In Harris County, canvassers and leaders have knocked on close to 9,000 doors and spoken with over 2,000 households about the benefits and risks of Covid-18 vaccines in two areas with high percentages of low-income Latino and African American families and very low rates of vaccination.
In Jefferson County, leaders organized 12 different vaccination events at Beaumont ISD schools, Baptist and Catholic churches, Port Arthur libraries and a museum. Over 450 children and another 200 adults have been vaccinated in four zip codes with the lowest vaccination rates in the state.
In Brazoria County, GCLC partnered with Hispanic congregations in Manvel, Alvin and Clute to work with local clinics and pharmacies to provide over 100 vaccinations to adults and children. Both Alvin and Brazos Port ISDs agreed to educate parents about the need for vaccination through their school district newsletter and flyers distributed to parents through schools.
Over 100 clergy and leaders (prepared by GCLC and from TMO institutions) convened at Our Lady of St. John Catholic Church in Northeast Houston for small group conversations to discuss issues around safety and crime in their community. Houston Police Department officers joined the conversation and committed to building a better relationship with the community.
Organized by The Gulf Coast Leadership Council (GCLC) and TMO, 123 participants were joined by Bishop Italo Dell'Oro of the Archdiocese ofGalveston-Houston for a two-day 'Recognizing the Stranger' training. Ministry leaders from 21 parishes of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston participated, as did leaders from the Diocese of Beaumont.
Recognizing the Stranger training equips immigrant parish leaders with the skills needed to make connections within immigrant communities and with non-immigrant allies, applying the tools of organizing to address issues facing their congregations and communities.
Training sponsors include the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, Mission & Ministry Impact, Gulf Coast Leadership Council, TMO, and the Organizers Institute.
In photo at right, Bishop Italo Dell-Oro recognizes GCLC for teaching parish leaders listening skills through house meetings, particularly with people on the periphery.
In collaboration the Harris County Pubic Health Department and GCLC-prepared leaders from St. Leo the Great and Our Lady of Grace Catholic Churches, TMO brought over 790 vaccines to overlooked neighborhoods in unincorporated and low-income areas of Harris County.
In Aldine, within the county borders, this collaboration was particularly important for parishioners and neighbors of St. Leo the Great Catholic parish, where over 690 people received their first vaccine dose over two events in August.
In South Houston, leaders from Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church encouraged parishioners to get vaccinated through a combination of pulpit announcements, flyers and after-mass signups.
Said Sylvia Soria, the church secretary of Our Lady of Grace:
“Our parish membership is 99% Latino. Many of our families are working families that can not take time off during the week to get the vaccine across the other side of town. We’re glad to work with TMO, GCLC, and Harris County Health Department to bring the COVID-19 vaccine on a Saturday to our community.”
Jornada de Vacunación en Ciudad con Gran Población Hispana, Telemundo [en español]
The one-on-one approach to persuasion isn’t necessarily the most efficient, but it may be the most effective for the vaccine holdouts who have resisted every other large-scale push....
We know it can work because it already has.
One group out there doing the intensive, small-scale work to raise vaccination rates is the Southeast Texas Faith & Community Leaders Coalition, [an expansion project of GCLC] based in Beaumont. Six team members told the editorial board last week that their community, like so many, is awash in vaccine conspiracies. Coordinator Mary Scott said the group has been going directly to apartment complexes with accurate vaccine information, and got approval from some Beaumont businesses to engage with customers about their vaccination drives. The grassroots team got 88 people vaccinated two weekends ago through churches and other centers....
Lamar University student [and GCLC supported organizer] Ricky Mendoza said conversations with Hispanic community members revealed concerns about fertility and the vaccine, which numerous health experts have debunked. (And the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists issued a strong recommendation recently that pregnant women should get vaccinated.)
Mendoza said he’s finding that one-on-one conversations with people, in English and in Spanish, are slowly changing minds.
[Photo Credit: Southeast Texas Faith & Community Leaders]
Changing Minds on the Vaccine, One by One, Houston Chronicle [pdf]
Coalition Brings Vaccines to Beaumont Residents in At-Risk Areas, Beaumont Enterprise [pdf]
Organizations Team Up in Beaumont to Spread Word About Importance of Getting Covid Vaccine, FOX News [pdf]
Putting Our Faith & Commitment to Democracy in Action, Southeast Texas Faith & Community Leaders
[Gulf Coast Leadership Council provides leadership development and training to leaders of The Metropolitan Organization, with the support of Catholic Campaign for Human Development]
….[t]he Network of Texas IAF Organizations – a nonpartisan coalition of mostly faith-based organizations that represents more than one million people — and The Metropolitan Organization of Houston, held a virtual press conference April 12 to support approval of State Senate Bill 3, mandating weatherization under federal energy regulation guidelines.
They are calling for the costs to be covered by power producers and energy generators as well as through the state’s $10 billion “rainy day” fund. The bill passed in the Senate on March 29 and now moves to the House that heard testimony but has not taken a vote. It would also impose penalties for non-compliance, increase coordination among state energy regulating bodies and create an emergency alert system.
Faith organizations also called for establishing a $2 billion fund to help families pay for home and apartment repairs and for consumer advocates to be appointed to all state energy and utility boards.
Sister Maureen O’Connell, OP, Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston director of the Secretariat for Social Concerns, said, “Never again – the damage that this past storm inflicted on families should never happen again because of lack of preparation by the state.”
“People are still suffering and can’t make repairs on their own homes. It’s criminal not to help. The community, including the State Legislature, needs to support one another,” she said.
....Since many lost wages or jobs because of the pandemic, they remain living with mold in their homes from busted pipes and filling bathtubs with water, DeLeon described. The ministry, with limited funds, can help each family only once every six months, she said. “This is only a temporary fix. The community’s problems are much bigger.”
[CNS photo: Callaghan O'Hare, Reuters]
With Hurricane Season Looming, Families Still Suffer from Winter Storm, Texas Catholic Herald - Archdiocese of Galveston [pdf]
Arenas de Ruiz, formerly of Venezuela, had been among parishioners in Harris County, Fort Bend and Brazoria counties who took the three-day leadership training offered [by the Gulf Coast Leadership Council with the support of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development and Mission & Ministry Impact to leaders of] The Metropolitan Organization (TMO), a nonprofit grassroots group. In mid-summer, more than 1,250 TMO leaders from 30 churches and other institutions convened on Zoom and Facebook watch parties for a virtual “Get out the Vote Rally” and made thousands of phone calls to 16 Harris County precincts that traditionally had low voter turnout.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has offered a teaching document on the political responsibilities of Catholics called “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.” The document urges all pastors, lay and religious faithful and all people of good will “to help form consciences, teach those entrusted to their care; to contribute to civil and respectful public dialogue and to shape politics.”
Father Rodney Armstrong of Our Mother of Mercy Catholic Church in Fifth Ward and his parishioners set up a voter registration table at a nearby McDonald’s fast-food restaurant with owner approval. The pastor also made a video that TMO placed on its Facebook to encourage voters.
Dr. Fernando Scaglia, a parishioner at Assumption Catholic Church off Airline Drive, said he participated in the church’s phone bank as well despite his busy schedule as a researcher and professor of genetics at Baylor College of Medicine.
He also participated in “Virtual Accountability Sessions,” where TMO invited candidates from Democratic and Republican parties to discuss how they stood on a variety of issues.
“There are so many important issues that impact all of us — health and the pandemic; economic issues like evictions and even the DACA issue for dreamers,” Dr. Scaglia said.
[Photo Credit: St. Leo the Great Catholic Church]
Faithful Citizenship Sparks Nonpartisan Voter Rallies at Houston Parishes, The Texas Catholic Herald [pdf]
Gulf Coast Leadership Council prepared TMO leaders to convene over 1000 community members from across the country at Justice Summit
GCLC--trained TMO leaders brought together over 300 people on a Zoom call for a Justice Summit on Police reform, with over 800 viewers watching online. Academics Danielle Allen from Harvard University and Charles Payne from Rutgers University delivered educational presentations on approaches to community safety and preparing youth of color to thrive.