By Richard Slizeski
The Catholic Campaign for Human Development is the domestic anti-poverty program of the U.S. Catholic Bishops, working to carry out the mission of Jesus Christ “to bring good news to the poor … release to captives … sight to the blind, and let the oppressed go free” (Luke 4:18), as stated on the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website.
Every year, the Diocese of Brooklyn responds to this call by supporting the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, the community organizing arm of the U.S. Bishops’ Conference. The diocese partners with local community organizations that not only address the root causes of poverty, but also seek to empower the poor, the disabled, minorities, workers and immigrants. One of those organizations is Churches United for Fair Housing.
Churches United for Fair Housing (CUFFH) is a Brooklyn-based grassroots organization founded in 2009 to work at achieving community empowerment through community organizing, youth engagement and affordable housing services. At a time when Brooklyn is becoming exponentially gentrified, CUFFH partners with Catholic parishes in Brooklyn to help advocate and develop leadership among marginalized members of the community in order empower the community and challenge development policies that threaten affordable housing opportunities in the area.
One such leader is Edgar Rodriguez, who was born and raised in Williamsburg. He has spent his life at Epiphany Church as an altar boy, student and parishioner. Today, he works at three weekly Masses as a courtesy monitor and considers Epiphany his home.
Over the years, he has witnessed fundamental changes to the neighborhood. Friends and neighbors he grew up with, whom he calls “family,” are leaving the area. Seeing his community under threat, Edgar began participating in CUFFH’s actions against the Broadway Triangle rezoning and development. He has taken an active role in galvanizing fellow congregants in the struggle for fair housing and serves as a member of the CUFFH Council. He hopes that by continuing to foster community through leadership work at Epiphany, he can contribute to the stability of the entire neighborhood.
This year, CUFFH honored Edgar with a leadership award for his devotion to Epiphany, the CUFFH Network and his dedication to keeping Williamsburg affordable and welcoming to all.
On Nov. 18, churches in the U.S. will have a second collection to support CCHD projects. Eighty-six cents out of every dollar received by CCHD goes directly to community empowerment, economic development and education programs. Through this fund we will be able to continue supporting organizations like Churches United for Affordable Housing and empower community leaders like Edgar Rodriguez.
Slizeski, Catholic Charities’ vice president for mission, runs the Catholic Campaign for Human Development in the Brooklyn Diocese.