Forest Lake Talks

A Message from Ellen

July 21, 2021

July 21, 2021

Dear Friends,

Our congregation is a part of an interfaith, non-profit organization called MORE Justice.  This is one of the most racially and religiously diverse organizations of which I have ever been a member.  And our purpose is to come together to fulfill our scriptural mandate to “do justice” (Micah 6:8 and Matthew 23:32-24) and make the Central Midlands a more just place to live for all people.

Doing justice is not easy or comfortable.  I have personally squirmed under the weight of asking elected officials to take small measurable steps to address structural issues that need to be changed.  Some of what this organization has done has really gone well, and some has not yet worked for much change.

The greatest success has been in winning commitments from both the City of Columbia Police and Richland County Sherriff’s Department to train their officers in Crisis Intervention Training (CIT)  CIT trains police in how to deal with those in a mental health crisis in ways that de-escalate the tension and make everyone safer.  Because of the work of MORE Justice, both the city and the county are on their way to requiring CIT training for their officers.

MORE Justice has also worked hard and won support from members of the Richland County Council to establish an Affordable Housing Trust Fund – a free-market incentive for the repair and creation of safe, affordable housing in our county. A Housing Trust Fund is established to support the preservation and production of affordable, safe housing. I learned this week that Richland County is asking for community input about how to spend the $80 million that will come from the American Rescue Plan Action (ARPA).  MORE Justice has asked that $10 million of that 80 be designated to fund a Richland County Affordable Housing Trust Fund.  Richland County has the 10th highest eviction rate in the country according to research provided by MORE Justice.  Eviction and homelessness has generational consequences and the Midlands needs more affordable, safe housing options.

If you agree, please visit www.richlandcountysc.gov/ARPAfunding to find out more and give feedback to their survey.  You can also provide direct feedback to gaither.steven@richlandcountysc.gov.  Join me in asking that $10 million of the ARPA funds be used to fund this purpose.  Responses are due before August 20th.  Let’s put our thoughts and prayers for a reduction in homelessness into action by asking our officials to take this one, measurable action.  I’m happy to send you the language I sent to Mr. Gaither if you’d like to see it.

Peace AND Justice,

Ellen Fowler Skidmore

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