15 Nov

by Ann Fuehrer, Facilitator

Eighteen months ago, I published a blog post on this website on the “Oxford Homelessness Network.” At that point, two other members of the OCPJ Board, Karen Anders Francis and Linda Simmons, and I were beginning efforts to address the resource gaps that result in a small but significant number of people who reside in the Oxford area being unhoused. Everyone has the basic human right to have their survival needs met, and that includes having affordable, safe and predictable shelter. Given the “market conditions” (eg Miami University hands-off stance, absentee corporate owners, motives for greatest profit) that exist in the city, 54% of renters are housing burdened, and the majority of people who work in Oxford don’t live in Oxford–many of them can’t afford to live in Oxford, though they might want to.

Thirty years ago, then Director of OCPJ Linda Musmeci Kimball published an article in the January/February 1993 issue of the Peace Center Press, entitled “Affordable Housing in Oxford: The Silent Shame.” Many of the conditions that existed then still plague us today. The Oxford Homelessness Network has been doing good work to identify and challenge these issues. We have been formally joined by Diane Ruther-Vierling, former Executive Director of the Family Resource Center, and members of the Eradicating Systemic Poverty group from the Oxford Presbyterian Church, to expand our scope. Now, Diane and I are joined by Jenny Bailer and Anne Bailey to form the planning team of a relatively new coalition, Oxford Area Solutions for Housing (OASH). Last night, we hosted 30 members of the community, from a number of different sectors, to plan for a Point-In-Time Count of people who are unhoused in the Oxford area. The costs of the Count are supported by grants from the McCullough-Hyde Foundation, and the Oxford Masonic Foundation Inc. This is the first step in raising public awareness that, yes, there are as many as 100 people in our community who have no permanent residence, who periodically are sheltering outdoors, or whose families are torn apart by lack of affordable housing and support services. Next steps will include assuring a cold shelter this year, and making stronger links among local first responders, and with County resources, to fill local gaps

OASH meets regularly on the fourth Monday of the month from 5:00-7:00 at the Oxford Presbyterian Church Seminary Building at 104 E. Church St. We gather around six round tables, each of which represents a different sector of the community (Civic/Philanthropy, Human Services, Economy, Faith communities, Education, and Government). We enjoy pizza and salad (donations welcome), have a brief presentation by the planning team that catches us up on progress and orients our work for the evening, and then work on action plans in small groups for an hour, before returning to the large group for reporting out and synthesis. We welcome you to join us to offer experience, expertise, skills, time, energy, inspiration, labor, ideas, and most of all your moral clarity that silence and ignorance lead to injustice–we are all accountable for the housing first of ourselves and our neighbors. If you’d like more information, feel free to contact me at facilitator@ocpjohio.edu.