Loving the San Francisco Bay Area... Community development, urban ministry, trying to defeat poverty, faith, religion, politics, good music, the quest for the perfect pizza, the Yankees, motorcycles... All in a 'day's life'

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Meet Up in DC -

Cross post from Urban Onramps For thise who are attending the Mobilazation to End Poverty (M2EP) we're meeting Sunday night. Come on - all you west coasters will be hitting your stride at 8:00 pm!

DC MEETUP THIS SUNDAY NIGHT: Here’s a Meet-Up in conjunction with the Mobilization to End Poverty (MEP). The MEP starts on Monday morning, and for those who are in town on Sunday night and would like to connect, the spot is Lauriol Plaza Restaurant in DC, 1835 18th Street NW (about three blocks from DuPont Circle). We’ll be there for dessert (or whatever else you choose) starting at 8 p.m. So far… it’s me, John Liotti from NorCal Urban CDC, and Glory Okeke from Harambee Prep. Open Invitation - All Are Welcome. Email me if you plan to attend (or send a tweet).

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Cultivating Community Based Financial Literacy

Evidence suggests that these types of (financial literacy) programs can be successful in helping the unbanked and underserved improve their financial skills and develop successful banking relationships. For example, a survey of participants in the FDIC's Money Smart program, showed that financial education training can positively change consumer behavior and improve knowledge about the basics of checking, saving, budgeting, and credit. Money Smart is a financial education curriculum launched in 2001 by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation that is in wide use today.

The survey results indicate that participants, 6 to 12 months after taking the Money Smart training, were more likely to open deposit accounts, save money in a mainstream deposit product, use and adhere to a budget, and have increased confidence in their financial ability. In addition, more than half of the respondents reported that their level of savings increased, their debt decreased, and they were more likely to comparison-shop for financial products and services.

See the whole article here.
Check out more information on NCUD's financial literacy efforts Here. Click on "programs".

Travis Reed Doing a Tribal Dance

My friend Travis recenty returned from a trip to Africa. He joined in a tribal dance.

Post Easter Wisdom from Bono

Last Sunday, the choirmaster was jumping out of his skin ... stormy then still, playful then tender, on the most upright of pianos and melodies. He sang his invocations in a beautiful oaken tenor with a freckle-faced boy at his side playing conga and tambourine as if it was a full drum kit. The parish sang to the rafters songs of praise to a God that apparently surrendered His voice to ours.

I come to lowly church halls and lofty cathedrals for what purpose? I search the Scriptures to what end? To check my head? My heart? No, my soul. For me these meditations are like a plumb line dropped by a master builder — to see if the walls are straight or crooked. I check my emotional life with music, my intellectual life with writing, but religion is where I soul-search.

The preacher said, “What good does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul?” Hearing this, every one of the pilgrims gathered in the room asked, “Is it me, Lord?” In America, in Europe, people are asking, “Is it us?”

Well, yes. It is us.

Carnival is over. Commerce has been overheating markets and climates ... the sooty skies of the industrial revolution have changed scale and location, but now melt ice caps and make the seas boil in the time of technological revolution. Capitalism is on trial; globalization is, once again, in the dock. We used to say that all we wanted for the rest of the world was what we had for ourselves. Then we found out that if every living soul on the planet had a fridge and a house and an S.U.V., we would choke on our own exhaust.

Lent is upon us whether we asked for it or not. And with it, we hope, comes a chance at redemption. But redemption is not just a spiritual term, it’s an economic concept. At the turn of the millennium, the debt cancellation campaign, inspired by the Jewish concept of Jubilee, aimed to give the poorest countries a fresh start. Thirty-four million more children in Africa are now in school in large part because their governments used money freed up by debt relief. This redemption was not an end to economic slavery, but it was a more hopeful beginning for many. And to the many, not the lucky few, is surely where any soul-searching must lead us.

A few weeks ago I was in Washington when news arrived of proposed cuts to the president’s aid budget. People said that it was going to be hard to fulfill promises to those who live in dire circumstances such a long way away when there is so much hardship in the United States. And there is.

But I read recently that Americans are taking up public service in greater numbers because they are short on money to give. And, following a successful bipartisan Senate vote, word is that Congress will restore the money that had been cut from the aid budget — a refusal to abandon those who would pay such a high price for a crisis not of their making. In the roughest of times, people show who they are.

Your soul.

So much of the discussion today is about value, not values. Aid well spent can be an example of both, values and value for money. Providing AIDS medication to just under four million people, putting in place modest measures to improve maternal health, eradicating killer pests like malaria and rotoviruses — all these provide a leg up on the climb to self-sufficiency, all these can help us make friends in a world quick to enmity. It’s not alms, it’s investment. It’s not charity, it’s justice.

See the whole editorial here

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Updated NCUD Website

Check out the new NCUD website. See it here. Let us know your thoughts.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Editrorial Support for Housing initiative

Editorial in the Almanac: "Quick Action Needed." See the article here. If you know one of the Menlo Park city council or government leaders, please reach out and indicate your support for NCUD and other's efforts.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Love is an Orientation - Andrew Marin's New Book

My friend and CCDA "emerging leader" Andrew Marin of the The Marin Foundation just had his first book published "Love is an Orientation". Andrew is elevating the important conversation between the evangelical and homosexual community. You can get his book here. You can also read his blog here or check out the recent Christianity Today review of the book. This is obviously an important for us living in the SF Bay with our active and large homosexual community. We've been feeling the backlash from the California Proposition 8 decision and the impact it has had on both communities.

I'm proud of Andrew, thankful that he is elevating an important conversation.

Monday, April 06, 2009

NCUD's Housing Initiative

As I mentioned in my post about about my 'blogcation' we've been working diligently on a shared equity or 'third sector' housing solution for our community. This has occupied much of my mental bandwidth, along with the important curriculum development project for our youth program, Future Profits.

We're beginning to see some light. On April 24th the city of Menlo Park will vote on a proposal for funding for our housing project. If approved, we will have the funding to save around ten homes and families from foreclosure. This will happen through an investment of public funds as an equity partner and a write down of the current (underwater) mortgage by the lender to a level where, with the public funds, will place the homeowner in a fair mortgage with a payment they can afford. However, the homeowner will give up some of their future appreciation by which the city will be paid back it's funds. We're also looking at a similar project with private funding. Certainly ten homes isn't going to change the US housing market. It will however dramatically impact ten families and demonstrate our approach is valid and important and perhaps help us to bring it to scale and impact a larger group of folks.

A number of newspapers have picked up the story. When the proposal goes to the city council it will be coupled with a proposal from Habitat for Humanity to pick up REO or foreclosed properties and a city led Below Market Rate (BMR) project.

Bravo to the city of Menlo Park and to Councilmember Andy Cohen for being creative and open to solutions and for bringing three concurrent solutions to the Council at the same time. This project will be focused on the Belle Haven neighborhood of Menlo Park. This is the area on the east side of the freeway and is socio-economically similar to East Palo Alto.

For this project we've been working with the EARN Group. They've developed the model and is looking to offer it across the country if they are successful in our backyard. For this, they've been offering their services and expertise pro-bono. Here is an excerpt from the article. You can read it in it's entirely here.
In an effort to keep low-income residents in their homes, the city of Menlo Park is considering a plan to buy an equity stake in some of those properties.

The plan, one of three foreclosure-related measures under consideration by the Housing Commission at its meeting Wednesday, April 1, is essentially untested, according to Housing Manager Doug Frederick. The city would first try to convince banks to reduce the principal to near market value, and would then purchase equity in the home.

The number of Menlo Park homes in some stage of the foreclosure process has hovered near 100 for months, the vast majority of them in the Belle Haven neighborhood on the east side of the city, according to the Web site realtytrac.com. So far this year, about 40 Menlo Park homeowners have defaulted on their mortgages.

As home prices have dropped, many Belle Haven residents have found that they owe more in mortgage payments than their home is worth.

The city would invest about $90,000 in each home, Mr. Frederick said — 30 percent of a representative $300,000 home.

The EARN Group, a Los Gatos-based company that has been developing a plan independent of Menlo Park to buy equity in homes, would advise the city, and help homeowners to renegotiate terms with banks. The group is offering its assistance pro bono (save a possible small service charge to homeowners) because it is looking to test its model in the hopes of taking it to a wider market, Mr. Frederick said.

San Mateo County has not received any federal funding to deal with foreclosures, but the city may be able to find other sources of funding to amplify its efforts, Mr. Cohen said.
NCUD wasn't specifically mentioned in the article, but we'll be coordinating the community side of the effort. While certainly not a done deal, the signs so far are encouraging.

How can you help? If you have a connections with the city government of Menlo Park you can contact them and let them know you are in support of NCUD and EARN's efforts - as well as the efforts of Habitat for Humanity. If we get this project approved at a minimum we will see the lives of ten families dramatically saved and perhaps we can use this model change the lives of many more.

Additionally, please pray for ours and Habitat's efforts. We need an extra portion of God's wisdom and blessing. If you want more information on our efforts feel free to contact me.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Twitter Updates

So I've finally jumped on the Twitter bandwagon. You can see my Twitter updates on the right of this page. One more way to keep up with my life...

Friday, April 03, 2009

Mark Smallwood - In Memory

This week our close friend passed away suddenly. Mark was my wife Melissa's pastor and served as a second father to her when her own dad passed. Mark and his wife Gloria introduced Melissa to Christ when she was a child and served as her pastor throughout her childhood and teenage years.

Mark and my relationship started rocky. When I showed up in Delhi, CA courting Melissa I was a young 18 year old, brash, arrogant and opinionated. I still have some of that going on. Understandably and justifiably, Mark was skeptical and not too thrilled about Melissa and my relationship. We had a lapse in our communication for a number of years.

After we left Mexico with YWAM in '94 we landed in the Central Valley broke and burned out with a newborn baby. We were struggling to get back on our feet. Mark and Gloria gave Melissa a job that she held for 6 years at La Morenita. Mark helped us with a car, with furniture, with a house, with groceries, on and on... He eventually gave me a job at the restaurant and helped me with a side job throwing newspapers so we could continue to pursue our calling to urban ministry . We traveled through Yosemite together, went to a bunch of Giants games, spent some crazy times in Santa Cruz. Essentially he continued his role in being a father to Melissa and a brother to me. When my sister Kelli moved to Modesto he took her and her husband Saul into the family also.

Mark was generous, loving, caring, cantankerous, annoying and a avid practical joker. When he did something, it was done 100% - no margins or tentativeness. He lived and loved extremely. He's left a deep mark (no pun intended) on our family and most certainly on Melissa. We've not seen much of him since we moved to the Bay. However, it was comforting to know that he was just a call or short car trip away. We'll miss him - and remain grateful for all he did for us.

Mark's brother Philip blogged about his passing here.

Please pray for the Smallwoods. Mark leaves five children and his wife Gloria. He will be missed. His homegoing service is Saturday at 11:00 in Turlock.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Back From 'Blogcation'

To all of my deprived readers (if there are any left),

Please forgive my absence. Frankly, blogging started to feel more like work than fun - so a break was in order. Going forward, I hope to be more focused with my posts. They may be less frequent but hopefully will have slightly more content.

Over the past three months I've focused my attention on a few key issues. The first and main issue is formulating a response to the current housing crisis. We've been working on a Housing Market Stabilization Initiative (HMSI) which would work to intervene for families who are losing their homes. Secondly, NCUD's youth program, now dubbed "Future Profits"is growing and needing more and more attention. Lastly, I've been working on an Emerging Leader Initiative (ELI) for CCDA. The ELI will be a one year cohort program designed to pass on the CCDA legacy from the founders including Dr. John Perkins. Overarching all of this is the economy - which is making all of us in the non profit world pay close attention to the bottom line.

All that said, blogging unfortunately has taken a back seat to my other initiatives. Ultimately it's a matter of brain 'bandwidth' which is feeling more and more scarce these days.

I hope to post more in the upcoming days. If you're still reading this - give me a 'shout out' so I know I'm not just writing for myself!