On Tuesday, faith leaders from Greater Houston met for the first-ever Faith and Affordable Housing Summit to address ways the religious community can help address Houston’s affordable housing crisis.
This event – hosted by Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston in partnership with Houston Habitat for Humanity and Interfaith Ministries of Greater Houston – called together some of the city’s best minds to address this major challenge. The issue is so important that Mayor Sylvester Turner declared Nov. 15 as Faith and Affordable Housing Day.
“We had a successful summit with more than 100 people involved in learning more about the faith-affordable housing connection,” said Steve Mikelman, Director of Housing and Economic Opportunities for Catholic Charities. “Now they can become more engaged in helping those in need have access to decent, safe, affordable housing, which is key in their journey toward greater self-sufficiency and living in dignity.”
Summit participant Kirk Craig of Agape Development said, “We’ve got people in the room who could change the conversation about housing in Houston. If anything is going to change Houston’s housing policy, we will need the faith community, and this meeting gave me hope for that.”
The summit, held at St. Vincent de Paul on Buffalo Speedway, featured a keynote address by Rev. Harvey Clemons Jr. of Pleasant Hill Baptist Church.
Clemons discussed his church’s proactive housing development program, as well as the uncertainty caused by the recent election and upcoming change of administration. The reverend connected the efforts to influence policy and provide more affordable housing opportunities to faith principles such as, “We are our brother’s keeper.” The lack of affordable housing and other life-affirming services impacts society as a whole, not just those receiving assistance, he said.
Rabbi Steve Gross of the Houston Congregation for Reform Judaism said, “The challenges are monumental, but partnerships like this summit help us to see that bringing knowledge and resources together can help pave a path for a better tomorrow for everyone.”
More than 180,000 low-income households in Greater Houston pay a high percentage of their salaries for housing and still live in substandard apartments or homes – some even lacking a kitchen or complete plumbing. Others suffer severe overcrowding.
“This is a problem that Houston can solve,” said Cynthia Colbert, MSW, president and CEO of Catholic Charities. “With the collaborative efforts of all the wonderful organizations involved in this summit, I’m confident we can create positive changes to make affordable housing accessible to those in need. This was a good first step.”