and Racism, Minority Studies

White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide
Author: Carol Anderson
Subject Matter: U.S. History, Race Relations, Precjudice and Racism

COVID SASH Success

Part of what SASH Coordinator Jennifer LaPan loves about her job is that she gets to connect with people to make their days a little brighter, while also ensuring that they stay safe and healthy. Never has that been more true than during these challenging times in the age of COVID-19. Our SASH participants consist of older and disabled Vermonters, two groups of people who often need others to advocate for them. And that is exactly what Jennifer does for her participants like Kitty Currier.

During a visit to see family in Connecticut during the 4th of July weekend, Kitty fell off of a deck and suffered fractured bones. Following surgery and a hospital stay in Connecticut, she was moved to a rehabilitation facility, but her Vermont-based insurance wasn’t accepted. Kitty needed to come home to Vermont, but she also required continued care and had no way to coordinate the transfer herself. Her son stepped in and tried multiple times to arrange for her to secure a spot in a Vermont facility, but despite repeated attempts and phone calls, he wasn’t able to find a bed or get a response on how to help his injured mother.

Kitty’s son knew that she was a participant in the SASH program and decided to call Kitty’s SASH coordinator, our own Jennifer LaPan. Jennifer used her knowledge of Kitty’s case and her professional relationship with a care manager at Berlin Health and Rehab to connect with the Connecticut facility to arrange a transfer for Kitty.

Within two days, Kitty had a spot back in Vermont, but the plan was to place her in a facility located in Chittenden County, where a COVID-19 outbreak was active. Knowing that Kitty was a high risk for contracting the virus, Jennifer pushed for Kitty to be placed in Washington County instead, where the rate of infection is much lower. Jennifer was successful and after a few weeks of rehabilitation in Berlin, Kitty was able to return to her home in Montpelier.

While the outcomes we see from SASH indicate collective success across the state, it is the individual stories like this that really make the program special. Our SASH Coordinators develop a strong and unique bond with their participants, taking on a role in their lives that is similar to that of a family member. It is this human connection, empathy, and caring that is what really makes this continuum of care the success that it is.
Our SASH team appreciates the fact that mental and emotional well-being is just as important as physical health. That's why they started up a pen pal program! COVID-19 is a lonely time for many, especially those at higher risk for contracting the virus. So participants were given the opportunity to sign up to be paired with another participant whom they do not already know. Our SASH team sent them pens, paper and envelops to start them off. Now, they are writing letters back and forth in order to nurture and grow the sense of human connection. Below is a letter from a happy pen pal participant expressing her gratitude for the program.

YOU'RE INVITED TO TAKE PART IN THE WASHINGTON COUNTY COVID-19 RECOVERY FORUM

The Local Solutions and Community Action Team established by Governor Phil Scott invite you to participate in the Washington County COVID-19 Recovery Forum. Be a part of the conversation to:
  • Share challenges and ideas for community recovery and resilience as we look ahead to the coming fall/winter months
  • Involve and engage a diverse set of community members in the process

 

The Washington County forum will revolve around these 4 topics:

  • Building Community Unity & Health
  • Housing & Homelessness Prevention
  • Rethinking Employment & Supporting Business Recovery
  • Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation
County reports will be generated as a result and will be used to steer state and county recovery decisions.
 

All ARE WELCOME and registration is required.

 

Please consider participating if you are able, or complete this survey to share your thoughts in lieu of attending the forum.

Attention Landlords!
Grant Money Available for Rental Repairs

Grant money is NOW AVAILABLE for apartment repairs through the Vermont State Rental Rehab Program!

Through the new program, landlords can receive a grant of up to $30,000 per rental unit (maximum award limit will apply). Applications are now ready!

Downstreet is administering this program for Washington, Orange, and Lamoille counties, but if you are outside of that area, you can still apply for a grant! Please see our website for a list of organizations to contact if you are outside of our service area.

Downstreet Updates

NeighborWorks HomeOwnership Center

Despite the challenges that the COVID-19 outbreak has presented, Kira, Cheryl, and Pattie, the three amazing ladies who work in our NeighborWorks HomeOwnership Center, have helped 77 new homeowners purchase homes over the last year. Awesome work ladies!

 

Property & Asset Management

After having to pause much of their field work since March, our Property Management Department is ready to continue some very important work conducting annual apartment inspections.

 

Support & Services at Home (SASH)

Our SASH staff continues to be a touchpoint for disabled and older Vermonters who participate in our SASH program.

 

COVID-19 Return-to-Office Plan

While our doors will remain closed to the public, we have created a plan for staff who wish to work in the office from time to time. The plan includes practices and protocols to ensure the presence of a Downstreet Health Officer onsite during work hours, social distancing, mask-wearing, and cleaning requirements. Even though work in the office won’t be a complete return to “normal,” we are excited to be able to slowly and safely welcome staff back.

Project Updates

TINY "MIGHTY" HOUSE PROJECT

We are collaborating with Washington County Mental Health Services and Norwich University's School of Architecture and Art to design and construct two tiny homes that will provide permanent, supportive housing to formerly homeless individuals. The first home has been finished and placed in Barre City. Additionally, an existing house next to the tiny home lot has been renovated and convertede to a two-apartment multi-family home. The second tiny home is being constructed this summer.
JULY UPDATE:
Construction on the 2nd Tiny House has been paused due to a 2-week quarantine period at Norwich University where the work is taking place. Once the campus reopens, work will continue to finish the house and ensure that it is weather-tight.
STIMSON AND GRAVES RENOVATIONS
 
Our Stimson and Graves property in Waterbury is due for some capital work! The work includes window replacements, mechanical upgrades, and apartment renovations, all while tenants continue to reside in the building. COVID-19 caused the project to pause in March as accommodations were made to keep the older Vermonters who live in the building safe. After adjustments were made to the building to ensure the safety of both the residents and the contractors, construction resumed earlier this summer. The project team includes S2 Architecture as the architect and Naylor and Breen as the construction manager.
JULY UPDATE:
Phase 3 of the construction work is wrapping up! After testing out the exterior paint on a small section of the building, the colors were approved and painting is continuing. Inside, the boiler will be replaced soon.
Housing Newsfeed
A look at housing and social justice across the country.
Policing, Segregation, and Causation vs. Correlation
Racial disparities in police killings increase with segregation. Does this mean segregation causes racialized police violence?
 
‘We Need Those Houses’­—Activists Take Over Vacant Housing Authority-Owned Homes
About 50 people—mostly single mothers and their children—have been living in vacant Philadelphia Housing Authority units since March. The move-ins are both acts of necessity and a political protest against the PHA.
 
Not Your Granddad’s Suburb: Trump’s Racist Appeals Fall Flat In Diversified Suburbs
Trump attempted to win over the suburbs by using racist buzzwords, demonstrating his ignorance of what modern suburbia looks like.

 
Hotel Rooms for the Homeless Change Health Outcomes Beyond COVID
Beyond the crucial goal of reducing the spread of COVID-19, providers say that the shift from congregate shelters to hotel rooms has made dramatic positive change for their clients. 
 
Trump’s Empty Shell of a Promise to Renters
Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, slams President Trump's latest executive order as "reckless and harmful."

Love Vermont? We do, too!

To keep Vermont safe, healthy and thriving, please wear a face covering or mask when you’re out and about—whether it's running errands, around people you don’t live with, or in a busy area. Doing so helps prevent the spread of COVID-19 and allows Vermont to continue to reopen. We all need to do our part to get Vermont back in business.
Montpelier SASH participants Lolly and Dick Bullard wear their masks to protect those around them. Won't you wear your mask to protect them and those around you?
Donate Now
Every donation to Downstreet gives more families the opportunity to create a safe, healthy, stable home. Give a gift to Downstreet today.
 
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