Women’s Voices Co-Sponsors Successful Affordable Housing Conference – Welcome Home: How Thoughtful Housing Policy Promotes Thriving Communities
December 15, 2022
Women’s Voices Raised for Social Justice, Washington University Brown School Center for Social Development and Alliance for Interracial Dignity hosted a presentation and discussion of inspiring and evidence-based ideas in housing. The event opened with welcoming remarks from Webster Groves Mayor Laura Arnold, followed by presentations by Brown School student researchers, and closed with a Q&A session led by Brown School professor Dr. Molly Metzger. Among the many attendees were elected officials and city staff including representatives from the cities of Clayton, Kirkwood, Richmond Heights and Webster Groves. We were also very pleased that Missouri State Representatives, Deb Lavender (District 98) and Sarah Unsicker (District 83) were able to join us.
Focusing on the specific contexts of Clayton, Kirkwood, Maplewood, Richmond Heights, Rock Hill, Shrewsbury, and Webster Groves, Brown School student researchers presented a historical context including St. Louis’ disgraceful policies of redlining, racially restrictive covenants, and exclusionary zoning. The student researchers then provided the standard definition for affordable housing, i.e., “All residential structures, newly constructed or rehabilitated, where housing costs amount to less than 30% of a household’s annual income.” They also provided statistics on the current state of affordable housing in St. Louis County, where over 100,000 families pay more than 30% of their income on housing.
The team challenged common myths regarding affordable housing, providing data to demonstrate that contrary to popular notions, affordable housing 1) has no adverse effects on a neighborhood’s real estate market and may actually increase property values; 2) enhances local tax revenues; and 3) benefits people across income levels. In the final section of the presentation the students presented four policy ideas to support housing options for all: Confronting Racial Covenants, Zoning Reform, Community Land Trusts, and Linkage Fees. In partnership with Brown School Center for Social Development and Alliance for Interracial Dignity, Women’s Voices will be actively involved in supporting the implementation of these ideas in our local communities. We will also make a policy briefing packet based on the event, available on our website as soon as it is released.
This is a perfect time to get involved in our housing equity efforts to help make safe and affordable housing available to all our citizens. Please reach out to Liz Sondhaus at firstname.lastname@example.org to join us!
Lunch & Learn with St. Louis Post-Dispatch executive editor, Alan Achkar
December 1, 2022
Alan Achkar, executive editor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and stltoday.com, joined Women’s Voices for a December lunch and learn to share information about what decisions they make at the paper and why they make them. Achkar returned to the Post in April of 2022, after previously service as the paper’s local news editor from 2005-2013. Currently, he oversees all news and sports coverage.
Achkar discussed the role the internet has played in changing journalism, and specifically newspapers, in today’s world. He explained that shrinking revenue from newspaper advertising, which once comprised 85-90% of the paper’s revenue source, is largely to blame for the need to significantly cut costs in the newsroom. When newspapers joined the internet early-on, content was made available for free. Readers came to expect free online news, but with regular advertisers having new online avenues to get the word out about their products and services, newspaper revenues plummeted. Centralization of certain functions (e.g., finance, human resources, page design, and consolidation of comics pages) was one way to reduce costs.
The internet has also fueled a drive to grow digital readership. This has created additional challenges for newspapers, including finding ways to monetize digital readership (though subscriptions), a reduction in attention span of the public, and media literacy concerns, where media consumers have lost trust in what they read, spurred in part be efforts to erode trust in traditional media.
Achkar explained that the digital space has also led to positive changes in new media. The internet has led to the creation of several new non-profit media organizations that focus on investigative journalism and fill the gap of shrinking newsrooms and reduced coverage of local news. Newspapers can reach many more people in the digital space, especially with a really great story (e.g., local, investigative, revelatory, etc.) that gets a large readership & encourages people to subscribe. Online stories allow newsrooms to collect and analyze a wealth of data, that allows editors to see what stories people are reading, what topics they are interested in, and in turn aids in decisions about what types of stories to follow. This data has also shifted who determines what stories are important to cover from the newspaper to the readers, based on which stories get the most attention.
Achkar encouraged attendees to reach out to the paper with their suggestions and ideas for stories.
Women’s Voices Joins Interfaith Vigil to Save Children’s Lives
October 25, 2022
Along with the Jewish Community Relations Council, the Ecumenical Leadership Council, the Peace and Justice Commission of the St. Louis Archdiocese, and the St. Louis Violence Prevention Coalition, Women’s Voices was part of the Interfaith Vigil to Save Children’s Lives on October 25 at Mt. Bethel Missionary Baptist Church. This gathering served as a kickoff event for an interfaith effort to end gun violence in St. Louis. The event also provided an opportunity to mourn together after the school shooting at Central Visual and Performing Arts High School just the day before. A display of quilts containing images of the children who died due to gunshot wounds in the past several years was the backdrop for the vigil. Each child was remembered by name. Gun locks for the event were provided by the KC Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms.
Participating congregations will have access to free supplies and services, including gun locks, gun safety training and more. Interested congregations can register at bit.ly/interfaithxgunviolence
Women’s Voices Members Encourage Voters to Head to the Polls on Nov 8
October 24, 2022
Volunteers gathered at Grant’s View Library to address and stamp 700 Get Out the Vote postcards to encourage community members to exercise their right to vote in the upcoming general election. Volunteers prepared and mailed an additional 400 postcards on their own, with all cards being mailed in time to reach voters before the election.
A Place to Call Home
Lunch & Learn with Habitat for Humanity
October 20, 2022
Speaker: Harper Zielonko, Director of Resource Development, Habitat for Humanity Saint Louis
Dance the Vote: Midterms Matter
September 24, 2022
Thank you to everyone who stopped by our table at Dance the Vote and wrote postcards thanking our Election Heroes. We had an amazing afternoon energizing our community and celebrating voting.
Women’s Voices Members March for Voting Rights
July 4, 2022
Women’s Voices members joined members of Webster Groves Presbyterian Church and Churches Together for Justice, along with area organization members from Alliance for Interracial Dignity, North Webster Neighborhood Coalition, St. Louis Area Voter Protection Coalition, and the League of Women Voters in the annual Webster Groves community parade on Monday, July 4th to highlight the importance of every person’s vote. See more parade photos here.
Volunteers Assemble Voter Registration Packets
June 28, 2022
Volunteers came out in force to help us bundle voter registration packets. Now we need YOU to pick up a packet of 10 and mail them to future voters! It only takes 2- stamps and your time! Women’s Voices will supply everything else (voter information card, registration application, pre-addressed envelope to Board of Elections, addresses & instructions.
Sign up here: https://forms.gle/Wh4h9UXGqjkzQi3s8
Thank you to everyone who joined us in assembling packets! We had a great time! See more photos here.
St. Louis Abortion Rights Rally
Saturday, May 14, 2022
Women’s Voices members joined St. Louis abortion advocates and community partners for a family-friendly day of action to demand #BansOffOurBodies and abortion access for all!
On Monday, May 2nd, a Supreme Court draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade was released to the public and confirmed the fears of abortion advocates across the country.
The Supreme Court has made it clear that they are prepared to overturn the 50-year precedent that recognized a person’s right to determine if they will give birth. If Roe is overturned, abortion will immediately be criminalized in Missouri.
Thanks to the ACLU of Missouri for livestreaming the speakers at Saturday’s STL Abortion Rights Rally.
Lunch & Learn: Mental Illness Is Not a Crime: City Program Diverts 911 Calls to Mental Health Professionals
March 3, 2022
Speakers: Tiffany Lacy Clark, chief operating officer, Behavioral Health Response (BHR); Bart Andrews, PhD, BHR chief clinical officer; Felicia Spratt, MS, LPC, BHR 911 diversion director; Lt. Leonard Day, commander, Crisis Response Unit, St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department
In February 2021, St. Louis City established an innovative program to divert 911 calls to the most appropriate responders. Previously, calls typically resulted in a response by armed police or an ambulance, sometimes with fatal results. Today, Crisis Response Units (CRUs)–teams of police officers paired with mental health professionals–are changing 911 outcomes by diverting individuals from jail and/or the hospital, Clark explained.
CRUs can respond when a person is not a threat to others, does not have a plan of suicide, does not possess a weapon, is not actively harming another, is not in a medical crisis, and/or needs social service resources, Day said. The CRU teams deal with more than mental health crises, including unhoused people, trespassers, and panhandlers, he added. In its first year, the CRUs addressed 4,000 cases, saved 2,000 hours of police time, and averted 750 hospitalizations. These numbers are projected to increase significantly in 2022 to 7,000, 3,000, and 1,000, Spratt said.
The 911 Diversion portion of the program identifies calls that are behavioral health related and non-crime. It transfers these directly to Behavioral Health Response (BHR), which provides 24-hour phone response, next-day appointments if an immediate response is not needed, and alternative services provided by agencies that partner with BHR. BHR also provides follow-up, an important part of the work to ensure people are getting the care they need, Andrews said. The savings in hours of police time and number of hospitalizations, though smaller than those of the CRU, are parallel.
In answer to an audience question, the speakers advised against starting a 911 Diversion program without police team members. They emphasized that including police officers involves them in the community and helps all involved to make needed cultural change. “It’s been phenomenal to work with the St. Louis Police Department and rebuild trust with the community,” Spratt said.
For more information, see www.bhrstl.org. Behavioral Health Response also has a crisis hotline, which provides crisis support, telephone counseling, and mental health resources 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call 1-800-811-4760; local: 314-469-6644.
Lunch and Learn: SHED (Sustainable Housing & Equitable Development) Builds Accessible, Inclusive Communities
February 16, 2022
Speakers: Mimi Taylor-Hendrix, SHED board president; Adam Brown, SHED executive director.
SHED has served University City since 2009 by providing volunteer home maintenance for seniors and people with disabilities primarily in the city’s 3rd Ward. Adam Brown became involved with SHED when he worked for University City and purchased a home in the 3rd Ward in 2018. In 2019 he and others led SHED in expanding its focus beyond home repair. Brown was hired as executive director, and a new board consisting of city residents and professionals experienced in housing, community development, and education was recruited.
The nonprofit organization’s strategic plan, based on community input, now includes career development for youth (in partnership with the University City School District), as well as community planning and affordable housing development.
Taylor-Hendrix, a 37-year resident of the 3rd Ward, explained that “the ward is a neighborhood on the edge. It could tip positive or negative, depending on resources.” She and Brown said SHED is working to receive funding from University City’s $15 million agreement with the developer of a large commercial project at Olive Boulevard and Highway I-170. SHED also received a grant to build two homes for moderate-income buyers, Brown said, and University City high school students in the youth training program will work on the construction.
How Women’s Voices Members Can Help
Our speakers made several suggestions in the discussion after the presentation:
- Add to SHED’s list of partners by sharing our knowledge of other housing and community development organizations.
- Contribute funds needed to support administrative functions.
- Participate in SHED’s days of service. Volunteer to help with outside home maintenance tasks such as painting. In 2022 the dates are April 30-May 1 and October 8-9.
To learn more about helping SHED build stable communities in University City’s 3rd Ward and surrounding neighborhoods, go to www.shedstl.org.