Moving Forward Together in Community

Earlier this year, when COVID-19 began to affect everyday life, Tri-Faith Initiative spoke about “our approach to desperate times” and how we have a particular ability to bring people from different communities together. When we said, “We’re in this together,” we meant it.

On May 20, Tri-Faith hosted a virtual town hall with Mayor Jean Stothert, Dr. Adi Pour of the Douglas County Health Department, and Dr. Ali Khan, Dean of Public Health at UNMC, to share information and listen to first-hand experiences specific to faith-based gathering and services in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Two follow up conversations grew out of this event: one to address guidelines for conducting faith-based services in Nebraska and another to pursue advocacy action.

As a Latino and resident of zip code 68107 in the heart of South Omaha, the neighborhood hardest hit by COVID in Douglas County, I feel a personal duty to help my community. As Deputy Director for Tri-Faith, I asked our staff, “What is our role?” We landed on this: Tri-Faith will amplify the voices of communities in need, collaborate with organizations already doing the work, and use our interfaith network to raise awareness and strengthen coalitions. Tri-Faith will be intentional about how we engage communities most at-risk due to COVID.

Throughout June, Tri-Faith has invited clergy and South Omaha organizations to convene a group aimed at advocacy actions in response to COVID. Concurrently, we have engaged organizations like the Latino Center of the Midlands, Omaha Public Power District, Eastern Nebraska Community Action Partnership, Metro Area Planning Agency, OneWorld Community Health Centers, and Together, Inc., to get a better understanding on the issues surrounding the COVI-19 response.

Evictions are spiking in Douglas County – during a pandemic. This is not only wrong but immoral. Oftentimes, families struggle to pay to keep their lights on and water running – doubly so during an economic downturn. “Essential” workers are asked to work through the dangers of a pandemic – we have a responsibility for their health and well-being. After learning all this, our emerging interfaith+community group has identified three arenas needing further advocacy: 1) Rental payment assistance, 2) Utility payment assistance and 3) Worker’s compensation + rights.

The real work begins now. The open question is: How do we best continue to build and then leverage this coalition to plan and execute effective advocacy actions – all while being intentional to support and advocate for the community doing the work?

Whatever answer we land on, rest assured, we will do it together.

Thank you for being a part of this work,

Erik

Erik Servellon
Tri-Faith Deputy Director

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