Steve Scauzillo: “Pasadenan Builds Housing from Scripture” and promotes today’s book signing at Archives

9 Feb

 I was pleased and grateful that Steve Scauzillo wrote this piece for the Pasadena Star News about my book and ministry. I hope that you can make it to my book signing today at 4:00 PM at Archives, 396 E Washington Blvd, Pasadena, CA.!/read/following/

Steve Scauzillo: Pasadenan builds housing from scripture

Posted: 02/08/2013 03:08:30 PM PST

February 8, 2013 11:21 PM GMTUpdated: 02/08/2013 03:19:59 PM PST

AS a journalist, I’m not always free to present solutions. We abide by the code “just the facts, ma’am” and then we’re off to the next story.

In opinion, however, facts can combine with advocacy. I can talk about a problem and say what I think can solve it.

No one does this better than my friend Jill Shook, whose book “Making Housing Happen” speaks of loving thy neighbor as a framework for solving the country’s housing crisis. But more than rhetoric, Shook puts up the drywall and nails the roof shingles using examples from Atlanta to New York, from Chicago to Pasadena.

In the introduction, Shook writes: “`Making Housing Happen’ illustrates in concrete ways how congregations and faith-based groups developed affordable housing in their communities.”

Full disclosure: Jill and I volunteered together in the 1990s and early 2000s to form Lake Avenue Church’s Community Outreach Team. We worked on loving the poor, from those with AIDs to the homeless to the hungry. Shook is also a member of the church I attend now, One Voice Church, also in Pasadena.

I’ve heard a lot of rhetoric and biblical philosophy in my day, but rarely do I hear someone mix the Bible’s words with action the way Shook’s done in her life and in her book.

“The first argument in the Bible between Abraham and Lot was about land. The first five books of the Old Testament are about preparing to go into the Promised Land,” Shook explained at a recent packed gathering at Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena.

The Old Testament philosophy of resting on the seventh day, resting the land in the seventh year and starting over on the 50th year (Jubilee) lays the foundation for faith- based groups of today to reclaim burned out and boarded up neighborhoods.

The prophets would lament the breaking of these land laws, Shook said, mostly because people became greedy and forgot the poor.

Lee Stuart and John Heinemeier wrote a chapter in her book about the Nehemiah Strategy, based on the prophet’s call for unity and face-to- face meetings.

About 30 churches from the South Bronx convinced government agencies to give them the blighted land and they turned them into viable affordable housing.

“They said we have resources. We have burned-out houses. But we have the land. And we don’t want outsiders to define us,” Shook said.

In Hawaii, churches demanded banks give homeowners facing foreclosure face-to-face meetings. Hawaii made it law. “That cut the foreclosure rate in half,” Shook said.

Sometimes, the people can do it without the government. Sometimes, the people can influence government policies.

In Pasadena, Shook helped shape the city’s inclusionary-housing law, which says a developer must set aside 15 percent of the units for low- and moderate-income residents.

I’ll close with this example.

Shook read about a housing development called Westgate in our paper. She called the developer and he said he would build some units at the “moderate-income” level. She said she would bring churches and advocacy groups in support but only if they lowered the threshold.

“Two weeks later, I get a call. He decided to go up to 20 percent of all units and said they would all be very low-income,” Shook remembered.

About 97 units were offered for about $500 a month to those who couldn’t afford Southern California’s high housing prices.

The idea is to get at the foundation of poverty. Finding people housing and employment. Somehow, with the mortgage meltdown of 2008, we’ve gone backward. Shook points to the Book of Acts in the New Testament, where the early church practiced God’s principals for housing, land and loving thy neighbor.

“It says in Acts 4: `There was no poor among them,”‘ she said.

Shook and friend Bert Newton (“Subversive Wisdom,” WIPF & Stock, 2012) will sign their books at 4 p.m. Saturday at Archives book store, 396 E. Washington Blvd., Pasadena.




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