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Removing Employment Barriers For the Most Vulnerable. Work To Be Done.

August 11, 2017 Leave a comment

Today I read an article from the ABA JournalNY District Attorney’s efforts resulted in some $644,000 of minor offenses being dismissed. Check out the article here.

In making his argument in support of the massive dismissals, the District Attorney explained to the Judge that:

“New Yorkers with 10-year-old summons warrants face unnecessary unemployment risk, housing and immigration consequences,”

 

Such unintended consequences are not unique to New York City.

In West Michigan, our community development organizations see firsthand that outstanding warrants cause significant barriers to employment and housing. Immigration is an ever increasing topic of local and national concern.

 

Indeed, the ABA Journal had noted several years ago that Post-conviction consequences make it difficult for ex-offenders to find jobs – here

The ABAJournal noted that: “The U.S. economy loses up to $65 billion in output each year because of fewer job opportunities for convicted felons, according to a 2010 study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

The Small Business Association of Michigan – has previously reported that:

Convicts leaving incarceration often have a difficult time re-entering the working world because, according to one survey, 65 percent of employers would never consider hiring someone with a felony record.

 

Michigan’s Role..

Michigan government has taken steps to remove such employment barriers. The Work Opportunity Act was introduced in the Senate back in February to further incentive businesses in hiring former convicted felons.  You can check out my previous articles on the matter here.

More Locally…

Check out Mel Trotter Ministries and their Community Outreach Court – formerly “Street Court” initiative.

mel-trotter-ministries-1122_20111229171415_320_240

An older  press release (here) details how MTM, Degage Ministries and Heartside Ministries help the homeless with criminal backgrounds.

I’m thankful for the work that Mel Trotter, Degage, Heartside, and other organizations are doing to help the homeless in West Michigan clear up outstanding legal issues that are just another obstacle between them and employment..

Also Worth Praising their Efforts….

There are a number of great companies who reach out to support putting Michiganders with certain barriers to work.  Goodwill Industries of Greater Grand Rapids lead by CEO Kathy Crosby does a fantastic job of equipping this demographic and putting them into long term employment.

Some West Michigan companies who do a great job of reaching out to hire/place those with employment barriers are Cascade Engineering and its Founder Fred Keller. Others include Lacks EnterprisesKentwood Office Furniture and Express Employment Professionals of Grand Rapids lead by Janis Petrini to name a few.

These community partners deserve praise for their work putting to work the “unemployable” and the vulnerable in our local community.

To conclude:

there’s work to be done.

Questions? Comments?

e-mail: Jeshua@dwlawpc.com

www.dwlawpc.com

Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka

Community Revitalization To Include Downtown Grocery Stores: Update on The Urban Food Initiative.

August 1, 2017 Leave a comment

Yesterday I read a story about a Detroiter, Raphael Wright who plans on opening a “mission-driven supermarket” in downtown Detroit. Check out the article on NextCity.

Raphael’s idea is sparked by a much needed grocery option in Detroit- particularly for low-income residents.

I love this idea.

A few years back I took my family to New York City. We loved the walk-ability of City life – that you could walk down a block to a grocery store and get all of your household needs.

food-healthy-vegetables-potatoesI love downtown Grand Rapids.

 

If Grand Rapids wants to encourage urban living, it needs a downtown grocery store.

In February, House Bill 4207 was introduced in the Michigan house. Known as the “Urban Food Initiative” it would provide incentives for community revitalization that would include a downtown Grocery Store.

 

 

Specifically, HB 4207 would make “Urban Food Initiatives” allowable to receive funds under the Michigan Community Revitalization Program

 

An update since my last post, in May, the Trade and Commerce Committee recommended a substitute bill, check here.

The Bill substitute changed the name,  Urban Food Initiatives, to “NEIGHBORHOOD AND COMMERCIAL CORRIDOR FOOD INITIATIVE”  – thereby broadening the applicability of these community revitalization incentives –  I have bracketed the additional language:

Property that will be used primarily as a retail supermarket, grocery store, produce market or delicatessen that is located in a downtown [OR IN A DEVELOPMENT AREA AS DEFINED IN SECTION 2 OF 3 THE CORRIDOR IMPROVEMENT AUTHORITY ACT] area…that offers unprocessed USDA inspected meat and poultry products or meat products that carry the USDA organic seal, fresh fruit and vegetables, and dairy products for sale to the public.”

The other substantive revision to the substitute bill would require that at least 5% of community revitalization incentives be awarded to these initiatives. Check out the Bill Analysis from the House Fiscal Agency, for more information.

 

Clearly having available and healthy food options in a downtown are necessary to City living, particularly for low-income residents. Check out a previous article from Next City about the Food Revolution in Detroit.

A downtown grocery store is necessary if a City wants to attract urban living – it is also necessary to provide healthy food options for those living downtown without readily available transportation.

 

 

I think particularly of the under-employed and the homeless who receive services from organizations like Mel Trotter Ministries. Grand Rapids has a need for affordable housing for the most vulnerable in our society. It would be great to see grocery options as well.

I am looking forward to tracking the progress of this bill. I am also encouraged by the many businesses in West Michigan taking serious their responsibility as community stakeholders and asking the question: “How am I building a better community?

e-mail: Jeshua@dwlawpc.com

http://www.dwlawpc.com

Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka

Recent Michigan House Bill Would Repeal Prohibition on Rent Control – A Response to the Affordable Housing Crisis?

April 13, 2017 Leave a comment

2017-03-07 15.13.50

On March 30, 2017 House Bill 4456 was introduced. The Bill would repeal Michigan’s prohibition on Rent Control.

The Bill was presumably proposed in response to the affordable housing crisis in Michigan and all across the United States. Other local governments across the U.S. are exploring legislative avenues to address the housing crisis.

 

 

According to Representative Chang, who introduced the Bill, the current rent control prohibition “makes it increasingly difficult for seniors and some families to find affordable housing, or to stay in the apartments they’ve lived in for many years.”
Representative Chang was apparently referring to the affordable housing crisis in Detroit. From all accounts, Grand Rapids is facing an affordable housing crisis as well.

 

Grand Rapids Housing Crisis

As many of you may know, a few months back the Grand Rapids Chamber hosted an Issue Summit on the Housing Crisis in Grand Rapids.

The Summit brought speakers representing many community stakeholders, including representatives from 616 DevelopmentGrand Rapids Urban League,Rockford ConstructionICCFMSHDA, and many local non-profits, including Mel Trotter MinistriesHQHeartside Ministries, on this lack of affordable housing, what is as Mayor Bliss emphasized, admittedly, “a complex issue”.

I have previously offered my own perspective, both as a lawyer representing real estate developers/investors, and as Board Chairman at Mel Trotter Ministries.

 

Is there an Answer found in Social Enterprise?

A few months back, Jim Harger with MLive posted a thorough article on the affordable housing crisis.

One community partner highlighted was Pastor Jim Davis and his company “Purpose Properties

“The mission of Purpose Properties is to “raise enough money from local foundations and philanthropists to buy market-rate and affordable rental properties in the city.”

According to Jim Harger’s article:

Purpose Properties plans to charge market rates for its properties to those who can afford them and use their profits to subsidize the rents of those who cannot afford market rates.”

We need more businesses and community stakeholders to approach our community problems like Jim Davis and Purpose Properties.

 

Community Partners Collaborating

Recently Mel Trotter Ministries announced that it was partnering with 3:11 Youth Housing to provide housing for homeless males 18-24.

As Mayor Bliss stated at the Housing Summit – the affordable housing crisis presents a complex issue.

It will take all community stakeholders to do their part – businesses, churches, government, and non-profits.

 

The question we should all ask ourselves: Am I working to build a better community?

 

e-mail: Jeshua@dwlawpc.com

Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka

Michigan Legislation Update: The Urban Food Initiative. Community Revitalization To Include Downtown Grocery Stores.

February 15, 2017 Leave a comment

Two Thanksgivings ago I took my family to New York City.

Even amidst the chaos of protecting my 4 young children from darting out in2015-11-26-13-04-02to oncoming traffic – we absolutely loved the City.

We loved the walk-ability of City life – that you could walk down a block to a grocery store and get all of your household needs.

I love downtown Grand Rapids.

If Grand Rapids wants to encourage urban living, it needs a downtown grocery store.

Yesterday, House Bill 4207 was introduced in the Michigan house. Known as the “Urban Food Initiative” it would provide incentives for community revitalization that would include a downtown Grocery Store.

Specifically, HB 4027 would make “Urban Food Initiatives” allowable to receive funds under the Michigan Community Revitalization Program

The Bill defines Urban Food Initiatives as:

Property that will be used primarily as a retail supermarket, grocery store, produce market or delicatessen that is located in a downtown area…that offers unprocessed USDA inspected meat and poultry products or meat products that carry the USDA organic seal, fresh fruit and vegetables, and dairy products for sale to the public.”

Clearly having available and healthy food options in a downtown are necessary to City living. Check out today’s article from Next City about the Food Revolution in Detroit.

A downtown grocery store is necessary if a City wants to attract urban living – it is also necessary to provide healthy food options for those living downtown without readily available transportation.

I think particularly of the under-employed and the homeless who receive services from organizations like Mel Trotter Ministries. Grand Rapids has a need for affordable housing for the most vulnerable in our society. It would be great to see grocery options as well.

I am looking forward to tracking the progress of this bill. I am also encouraged by the many businesses in West Michigan asking the question: “How am I building a better community?

e-mail: Jeshua@dwlawpc.com

http://www.dwlawpc.com

Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka

A “Fierce Urgency.”​ Reflections on Community Development/Affordable Housing.

January 18, 2017 Leave a comment

“We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there “is” such a thing as being too late. This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

Yesterday, I took a picture of this quote from Dr. King, on the overhead of the Grand Rapids Urban League’s 17th Annual Corporate Breakfast in honor of Dr. Martinimg_1373 Luther King Jr.

In light of Dr. King’s quote, Co-Executive Director of LINC UP Darel Ross II spoke eloquently and boldly on the topic of Housing and Community Development.`

Grand Rapids has an Affordable Housing Crisis.

This Fall the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce hosted an Issue Summit on the topic of the Affordable Housing Crisis in Grand Rapids.

The Summit brought speakers representing many community stakeholders, including representatives from 616 DevelopmentGrand Rapids Urban League,Rockford ConstructionICCFMSHDA, and many local non-profits, including Mel Trotter MinistriesHQHeartside Ministries, on this lack of affordable housing, what is as Mayor Bliss emphasized, admittedly, “a complex issue”.

I have previously offered my own perspective, both as a lawyer representing real estate developers/investors, and as Board Chairman at Mel Trotter Ministries.

All people are valuable – made in the image of God.

There are people who are hurting in our local community.

Dr. King’s quote is applicable to us, today.

There is a “fierce urgency for now.”

What Mel Trotter Ministries is doing.

In 2016 Mel Trotter Ministries helped 216 families and individuals find permanent housing.

There is still much work to be done.

There are still a significant number of hurting families who need housing in Grand Rapids, alone.

It requires action on our part.

The easy route is apathy and complacence.

Take action.

I invite anyone reading this to join me for lunch sometime and learn what we at Mel Trotter Ministries, in collaboration with so many others, are doing to end homelessness.

e-mail: Jeshua@dwlawpc.com

 

Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka

A Lawyer’s Year-End Reflections.

December 29, 2016 Leave a comment

img_1338-002It is the end of 2016. I am having “big picture” thoughts as the year ends.

I have a pretty nice “big picture” view out of my office window.

Out of my office window from the 12th floor of 99 Monroe overlooks many ice skaters at Rosa Parks’ Circle in downtown Grand Rapids.

It is certainly a fun time of the year: my kids love Christmas break – being home from school, getting presents, visiting with family.

But right now I can’t help but feel a sense of heaviness in my heart.

My grandmother passed away last week. Traveling home to Saginaw to see her in her last days and attend the funeral was challenging.

The reality is that this time of year is hard for many people, for many reasons.

This week I was reminded specifically of this hard reality when I attended a court hearing for a real estate investor client. FYI, to any real estate owner or manager, a recent unpublished court of appeals case that you might want to check out: Anderson v Chaundy. This case provides a good example of what not to do when evicting a tenant.

If you want to feel depressed, just show up at any local courthouse for the landlord/tenant docket.

Invariably, you will see among those present, individuals whose spirits are down – for all sorts of reasons.

I was in the courtroom this particular day and couldn’t help but notice the hopelessness in the eyes of a particular individual being evicted for non-payment of rent. I also noticed the distinct smell of alcohol on this person, at 9 in the morning.

This person did not dispute that they owed rent. The result? This person would be ordered out of their apartment in ten days.

I’m not ashamed to say that as the current Chairman of the Board of Mel Trotter Ministries, I care very deeply about the homeless, hurting, and hungry.

Walking out of the courtroom, my “Mel Trotter” hat keeps my mind going…

What is going to become of this person?

Maybe they end up sleeping in their car, maybe under a bridge.

Hopefully this person ends up receiving help – to meet them where they are at. Places like Mel Trotter Ministries, that will take in families and individuals to care for them – provide them time to get into affordable housing.

An encouraging statistic – since January 2016, MTM has placed 217 families & individuals into permanent homes.

I’m not trying to bring anyone down during a festive time of year – but as this year ends I wanted to bring two “big picture” realities to the forefront:

  1. The Holiday Season aside, there remains great injustice in this world.
  2. There is great hope.

There are families and individuals that are truly hurting this holiday season.

There are people who have lost loved ones; lost homes. People who are victims of injustice.

The good news is that we can all do something to offer hope to the hopeless.

You can volunteer or provide a year end gift to support organizations locally, like Mel Trotter MinistriesKalamazoo Gospel MissionKids Food Basket, Volunteers in ServiceWestwood Christian ServicesHQ Grand Rapids, Goodwill Industries of Greater Grand Rapids, or globally, like International Justice MissionCompassion International, and many more.

I hope you will join me in this Christmas season and send out gifts and prayers to make an impact in the lives of those hurting.

Update on Community Development and Affordable Housing: Is an Answer Found in Social Enterprise?

October 31, 2016 4 comments

Today the Community Development Financial Institutions Fund released its five year Strategic Plan

If you are not familiar with the CDFI, the CDFI “works to spur economic growth and opportunity in many of our nation’s most distressed communities.2015-11-26-13-04-02

“The CDFI Fund’s mission is to expand economic opportunity for underserved people and communities by supporting the growth and capacity of a national network of community development lenders, investors, and financial service providers.”

Included in the overarching goal for the CDFI’s strategic plan is promoting community development. If you have a few minutes, take a look at the strategic plan.

The Affordable Housing Problem in Grand Rapids

As many of you may know, a few weeks back the Grand Rapids Chamber hosted an Issue Summit on the Housing Crisis in Grand Rapids.

The Summit brought speakers representing many community stakeholders, including representatives from 616 DevelopmentGrand Rapids Urban League,Rockford ConstructionICCFMSHDA, and many local non-profits, including Mel Trotter MinistriesHQHeartside Ministries, on this lack of affordable housing, what is as Mayor Bliss emphasized, admittedly, “a complex issue”.

I have previously offered my own perspective, both as a lawyer representing real estate developers/investors, and as Board Chairman at Mel Trotter Ministries.Is there an answer found in Social Enterprise?

Last week Jim Harger with MLive posted a thorough article on the affordable housing crisis.

One community partner highlighted was Pastor Jim Davis and his company “Purpose Properties

“The mission of Purpose Properties is to “raise enough money from local foundations and philanthropists to buy market-rate and affordable rental properties in the city.”

According to Jim Harger’s article:

Purpose Properties plans to charge market rates for its properties to those who can afford them and use their profits to subsidize the rents of those who cannot afford market rates.”

My thoughts:

This is social entrepreneurship at its finest. Social entrepreneurs engage their community by using the power of business to solve a social problem.

We need more businesses and community stakeholders to approach our community problems like Jim Davis and Purpose Properties.

The question we should all ask ourselves: Am I working to build a better community?

Jeshua@dwlawpc.com

 

Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka