“Those Section 8 people”

“Those Section 8 people”

Among my several heroes in the world of nonprofit affordable housing is Sherry Riva, founder and executive director of Compass Working Capital, in Boston. Compass focuses on families in public housing or receiving federal housing vouchers and works to help them strengthen their own financial security. It’s a pioneer among public-private models for empowering families to save and build financial assets. Although the program’s requirements call for technical expertise, the essential factor is

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Hearts breaking open

Hearts breaking open

For such a short month, February laid a tall order of hurt upon us. Three beautiful young adults were killed in cold blood, in their home. One was in dentistry school at UNC. His bride of six weeks was planning to enroll in the same program in the fall. Her sister was a design student at NCSU. Contrary to what was said in the Boston Globe–that “a man gunning down three people in cold

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An MLK Day to remember

An MLK Day to remember

The Martin Luther King Jr. Day rally, march, and assembly at First Baptist Church, sponsored by the Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP, has become quite a tradition. While the message is always celebratory and challenging, the size of the crowd and the themes of the event have varied with the times. This year, the messages were charged with all the tensions and emotions of the current national conversation on race and power

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A grassroots approach to poverty

A grassroots approach to poverty

Two areas of Orange County will benefit from a new approach to the challenges of extreme poverty that bedevil one of the wealthiest regions of the state. The areas, or zones, were chosen earlier this month from six proposed zones where poverty’s effects are especially severe, as measured by standards like access to medical care, food, and housing. Direction and funding for the project come from the Orange County Board of Commissioners, with the Orange County Health Department providing

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Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving

Greetings from a snowy Princeton, New Jersey. This afternoon, with our son Tucker, we will share a Thanksgiving feast with Chapel Hill friends who are here for the academic year. Last night we ate well at Agriclola, cited as one of new Jersey’s top 25 best restaurants for 2014, called by the New York Times “close to nature, and close to perfection.” It is a bountiful, beautiful time. But not,

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Rogers Road: Paying it forward

Rogers Road: Paying it forward

Under a bracingly cold clear sky, Saturday morning unfolded beautifully in the Rogers Road-Eubanks neighborhood. A strong crowd was on hand to dedicate the Rogers Road Community Center, a project two years–or was it forty years–in the making. After the old community center was forced to close because of safety code violations, the Rogers-Eubanks Neighborhood Association asked Orange County, Chapel Hill and Carrboro to fund a new center. The government bodies stepped up. So did

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Wanted: “Infrastructures of opportunity”

Wanted: “Infrastructures of opportunity”

MDC, Inc., the Durham-based nonprofit, has just published its periodic “State of the South” report, in which it takes the measure of the economic and social progress of the region and makes pragmatic recommendations for moving forward. The series, begun in 1996, is the brainchild of UNC professor Ferrel Guillory, who saw a need to highlight and promote the manifest ways in which public investment complements private-sector innovation to improve the lives and livelihoods of

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National policy directions, local impacts: thoughts on rental housing

National policy directions, local impacts: thoughts on rental housing

Last week my colleague Donna Bell and I attended a housing summit sponsored by the Bipartisan Policy Center. The conference took its themes from the BPC’s 2013 report, “Housing America’s Future: New Directions for National Policy.” Its four key recommendations: (1) increase access to credit for potential homeowners, (2) reform the housing finance system to shift most of the burden to the private sector, (3) focus rental assistance dollars on lowest-income renters, and (4)

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HOPE for community gardens

HOPE for community gardens

In 2009, the Homeless Outreach Poverty Education arm of the UNC Campus Y founded HOPE Gardens, a community garden on land owned by the Town of Chapel Hill. In partnership with Active Living By Design and the town’s Department of Parks and Recreation, HOPE got into the business of community gardening and urban farming. Initially envisioned as a transitional employment center for homeless people, as well as a source of

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Local law enforcement responds to Ferguson

Local law enforcement responds to Ferguson

The tragic events in Ferguson, Missouri have brought into sharp relief a subject not unknown, but rather lingering at the edge of our collective consciousness: “the militarization of policing.” Sarah Stillman’s essay in The New Yorker and Ta-Nehisi Coates’ essay in The Atlantic are a couple of thoughtful, provocative responses. When Coates writes that Black people are not above calling the police—but often we do so fully understanding that we are

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