In five short years, clergy from twenty interfaith, interracial congregations in southeast Florida have come together to engage thousands of low- to moderate-income parishioners in successfully changing their communities for the better. They are Broward Organized Leaders Doing Justice, or BOLD Justice, and they are on a roll.
At the beginning, BOLD Justice’s founding congregations focused on the issue of affordable housing. Broward County, says Andy Lee, BOLD Justice’s lead organizer, is “a big salad bowl of different cultures,” where extremes of wealth and poverty are easy to find. Large numbers of households pay half their monthly income for rent or mortgage. Many are one paycheck away from homelessness.
To encourage construction of affordable housing, BOLD promoted a variety of strategies, including incentives and funding for developers. In three years, more than 2,000 new rental units were approved, and of them, more than 1,100 were open to tenants.
BOLD Justice has also helped homeowners renegotiate their mortgages, and rectified mistakes that caused unemployment benefits to be wrongly terminated. Next, the group will address improving elementary reading programs, citing the correlation among low reading levels, high school drop-out rates, and future poverty.
CCHD has funded BOLD Justice from its beginning. “CCHD grants allowed us to maintain and expand staff and train up to 2,000 people,” says Andy Lee. “None of the things we’ve accomplished would have been done without CCHD.”
BOLD Justice helps congregations make a meaningful contribution to righting injustice. “If it was just me and my parishioners, we wouldn’t accomplish squat,” says Fr. Roger Holoubek, pastor of St. Maurice Church. “Through BOLD Justice, we unite in working on these issues.”
Edited from an article by Beth Griffin in CCHD’s newsletter, Helping People Help Themselves.
This post is also available in: Spanish