Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships

Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships Blog

  • Faith & Community Based Partnerships a Key Part of Detroit’s Plan to Prevent Youth Violence

    Detroit Photo 3

    Chief of Police Ralph Godbee and members of the Federal Government meet with students from Osborn High School as well as faith-based and community organization focusing on Detroit’s Safe Routes initiative at Osborn High School.

    Last week I had the honor of travelling to Detroit along with my colleagues from the White House, DOJ, DOL, EDU, HHS and HUD.  As part of the National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention , we participated in a wonderful two day site visit focusing on the implementation of Detroit’ City Wide Youth Violence Prevention Plan.

    Over the past year Detroit has made considerable progress under the leadership of Mayor Dave Bing, Police Chief Ralph Godbee, US Attorney Barbara McQuade and their talented staff  who helped to lead the Youth Violence Prevention efforts in the city.   We toured the three target areas in Detroit’s Youth Violence Prevention plan (Cody, Denby and Osborn).  A key part of the plan is the successful implementation of their Safe Routes initiative.  One of the primary goals of Safe Routes is to increase the safety of students on their way to and from school.  Detroit has successfully enlisted faith based and community based volunteers who build relationships with students, and also patrol the surrounding communities acting as additional eyes and ears on the street.  We met with representatives from “Men on Patrol”, “the Man Network” and “M.A.D.E. Men” all volunteers who everyday of the week are up patrolling as early as 6:30am (rain, sleet or snow) to make sure that young people in their communities feel safe and are safe on their way to and from school.

    Detroit Picture 1

    Mayor Dave Bing speaks with Deputy Assistant to the President, Michael Strautmanis, DOJ Office of Intergovernmental Affairs Director, Portia Roberson and Office of Justice Programs Chief of Staff Thomas Abt.

    Detroit Picture 2

    Congressman John Conyers, US Attorney Barbara McQuade, DOJ FBNP Director Eugene Schneeberg, Strong Cities, Strong Communities lead Portia Roberson, Mayor Dave Bing, Chief Ralph Godbee at Press Conference aimed at elevating the importance of preventing Youth Violence in Detroit.

     Some of the highlights of the visit were:

    • We had the pleasure of announcing a $5.7 million DOJ COPS grant to the Detroit Police Department, which will pay for 25 new officers assigned directly to this initiative.  The Detroiters were grateful and excited about this concrete demonstration of support for their work.
    • In various meetings throughout the two days tour Mayor Dave Bing, Chief of Police Ralph Godbee, US Attorney Barbara McQuade and Congressman John Conyers and Hansen Clarke all demonstrated their commitment to keeping young people safe in the city.    
    • Participated in a packed room of committed steering committee members including youth representatives from YOUTH VOICES. 
    • We met with Officer Monica Evans from DPD who heads up the cities Operation Safe Passages: a community and law enforcement partnerships to create in-school alternatives to suspension and expulsion.
    • Another central theme of the site visit was a series of meetings discussing the planning and implementation of a Cease Fire intervention model in Detroit. 
    • The federal team was very fortunate to be able to participate in a Student Roundtable at Osborn High School.   This discussion was facilitated by Chief Godbee and included student representatives from the NSO Youth Leaderships initiative.  The Chief and students discussed how they felt safer since the launch of Safe Routes and can see the increased police presence and volunteer presence, and discussed ways in which youth and police can partner moving forward to make the Osborn area safer.

    Learn more about the work that can be done in your community to help prevent youth violence.

    Eugene Schneeberg is the Director of the Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the U.S. Department of Justice.


  • Brevard County Looks Ahead with “Faith in the Future.”

    Brevard County Picture

    (From left) At the Faith in the Future job clubs event in Rockledge, FL: Tracy Washington, a certified grief recovery expert; Rita Elkins of Performance Excellence Partners; Alexia Kelley, deputy director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships; Lisa Rice, president of Brevard Workforce; and Diana Miller, founder of Community Job Club in Northeast, OH.

    Recently, I was honored to join faith and community leaders in Brevard County, Florida for the launch of “Faith in the Future” – a new initiative to better serve job seekers. Due to the transitions in the NASA Space Shuttle program based in Brevard, thousands of aerospace engineers are unemployed and looking for new opportunities.

    Brevard Workforce, the local administrator of government workforce development funds, is collaborating with congregations and community groups to support and expand “Job Clubs”. A job club is a support group of unemployed individuals who meet on a regular basis to learn job search skills and techniques such as LinkedIn, expand professional networks, and receive emotional support.  The Department of Labor estimates that there are over 3,500 active Job Clubs hosted by congregations, public libraries, community colleges, nonprofit organizations and One Stop Career Centers.

    The Administration awarded $15 million to Brevard Workforce to help re-employ aerospace workers dislocated as a result of the Space Shuttle retirement. A portion of these funds is helping to support the Job Clubs program that works in partnership with community and faith-based organizations. The Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the Department of Labor has been instrumental in supporting the community leaders of Brevard County in planning the Job Clubs through their own Job Club Initiative

    While in Brevard, I met with Ronald Caswell and William Bender, two distinguished aerospace engineers who are now partnering with Brevard Workforce.  Both Mr. Caswell and Mr. Bender spoke eloquently about their own experience, and offered excellent guidance to the participants regarding the essential features of effective job support initiatives.    

    Tracy Washington

    Aerospace Engineers Ronald Caswell and William Bender with Tracy Washington, a Job Loss and Transition Strategist, at “Faith in the Future” event which brought together faith and community leaders in Brevard County, Florida.

    Men and women in Brevard County are just like those nationwide facing the challenges of a job search.   Because these meetings take place in congregations and community-settings, people feel comfortable and at ease helping offset the oftentimes isolating nature of a job search.

    I would like to thank Brevard Workforce for their gracious invitation, and all of the faith and community leaders—including many employers—in Brevard who are sharing their time and talent through Job Clubs, employment ministries and other programs for job seekers.  Brevard County has been the technology center and launching pad for Space Shuttles that have expanded human knowledge for years. With their tenacity to expand employment opportunities, the citizens of Brevard County will continue to advance space exploration and reach new horizons for years to come.

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

  • Administrator Rajiv Shah connects with religious leaders at White House briefing

    A girl born today in Southern Sudan is more likely to die in childbirth than complete a secondary education. Religious leaders from around the country wrestled with that statement and other thought-provoking sentiments as they participated in a White House briefing earlier this week.  Brought together by World Vision, the leaders spent time hearing from top government officials about what we’re doing to partner together to reach the most vulnerable.  Joshua DuBois, Special Assistant to the President and Executive Director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, welcomed the delegation and outlined his office’s programs and policy initiatives.  Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes followed with a synopsis of the President’s foreign policy agenda, including development efforts aimed at strengthening other countries’ ability to provide for their own people in the long term.  To hone in on development, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Rajiv Shah reflected that,as long as statistics like the Southern Sudan example are true, we will continue to live in a volatile world and it is in America’s national security interest as well as part of our moral calling, to respond and do something about it. Here’s what USAID is doing:

    • 750,000 people are at risk of dying in the Horn of Africa in the next three months.  You can learn more about  USAID’s response and what you can do to help.
    • Investing in sustainable agriculture through Feed the Future.  This initiative focuses on long-term agricultural development to help mitigate and prevent crises like the famine from happening in the future.
    • Improving maternal and child health, combating HIV/AIDs and fighting to eradicate diseases such as polio through the Global Health Initiative.

    In the words of Paul Tshihamba from Christ Presbyterian Church who attended the briefing, “It's become increasingly clear to me that if the challenges facing vulnerable children in resource-challenged communities around the world are going to be met, it's going to require concerted, focused, and sustained commitment of both the public sector and the faith-based community. I was extremely impressed by the commitment of the administration to work creatively to find effective solutions to tackling the big challenges of global poverty.”

    For more information on this briefing or any of the initiatives addressed please email the USAID Center for Faith-based and Community Initiative at

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

  • Faithful Readiness: Engaging the Whole Community in Emergency Management

    What does it mean to be faithfully ready? What does it mean to engage the whole community in emergency management and hometown security?

    We posed these questions to more than 300 faith, government, first responders, community and youth-serving organizations who gathered over a three-day period to learn and share strategies to prepare individuals, families and communities for all hazards.

    As a part of National Preparedness Month, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Center hosted its Faithful Readiness Conference in partnership with FEMA Region IX, US Customs and Border Protection, US Citizenship and Immigration Services, DHS Intelligence & Analysis, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, AZ State Division of Emergency Management, Pima County Office of Emergency Management & Homeland Security, the America Red Cross and a host of faith-based and community leaders in Tucson.

  • A Model of Integrated Care for Veterans with Community Clergy

    As a registered nurse and ordained clergy, I know the significant impact building spiritual care into a health care model will have in meeting the needs of Veterans and Service members in a holistic way.  Engaging local faith leaders as learners and teachers in this development, we ensure Veterans get the best care at VA facilities and in the communities where they and their families reside.

    So, it was a great privilege to participate in the VA Mental Health and Chaplaincy Forum on September 1-2, 2011, The forum was led by Dr. Keith Meador, a psychiatrist and practical theologian, and Dr. Jason Nieuwsma, a psychologist who serve as Director and Associate Director of VA’s Mental Health and Chaplaincy program, respectively.  The forum consisted of experts from a myriad of professions:  chaplaincy, mental health, primary care, government, uniformed services, academia, and community organizations.  Attendees examined the relationships between spirituality and health and brainstormed about how chaplains, clergy, and other spiritual care providers might be optimally integrated into a public health model that better addresses the complex health needs of Veterans, Service members, and their families.

  • White House Hosts Call on the Benefits of Volunteer Income Tax Assistance

    Did you know you can help bring an average $1,145 in refunds per a return by hosting a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance event in your local community?  The White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships recently held a conference call about the important benefits this program can have for local individuals through a conference call we co-hosted with the Stakeholder Partnerships Education and Communications Office within the Internal Revenue Service.

    Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites offer free tax help to low- to moderate-income (generally, $49,000 and below) people who cannot prepare their own tax returns. Certified volunteers sponsored by various organizations receive training to help prepare basic tax returns in communities across the country. Nationwide, more than 3 million taxpayers received free tax help from a variety of partners working with the IRS last year.  Within the group, faith-based partners completed and filed over 205,000 volunteer returns last year. While it is great that faith-based organizations are already participating in the partnership with IRS, a 20% increase in returns prepared by faith-based partners could yield approximately $47 million in refunds for their clients.