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Posts Tagged ‘Mel Trotter Ministries’

Standing in the Gap for Those in Need: My Review of HillBilly Elegy

I just finished reading a book called “Hillbilly Elegy” by JD Vance.

What I liked about this book:

So many striking themes from my own family of origin:

poverty, dysfunctional family relationships, addiction, alcoholism, abuse, vulnerability.

It is also personally interesting to me that, like me, JD Vance also ended up graduating from high school, then college, then law school and became a lawyer, beating the odds of those family members that raised him (or failed to raise him).

For those who grew up in middle/upper class families, it is an eye-opening insight into a large segment of our culture lives.

Two key take away points for me from this book:

  1. People Become Homeless Due To Lack of Community.

At Mel Trotter Ministries, we often point to the quote in this photo as one of the primary factors for homelessness.

JD’s book confirmed that fact to me, in his own experiences.

In short, if its because of a lack of community that people tend to enter into homelessness, community needs to be part of what gets them out.

We need to do a better job of being community to the most vulnerable people in our own community, wherever that is.

2. Do Not Underestimate the Impact You can Make in a Child’s Life.

For the last 5 years I have spent every Thursday during the school year mentoring an elementary school-aged boy.

These boys, in large part, suffer from the same tragedies:
poverty, dysfunctional family relationships, addiction, alcoholism, abuse, vulnerability.

I can’t think of a better use of my time – one hour a week than spending it telling a kid that he is valued – he has what it takes – who may not hear that from any other place.

As a kid, I remember being desperate to hear such words from an adult.

“You have What it Takes”

Imagine if all of the struggling students in our local communities had adults who were consistently showing up in their lives telling them:

“You have What it Takes”

My call to you, go be that person in the life of some vulnerable kid today.

Questions? Comments?

E-mail: Jeshua@dwlawpc.com

http://www.dwlawpc.com

Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka

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Community Spotlight: Next Step of West Michigan – walking alongside the most vulnerable

March 27, 2019 1 comment

Yesterday I visited with Jonathan Peerboom – Program and Development Director of Next Step of West Michigan (Next Step) – a faith-based nonprofit employing people coming out of prison or rehab and providing them with a community of support that will help them integrate into the workforce, regain hope and empower themselves to create a better future.

Jonathan Peerboom, Program and Development Director, Next Step of West Michigan

John’s Story.

What really impacted me about my visit was meeting “John” and hearing his story.

John is an employee of Next Step. John was putting together crates and stopped to talk with me and greeted me with a huge smile and an enthusiastic handshake.

Like many of us, John has experienced many struggles and hardships over his life, starting with a traumatic childhood which caused ripple effects throughout his adult life. John ended up spending 10 years in prison.

As many of us know, the barrier to employment and re-entry into society after a felony conviction and extended prison sentence is often times insurmountable.

When society is telling the Johns of this world that they have nothing to offer this world, that they are only valued if they have the right looks, status, job, house, money, family, etc… Next Step is telling those, like John, like me once as a kid, the opposite.

John has inherent value.

He is worthy to be loved because he is a person, made in the image of God.

Next Step gave John a job – the integrity of working for a living – and through words and acts tells John that is loved and inherently valued. Now, John, 7 years removed from prison, is a changed man.

A Sustainable Non-profit.

Next Step states on its website that
it is “a nonprofit that aims to make a real impact in the lives of its employees, while maintaining a financial model anchored in sustainability.”

Approximately 85% of its revenue is through a delivery of services or goods. The remaining 15% are investment gifts that fund administration costs, provide for new initiatives and increase capacity.

Next Step operates like a social enterprise – it has a self-sustaining business model that employees

Relationships Change lives.

Yesterday after meeting with Jonathan at Next Step, we traveled not too far down Division for luncheon held at Mel Trotter Ministries, another community partner along with Next Step serving the most vulnerable in our community.

I love this quote that is often spoken of at Mel Trotter Ministries – “People don’t become homeless when they run out of money. They become homeless when they run out of relationships.”

That is our job.

Being those relationships for the most vulnerable.

Not just “one-way relationships” but truly reaching out in community in a sustainable way.

Keep up the good work Jonathan and Team at Next Step! Next Step would love to partner with you if you want to learn more about the work they are doing in our community. I encourage you to check out their website or email Jonathan

Questions? Comments?

email: Jeshua@dwlawpc.com

http://www.dwlawpc.com

Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka

Rent Control is now a Law in Oregon – But is it a Proper Response to an Affordable Housing Crisis?

March 12, 2019 Leave a comment

Good afternoon, all. This week I am back in the office after taking some time to recover from a cornea transplant. My eyes are still pretty sensitive to the light, but it was great to see the sun rise over Grand Rapids this morning.

Rent Control as a way of Combating Affordable Housing Crisis?

Today I saw a headline from the Rental Property Owners Association – check it out here RPOA reports:

During the last week of February, Oregon became the first U.S. state to pass comprehensive statewide rent-control legislation which aims to be the latest solution to an affordable housing crisis already exacerbated by previous regulatory burdens such as urban growth boundaries and overly restrictive zoning.

Real Estate Investing Today reports on the story in more detail. According to Oregon’s Governor:

 “this legislation will provide some immediate relief to Oregonians struggling to keep up with rising rents and a tight rental market.”

However, according to Real Estate Investing Today, “Oregon House Republicans had a far more realistic take on the new law:”

“Passage of this bill also raises a more serious question: If a property owner can’t decide who lives in their apartments and houses, who really owns the property? Certainly, it is no longer the one who pays the property taxes.”

Michigan’s Affordable Housing Crisis

It seems pretty evident to me that Oregon’s passage of the Rent Control Bill was in response to an Affordable Housing Crisis that we have been experiencing across the U.S.

In fact, two years ago a Rent Control Bill was proposed in the Michigan House of Representatives- you can check out my post on that here

That Bill made no traction. It died in the Local Government Committee.

The Bill was presumably a response to Michigan’s Affordable Housing Crisis.

It has been several yeas since 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 Grand Rapids Urban League,Rockford ConstructionICCFMSHDA, and many local non-profits, including Mel Trotter MinistriesHQHeartside Ministries, on the 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.

Private and Public Community Stakeholders Doing Their Part

A few years have gone by since Kent County was first acknowledged to have an affordable housing crisis. The crisis is still present. There many community stakeholders that are actively playing a role in being part of the solution: providing housing for the most vulnerable. I think of a company like Urbaneer and Bruce Thompson and applaud Bruce for his work. We need more companies like Urbaneer – providing innovative solutions to a housing crisis.

I also think of the non-profit sector – organizations like ICCF and Mel Trotter Ministries finding unique ways through social enterprise to house the most vulnerable.

Kent County has provided several unique tools, including the Eviction Prevention Program.

I don’t think rent control is the answer.

I believe we all have a role to play.

We should all ask ourselves: Am I working to build a better community?

E-mail: Jeshua@dwlawpc.com

www.dwlawpc.com

Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka

Grand Rapids Social Enterprise, L3Cs and a Call to Community Partnership.

November 21, 2018 Leave a comment

Yesterday I visited with Dr. Justin Beene – Founder of Grand Rapids Center for Community Transformation  (GRCCT) – a collective of non-profit/for-profits working to see flourishing in Grand Rapids for all.  GCCT is essentially a hub for social enterprise, for the common good of the Greater Grand Rapids Area.

Justin Beene

Dr. Justin Beene, the future expansion of GRCCT

GRCCT states on its website that Grand Rapids was ranked the number one city in the United States to raise kids by Forbes Magazine (Van Riper, 2012).

Even more, the city has been ranked as one of the most philanthropic areas in the United States (Raghaven, 2013).

GRCCT mentions the powerful presence of the institution of the Church in Grand Rapids, and over 2,800 nonprofits.

This all sounds good, but there is much work to be done. There is still great need in the Grand Rapids Community.

 

 

despite the affluence, giving, and nonprofit services in West Michigan, the outlook in education, employment, and long-term quality of life for many urban citizens looks bleak. 

Forbes Magazine just recently released a study of 52 metropolitan cities in the United States and found Grand Rapids to be the second worst city in the country for African-Americans to live based on business ownership/entrepreneurship, median income, and home ownership (Kotkin, 2014)…

Youth living in the urban center of Grand Rapids are among the most impoverished young people in the country.”

 

In response to the great need in our city, particularly for youths struggling with poverty,  GRCCT supports several social enterprises (Rising Grinds Cafe and Building Bridges) that not only provide skills/job training but also provides revenue for the long-term sustainability of these programs.

 

Low-Profit Limited Liability Companies.

Both Rising Grinds Cafe and Building Bridges are Michigan Low-profit Limited Liability Companies (L3Cs)

Back in 2009 the Michigan legislature authorized the formation of these “hybrid” business entities.

L3Cs are formed fundamentally for a charitable/socially beneficial purpose, but unlike non-profit corporations, members can own equity in these L3Cs.
L3Cs – Viable Tools for Social Entrepreneurs…

I’ve said this before- L3Cs are a viable tool for social entrepreneurs – they tell the whole world that your company exists, fundamentally to do good.

Certainly, that is the purpose of both Rising Grinds Cafe and Building Bridges –  they exist for the common good.

 

Doing our Part – Being a Good Community Partner.

Grand Rapids is taking deliberate steps to help those most in need, particularly in the area of affordable housing

Recent national headlines demonstrate that there is a lot of mixed feelings about the proper solutions to the affordable housing crisis facing many cities across the U.S.

 

One key take point that GRCCT inherently understands:

 

Creating real change requires an entire community’s involvement.

 

GRCCT is looking for individuals, businesses, organizations

MTM

who will partner for the common good of the Greater Grand Rapids Area.

I love this quote that is often spoken of at Mel Trotter Ministries – “People don’t become homeless when they run out of money. They become homeless when they run out of relationships.”

That is our job. Being those relationships for the most vulnerable.

Not just “one-way relationships” but truly reaching out in community in a sustainable way.

Keep up the good work Justin and all at GRCCT.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grand Rapids Combats the Affordable Housing Crisis through the Rental Assistance Center

September 20, 2018 2 comments

Today was my first day back mentoring my student at a local elementary school in the City of Grand Rapids.

MTM

I was excited to catch up with my student, what had changed over the summer?

One thing that changed, he had moved once again. Having to be concerned about where you will be sleeping at night, is a concern that no kid should have.

In fact, Mel Trotter Ministries reports that in Kent and Ottawa

County there are over 3,300 homeless school-aged children.

 

 

Yesterday evening was Mel Trotter Ministries’ Annual Season of Hope Event. There, once again, was presented the information on the above photo. People become homeless due to a lack of relationships.

Our community needs to come around those who are vulnerable. One way that our community is doing that, is through the public/private collaborations to address the affordable housing crisis in Grand Rapids.

 

There is an Affordable Housing Crisis.

As many of you know, Kent County, like much of the U.S. is experiencing a serious lack of Affordable Housing.

The City of Grand Rapids has made concerted efforts to address problem through an advisory board, which has come up with strategies for addressing the Affordable Housing Crisis

Last year I posted on one of those tools that I deal with fir

st hand in representing landlords, real estate investors and property management companies – the Kent County Eviction Prevention Program. You can check out a blog post I wrote about that here

I have seen firsthand that this program can be a useful tool to keep families facing temporary emergencies in housing.

The EPP was developed as a collaborative effort between the City of Grand Rapids, Salvation Army of West Michigan, The Kent County Court System, the Michigan Department of Human Services and with funding provided by Steelcase.

Why I like this program.

This program provides an opportunity to keep people in housing who are on the verge of being homeless. The fact is, families are experiencing homelessness in Grand Rapids every day.

 

 

City, Grand Rapids Housing Commission create Rental Assistance Center

 

Today I read that the City of Grand Rapids and the Grand Rapids Housing Commission have established a two-year pilot for a Rental Assistance C

enter for low-income households. Check out the complete press release here.

According to the press release:

“The Rental Assistance Center – approved by the City Commission on Tuesday – will connect households that earn 80 percent or less of the Area Median Income (AMI) with vacant rental properties and refer “rent-ready” applicants to landlords, increasing the efficiency of the rental search for households and landlords.”

Further – households who are “not rent-ready” “who – do n

ot meet established landlord criteria – will be referred to a resident service coordinator who can help them overcome barriers to secure rental housing.”

 

 

Housing is a community problem. It is encouraging to see the great collaboration between government, private sector, non-profit sector.

We all have a role to play. I hope you can find yours.

 

e-mail: Jeshua@dwlawpc.com

Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka

www.dwlawpc.com

Removing Barriers for the Vulnerable in our Society.

September 19, 2018 Leave a comment

 

Today is the first day of Artprize!  I took this photo today. For the next few weeks Grand Rapids will be swarming with visitors to see Art like the “Phoenix” – see below a photo I took.

 

9.19

Mel Trotter Ministries  – showing compassion for the vulnerable

Today just so happens to be Mel Trotter Ministries annual Season of Hope Event.

MTM is the safety net for the West Michigan community. It serves the vulnerable in our community and serves people no matter where they are found – homeless, hurting, addicted, including those who have just been released from prison.

Those with a felony conviction on their records face an uphill battle in finding housing and employment.

phoenix

Phoenix Artprize Exhibit

According to the  Small Business Association of Michigan

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.

 

When people think about the marginalized in our society – those with a felony record should be at the top of the list.

 

Removing Barriers for Felons

A few weeks back Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed a law that bans “felony box” from State Job applications. See the Detroit Free Press article Here

According to Governor Snyder he wanted to “ set an example for the private sector in giving ex-felons improved chances to successfully return to society.”

 

The legislator has attempted to pass a law to help ex-felons find jobs in the private sector, but the law appears to have stalled.

Last year I posted about the Michigan Work Opportunity Act

Senate Bill 14 was passed by the Senate, but stalled in House committee Check out the Legislative Analysis by the House Fiscal Agency, here

The Bill would create the “Work Opportunity Act” which would require the Department of Talent and Economic Development (TED) to provide grants for employers’ hiring of qualified individuals on probation or parole.

The House Fiscal Agency’s Analysis recognizes the “apparent problem”

“In seeking re-entry into the workforce, an ex-felon is confronted with myriad challenges, including appealing to employers who are not eager to accept the risk of hiring an ex-felon. This program would seek to mitigate that risk, by offering grants of a portion of the exfelon’s salary to employers who hire qualified ex-felons.”

 

Homelessness, joblessness, is a community-wide problem. It takes an entire community.  I am thankful for the local businesses who employ ex-felons.

The fact is, all people have inherent value.

 

We are all just a life-circumstance away from being homeless, addicted, or in jail.

 

But for God’s Grace, there go I.

Questions? comments?

email: Jeshua@dwlawpc.com

http://www.dwlawpc.com

Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka

 

Staring Into the Eyes of a Fatherless Generation.

There’s nothing like a Michigan summer.

Memorial Day weekend means the beginning of summer – and, consequently, the end of the school year.

 

IMG_2377

 

Today was my last day of mentoring for the school year.  Unless my student moves  (which is always possible) I hope to see him in the Fall.

Most of my interaction with my student is asking questions and just trying to encourage him.

 

One question I asked him today while shooting basketballs during recess:

 

 

 

Do you think you will see your dad this summer?

His answer: I don’t know.

I will state the obvious: The fact that this elementary school aged boy doesn’t know if he will see his father for months is heartbreaking.

This reality is simply not how the world should be.

And, unfortunately, this story is typical.

 

Fatherless Generation

I took these statistics from the Fatherless Generation

  • 63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes (US Dept. Of Health/Census) – 5 times the average.
  • 90% of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes – 32 times the average.
  • 85% of all children who show behavior disorders come from fatherless homes – 20 times the average.  (Center for Disease Control)
  • 80% of rapists with anger problems come from fatherless homes –14 times the average.  (Justice & Behavior, Vol 14, p. 403-26)
  • 71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes – 9 times the average.  (National Principals Association Report)

 

I look at these statistics, and ask myself:

is it worthwhile spending one hour a week during the school year with a boy who needs a positive male role model?

The answer every time is “Yes.

I am not writing this post to: a) pat myself on the back or b) guilt anyone who is reading this.

I am just trying to illuminate a reality.

I often hear people say they cannot believe the poverty, brokenness, homelessness, addiction, that families are experiencing right in our own City. of Grand Rapids

It is true.

It is also true, that we can’t do everything, but we can do something.

What about you?

Are you working to build a better community?

E-mail: Jeshua@dwlawpc.com

www.dwlawpc.com

Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka