Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships

Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships Blog

  • Passion for Justice Brings Michigan Students for a Dialogue at the White House

    ISN Meeting

    Students gathered to hear from Felicia Escobar, Senior Policy Advisor at the White House Domestic Policy Council and Alexia Kelley, Deputy Director and Senior Policy Advisor at the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships November 14, 2011.

    Recently, we hosted a meeting with nineteen students from the University of Detroit Mercy, University of Michigan- Ann Arbor and Jesuit volunteers who traveled to Washington DC for the 14th annual Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice (IFTJ) events sponsored by the Ignatian Solidarity Network at Georgetown University. This annual gathering brought together over 1,000 students, teachers, parish members and faith-based and community leaders.

    At our meeting, we met Kelly Miguens, a University Minister and Jesuit Volunteer at the University of Detroit Mercy and the lead organizer for the group. She helped facilitate our discussion with the students and offered some context on some of their current initiatives. The students and JVC volunteers engaged in a lively conversation with Alexia Kelley, Deputy Director and Senior Advisor at the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships  about the work of the White House Office and its satellite centers across the federal government. Felicia Escobar, Senior Advisor for Immigration Policy at the Domestic Policy Council also spoke to the group about the work of her office on immigration policy issues.

  • Ohio’s Job Clubs Use Social Capital and Social Media to Help Job Seekers Succeed

    In Northeast Ohio there is a growing movement of community-based job clubs finding success in helping a wide range of workers get and keep good jobs. To learn more about the work of these job clubs and to facilitate partnerships between these groups and the Department of Labor administered workforce investment system, my office held a regional symposium in Cleveland earlier this month as part of our broader Job Clubs Initiative.
    Jobs Club Ohio

    More than 150 people attended the Jobs Partnership Cleveland event hosted by Mt. Zion Congregational Church.

    More than 150 people attended the event hosted by Mt. Zion Congregational Church and the job club they sponsor, Jobs Partnership Cleveland. We heard from local job club leaders and some of their members. One such member was Emma Daniel, who described herself as a recovering addict who has been a certified clerk for more than 20 years. She was also incarcerated for several years. Following her release from prison, she could not find employment for 7 years. She recently landed a new job through the help of Jobs Partnership Cleveland. Her participation in the job club opened her eyes to the value of neighbors helping neighbors. She is now speaking and sharing her own success story at area women’s substance abuse treatment centers to, in her words, “pay it forward.”

    The concept of paying it forward inspired by job clubs was also revealed in the story of Jon Gamertsfelder. Jon is a member of Hudson Job Search located in the Cleveland suburbs of Summit County. After recently losing his job as the result of a downsizing, he began attending the job club meetings to expand his network and develop his networking skills. Hudson Job Search delivered for Jon and he is now gainfully employed at BASF Corporation. Despite working he continues to remain involved in the job club as one of approximately 50 volunteer advisors who provide valuable one-on-one coaching and counseling. According to Jim Ahern, director of Hudson Job Search, half of his volunteer advisors are in fact former “clients” who found their jobs through the group and are now returning the favor.

  • Celebrating Interfaith Collaboration with the Rumi Forum

    RUMI FORUM pictures

    Rumi Forum President Emre Celik and award recipients (l-r) Nontombi Naomi Tutu, receiving on behalf of Archbishop Desmond Tutu; Diane Rehm; Dr. Alan G. Merten; Karen Chane, receiving on behalf of Rev. John Bryson Chane; and Joshua DuBois.

    Launched in 1999, the Rumi Forum has consistently worked to foster interreligious and intercultural understanding at a pivotal time in our human history.  Recently, we were honored to attend the 2011 Rumi Peace and Dialogue Awards, the Turkish American organization’s annual celebration of leadership towards global harmony.

    The Director of our Office, Joshua DuBois, received the “Extraordinary Commitment to Public Service Award” for his work as Special Assistant to the President and Executive Director of the Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.  Also recognized by the Rumi Forum were Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Dr. Alan G. Merten, Diane Rehm, and Rev. John Bryson Chane.  Each was commended for his or her work to promote peace and dialogue through service in government, church, higher education, or media.

    Joshua DuBois reflected on President Obama’s formative experience working across religious lines on the South Side of Chicago. Today, this commitment to interfaith collaboration is reflected in the President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge, in which more than 250 colleges, universities, and theological schools are participating in the first year. The Religion and Foreign Policy Working Group, recently launched by the State Departmentand our Partnerships Office, engages the expertise of diverse religious and civil society leaders to explore the role of religious understanding and engagement in US foreign policy.

  • FWD the Facts – Crisis in the Horn of Africa

    This Wednesday was a powerful day in which voices across the country spoke out and on behalf of the 13.3 million people in crisis because of the Famine, War, and Drought in the Horn of Africa.  We saw videos from celebrities like Uma Thurman, Josh Hartnett, Geena Davis, Lance Armstrong, and Anthony Bourdain. We also saw videos from our very own friends and colleagues, all speaking with passion and conviction about what we can do to help.

    Check out Michael’s video below with details about how you can get involved. Michael serves as Executive Assistant to the Executive Director in The White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

    Moved by what you heard? Make your own!  Please email with any questions you have about ways you can help FWD the Facts.

    Zeenat Rahman is Acting Director of Center for Faith-based and Community Initiatives at the U.S. Agency for International Development.

    Video – Courtesy of USAID.

  • A Partnership for Positive Re-entry

    In addressing the pressing issues facing our families and children, the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) and the Office of Family Assistance (OFA) has taken the President’s call for flexibility and collaboration to heart.  Using $6 million of funding for responsible fatherhood programming, ACF has partnered with the Housing and Urban Development Agency (HUD) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) to conduct four pilot/demonstration projects targeting the re-entry population. 

    The goal of this collaborative effort: to change the outcomes of individuals coming out of our correctional institutions moving them toward self-sufficiency and greater family and community integration.

    The most recent data available is compelling. Nearly 730,000 individuals were released from our correctional facilities in 2009Of the 1,518,535 held in the nation’s prison system in 2007, 809,800 of them have families and children that they have left behind as they serve their sentences.  What we have learned from this data is that no one is better off from the experience. After having been “inside” for days, months, or years, they are faced with life on the “outside” with no clear path back into their homes, communities, or workplace. From the research, we know that transition is difficult because nearly 68 percent of all formerly incarcerated individuals will return to prison or jail within the first three years of release.

    Our Federal partnership is committed to changing these outcomes by leveraging or collective resources and knowledge. ACF has blended evidence-based promising practices gleaned from DOJ’s Second Chance programs and HUD’s Project Reunite in this new $6 million pilot program. HUD and DOJ have committed to work with the four grantee sites to creating environments that support and guide the transition of the formerly incarcerated back into their communities. 

    • In preparation for re-entry, and with the assistance of DOJ, these pilot programs will reach into correctional facilities prior to individuals’ release and provide them with case management, and soft- and hard-skills development and enhancement strategies. While no partner or spouse will be forced or coerced to participate in the housing or relationship development activities, this partnership will incorporate a plan on how to re-enter their families’ lives if and when safe to do. This effort will also begin to prepare them for entry into a competitive labor market. 
    • HUD will work with the programs to support the housing needs of these individuals upon their release. This will mean either that a person will be getting a place to live on their own or will work with a partner or spouse to overcome barriers, so that they may re-unite with their families who might live in public housing or have Section 8 housing assistance.

    The partnership is focused on success.  It is based on the principle that our positive actions will lead to stronger and healthier results for the community as a whole. 

    Earl Johnson is the Director of the Office of Family Assistance within the Administration for Children and Families at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

  • Catholic Charities Visits the White House

    CCUSA Briefing

    Catholic Charities participate in the plenary session at the October 14th White House gathering. October 14, 2011.

    Each week, the White House opens its doors to community leaders from across the country to participate in a day-long briefing and dialogue.  We were excited to welcome 150 leaders from the Catholic Charities USA network earlier this month as part of this Community Leaders Briefing series.  Board members and senior staff of Catholic Charities agencies from across the country joined us to discuss innovative partnerships to best serve communities and reduce poverty.

    During the morning session, senior officials shared the President’s priorities regarding economic opportunity and poverty alleviation.  Melody Barnes, Assistant to the President and Director of the Domestic Policy Council, previewed Pathways to Opportunity– a new report released that day.  Ms. Barnes welcomed Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA) as a follow-up to her address at their recent Poverty Summit in Fort Worth, Texas in September.  David Kamin, Special Assistant to the President for Economic Policy, gave an update on the economy and the economic recovery.  And Brad Cooper engaged with the leaders about Joining Forces, the First Lady and Dr. Biden’s initiative to support military families and veterans.  Rounding out a morning of other distinguished speakers, Chief of Staff Bill Daley facilitated a lively Q&A and discussion session. 

    In the afternoon, Agency staff and staff from Agency Centers for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships met in breakout sessions with the CCUSA leaders to focus on five specific issues: jobs and economic development, human services, housing, immigration and military families and veterans.   In the Jobs session, the Department of Labor Faith-based Center shared information with participants on Job Clubsand employment and skills training grants, and the SBA Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnership Office shared information about the role faith-based and community nonprofits can play as microloan intermediaries. Felicia Escobar, White House Senior Policy Advisor on immigration, blogged about the breakout session she hosted on immigration.

    Catholic Charities Agencies have long-standing partnerships with the federal government on challenges ranging from housing to disaster response to child welfare and more.  Just as Catholic Charities heard from us about new partnership opportunities, so we learned more about the innovative work of Catholic Charities agencies on the ground, every day --for over 100 years. 

    Alexia Kelley is the Deputy Director and Senior Policy Advisor at the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.