Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Charleston Area Justice Ministry votes housing as its 2018 focus

Transportation and health care among other issues pressing the community

Posted by Adam Manno on Tue, Nov 14, 2017 at 7:34 AM

click to enlarge The Charleston Area Justice Ministry's Nehemiah Action Assembly in 2015. - JONATHAN BONCEK
  • Jonathan Boncek
  • The Charleston Area Justice Ministry's Nehemiah Action Assembly in 2015.
Members of the Charleston Area Justice Ministry (CAJM) heard testimonies on three issues plaguing the Lowcountry on Monday night before deciding on one for next year's research, rally, and fundraising efforts.

The gathering at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in West Ashley was a night full of prayer, testimony, and issue-driven debate. Dubbed the "Community Problems Assembly," members of the various groups comprising CAJM heard problem statements on issues that the community at-large has spent the year talking about.

"We had 90 (listening sessions) this year," said CAJM co-president Rev. Jeremy Rutledge, a frequent City Paper columnist. "People gather in homes and we basically ask, 'what keeps you up at night?'"

About 576 votes were tallied on Monday night, according to the final count by Rev. Danny Reed of the Unitarian Church in Charleston. Of those, 67 went to the issue of health care and 164 went to transportation.

Robin Nazon, a Summerville resident who has been living in the area for 27 years, says Charleston has gotten too big to not have an adequate public transportation system.

"I just heard a story today about a lady that gets off work at 1 a.m., and she has to walk home a two-hour walk every morning because she can't afford to take a taxi," Nazon said. "Who does that? I almost wanted to get up and go take her home, 'cause that's crazy!"

When it came time for CAJM to officially declare its commitment, the housing issue won the day with 345 votes at about 9 p.m.

"I moved here from California with hopes of being able to purchase me a home," said North Charleston resident Raynique Syas. "Then I got here and I can't afford a house here either!"

From here, CAJM members will work to research and flesh out the important questions relevant to the topic of housing. In late April, the Nehemiah Action Assembly will convene thousands of community members for meetings with city leaders and experts.

The issue of affordable housing has been at the forefront of this year's discussions on livability in Charleston. Last week, voters overwhelmingly approved a $20 million bond referendum meant to bring 800 units of affordable housing to Charleston.

CAJM's 2015 issue, racial discrimination in policing, continues to play out at City Hall. The Public Safety Committee voted to defer questions on the scope of the police audit on Nov. 3, with CAJM still calling for a separate contractor specializing in racial bias. City Council was set to discuss the audit tonight.

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