Last night was the Nehemiah Action meeting for the BREAD organization. BREAD is comprised of about 50 different congregations who represent different faith traditions but come together to work for justice in our city.
Every year we identify one issue that will be studied. This year the issue was mental health.
At the Nehemiah Action we come together to meet with community leaders that have the power to respond to whatever solution has been found to address the problem. Of course, justice issues are always complicated and layered and the research team has come to some understanding of the scope of the problem and one way that we can work together to make something happen.
There were probably 3000 people who attended the Nehemiah Action and we hear reports about what has been accomplished over the year and also there is a time in which city officials come to make a commitment in response. Over the years I have learned that usually we do not get a clear "YES" from everyone but I also have learned that justice takes time and that this is just part of a process that will lead to change. And change happen slowly.
For me, what is most important probably is hearing about issues that affect those who have no voice. Last night touched on three of them.
1. Student in Columbus Public Schools - we continue to work with schools through supporting the Key truancy program. We have helped the schools to identify and stop the practice of suspending students out of school for truancy.
2. Immigrants - we are supporting the idea of the city of Columbus accepting the ID from the Mexian Consulate as they do in Dayton and Chicago. When immigrants have no ID there are safety concerns for them as they will not report crimes against themselves. It is also very costly for police time.
3. The Mentally Ill - this was the issue of this year and I learned that on in 4 live with mental illness. We have a need for increased care so that people do not get into that place of crisis. One of the suggestions was that we adopt a model from Cleveland - of a "Clubhouse." They said that a year at the clubhouse cost the same as 2 days in the hospital for a mentally ill person.
Anyway, BREAD is an organization that forces me to keep learning about the lives of people who often are in the shadows. They often have no advocate. It is inspiring to come together with people who are trying to do something to make it better. One of the speakers at the end said that one of our greatest weapons is imagination - to imagine another way is possible. So we work to learn, to suggest, to help people to take a step forward that might lead to a better life - like staying in school, or having an ID card, or a place of healing.