The Metropolitan Organization (TMO) is an organization of institutions dedicated to developing power and leadership among citizens in order to transform the city. We work to create relational power that can build and strengthen each member institution as well as shape public policy for the common good. TMO was formed in 1980 to give a voice to people who are usually excluded from major decisions that affect their lives. TMO is a part of a larger network of organizations known as the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF), a nationwide organizing institute with a fifty year history. TMO is also part of the West / Southwest IAF regional network and the Industrial Areas Foundation national network.

TMO believes that a truly democratic society requires the active participation of ordinary citizens. When people lack the means to connect to power and participate effectively in public life, social relationships disintegrate. Our model of relational organizing helps build real community. It generates social capital through a tight web of relationships across lines of race, ethnicity, class, faith, and geography. This social capital enables us to participate fully in public life and to become more effective actors in our communities.


TMO Clergy, with Bishops, Call for a Regional 'Justice Summit' to Address Police Misconduct

[Excerpt]
The Metropolitan Organization calls for the following areas to be addressed:

1. Changing the present culture within police departments from a culture of intimidation and punitive responses to one of community policing which focuses on developing relationships within the community.

2. Raising the hiring standards of police to increase the degree of professionalism.

3. Effective and rapid implementation by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement of their recent decision to require all Texas police officers to learn how implicit bias can affect their actions.

4. Require the introduction of programs in all police departments to provide for the ongoing mental health wellness and care for the mental health needs of officers.

5. The elimination of qualified immunity that shields law enforcement officers from being sued for their discretionary actions.

6. The establishment of Independent Police Auditors with subpoena power in municipalities to independently investigate allegations of police misconduct.

7. Timely and effective investigation of all police shootings, allegations of excessive force and in-custody deaths by the Harris County District Attorney Civil Rights Division and prosecution of all officers where it is warranted.

[Photo credit: Godofredo A. Vásquez, Houston Chronicle]

Opinion: Faith Leaders Call For Justice Summit With Government And Community Leaders To Reduce Police MisconductHouston Chronicle [pdf]

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Beaumont TMO Leaders Leverage $1.2 Million in Local Pandemic Relief

[Excerpt]

Eleven Southeast Texas Faith Leaders from Jefferson County signed a letter on May 19, 2020 and sent it to Governor Abbott, Jefferson County Commissioners Court, Beaumont City Council and Port Author City Council, asking the Cities and County to create a coronavirus relief fund at their level of government to address COVID-19 housing concerns and to advocate for funding an behalf of the most vulnerable to the coronavirus. 

In response to this, and public testimony by key religious leadership, the City of Beaumont designated $1.2 Million towards pandemic relief.

[Photo credit: Fran Ruchalski, The Enterprise]

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TMO Urges City & County to Focus Rental Aid on Most Vulnerable

[Excerpt]

TMO is among the coalition of nonprofits that have approached the city and county to urge the equitable distribution of those funds.

“We asked City Council to commit $100 million of the $404 million in the Coronavirus Relief Fund to rental assistance. But the next day, they committed $15 million that was distributed online in a matter of minutes to about 12,000 families,” Higgs said.

“A survey shows of the 700,000 rental units in the area, up to 85,000 cannot pay rent at this time. A huge number of the people are service workers, men and women of color, hourly workers who lost their jobs with little if any savings. The need is so immense,” he said.

With any moratoriums on evictions ending, justices of the peace may resume processing eviction notices by mid-June and constables will start showing up at apartments, he said.

“It doesn’t make sense to evict someone who has paid regularly but is not able to currently pay during this crisis. Plus, when someone in uniform shows up to evict, it’s scary as heck, especially for those who may be undocumented,” Higgs said.

[Photo Credit: Courtesy of St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church]

Facing Eviction, Single Mothers With Kids Hit Hardest By Need For Rental Assistance, Texas Catholic Herald [pdf]

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TMO, Texas IAF Orgs Fight for Spanish Language Access to Essential Covid-19 Info

[Excerpts]

"Because of language barriers, Texas risks leaving some of the state’s marginalized communities even more vulnerable to contracting the virus while making it more difficult to access resources needed to get through the pandemic...."

"We have to be informed because we are the most vulnerable," [Maria] Ramirez explains.

The information Ramirez has gotten throughout the pandemic has mostly been through her own efforts seeking it out and through the community groups she was already involved with. Ramirez's church sends out information to congregants, as does The Metropolitan Organization of Houston, a local nonprofit of which she is a member.

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TMO-Ft. Bend Leverages $26.5 Million in County Rental, Food & Utility Relief

In a 3-2 vote at a special meeting, the Fort Bend County Commissioners Court passed a budget for how to spend $134.3 million in federal funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. 

TMO-Fort Bend clergy and judicatory leaders from Baptist, Methodist, Catholic, Lutheran and Islamic congregations testified at multiple hearings, including Rev. John Strader of Heritage Baptist Church who called on the county "consider its faith leaders and organizations as a resource to help....[we'll] help with seeing the true issues of our county to be addressed by the CARES Act funds."  As a result, 6,500 Fort Bend families will receive $1,500/mo for rent, utility and food assistance.

"Rev. David Lee Sincere Jr. with Fort Bend Transformation Church, Advocacy Now Institute and The Metropolitan Organization was one of several county residents and officials who spoke at Commissioners Court about the need for rental, mortgage and utility assistance. He said he has received a number of phone calls, emails and stories from residents who require help."

Leaders are also calling on the county to "enact a countywide rent moratorium that would help those directly affected by...this emergency.”

[Photo Credit: Screenshot via Fort Bend County]

City Mayors, Economic Development President, Fort Bend ISD Divided Over Division Of Federal COVID-19 Fund, Houston Chronicle [pdf]

Fort Bend County OKs Budget For Distributing $134M CARES Act Funds, Community Impact [pdf]

George Joins Others In Asking State To Extend Eviction Moratorium, Fort Bend Herald [pdf]

Fort Bend County Announces List Of CARES Act Funds Distribution Advisory Committee Members, Community Impact [pdf]

Fort Bend County To Host Workshop On Distributing $134M In CARES Act Funds, Community Impact [pdf]

Fort Bend County Launches $19.5M Rental Assistance Program June 1, Community Impact[pdf]

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TMO Pushes for Extension of Harris Co. Eviction Moratorium

[Excerpt]

Seven [commissioners], plus the one Mayor Turner spoke to, said they plan to postpone eviction hearings until June. That’s great news to Mesias Pedroza, a leader with The Metropolitan Organization (TMO), who today was helping to pack meals for families with meals.

“Just right now we’re preparing for service giving food supplies to families and they come and say ‘hey we need help with rent. We can not pay for rent. We don’t have a job. What are we going to do? Where are we going to go?” Pedroza said.

As of Wednesday, there were 1,286 evictions pending in Harris County. Since March 18, 1,591 have been filed, according to data collected by January Advisers.

On Tuesday, TMO sent a letter to Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo asking her to extend the moratorium on evictions which expired May 19. Judge Hidalgo has said that’s not in her power but she and county commissioners have allocated $30 million to help struggling families with relief.

“At TMO we believe they have the legal basis to do so because other counties have done so,” Pedroza countered. “There is ample discretion because the Texas Supreme Court they have said eviction orders may resume it doesn’t say that it shall resume.

[Photo Credit: KPRC Click 2 Houston]

Houston Mayor’s Tweet Sparks Optimism to Families Facing Evictions, Click 2 Houston [pdf]

Editorial: What Houston must do to avoid eviction disaster Houston Chronicle [pdf]

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TMO Calls for More Rental Aid As $15M in Houston Rental Assistance Dries Up in 90 Minutes

[Excerpts]

HOUSTON — The $15 million meant to help Houstonians pay rent is already gone. The money dried up in less than 90 minutes....

The Metropolitan Organization was hosting two application clinics this morning to help families without internet access apply. Large crowds waited in line starting at 5 a.m. Because of the issues with the site many families weren't able to apply before it was shut down.
....

"They designed a system to give away $15 million quickly and yes it was a success they gave away $15 million, but did it get to the people with the greatest need, I question that," said Joe Higgs, Executive Director of TMO.
....

As many as 30,000 tried to access the website, an indication of the need for rent relief in the wake of COVID-19, which has led to business shutdowns and skyrocketing unemployment. Housing advocates have said the money does not go far enough in helping renters.

Houston's $15 Million Rental Assistance Program Fills Up In 90 Minutes, Houston Chronicle

All Funds For Houston Rental Assistance Are Already Gone And Site Is Now Closed, KHOU 11

$15 Million In Rent Relief Claimed In Less Than 2 Hours, As Tenant Demand Creates Lag In Response, Houston Public Media

Houston's $15 Million In Rent Assistance Runs Out In Just Two Hours, Click To Houston [pdf]

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TMO Leverages $15 Million in Coronavirus Rental Relief in Houston

Update: City of Houston approves $15 Million in rental assistance for people affected by the coronavirus.

[Excerpt below]

The Metropolitan Organization of Houston says 70,000 families won’t be able to make rent, and it’s why they are calling on Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner to act.

10,000 of families will be homeless. I (implore) you, answer the call again, sound the alarm again, leave no one behind,”

said Minister Jaqueline Hailey [in screenshot above] of Greater New Hope Baptist Church and member of the TMO, during a virtual press conference.

TMO members say with 57% of Houston households as renters, a crisis could be on its way...

Group Calls on Mayor to Increase Fund to Help Houstonians Pay Rent to $100MClick2Houston (KPRC) 

Houston Aprueba $15 Millones Para Ayudar a Pagar la Renta a Inquilinos Afectados por el CoronavirusUnivisión [video]

Houston to Use $15 Million in Federal Relief Funds to Help Residents Make Up Late RentHouston Chronicle [pdf]

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TMO Successful in Pressing Harris County to Create $15M Pandemic Fund

[Excerpt below]

Low-income families, residents in the country illegally, victims of domestic violence and children aging out of foster care are the target audience for a $15 million coronavirus relief fund Harris County Commissioners Court created Tuesday.

The fund, proposed by Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis, aims to assist residents who are ineligible for federal aid through the CARES Act or for whom the $1,200 stimulus payments are insufficient.

....

Minister Jacqueline Hailey of the New Hope Baptist Church [which is a member of TMO] said housing is a particular area of need, as Friday marks the second time rent will come due since the pandemic reached the Houston area in March.

“There are 70,000 Houston renters who were unable to pay their rent last month, and there will be even more in May,” Hailey said.

[Photo Credit: Jon Shapley, Houston Chronicle]

Harris County Creates $15 Million Pandemic Relief Fund Aimed at Most Vulnerable ResidentsHouston Chronicle [pdf]

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TMO Leaders Raise Alarm on Complex Trauma Inflicted on Children

[Excerpt]

Rev. Carissa Baldwin-McGinnis of Northside Episcopal Church said church groups are seeing a lot of children across Houston experiencing trauma — and even grief — as normalcy and friendships are lost because of COVID-19 and all the events that have come before it.

Baldwin-McGinnis is an executive committee member for The Metropolitan Organization, a nonprofit that brings faith-based groups together to influence policymakers’ decisions. The organization is currently working to raise awareness for the food and housing needs low-income and minority communities are facing during the pandemic.

“We know that the nervous system of children gets extra triggered when there are multiple experiences of complex trauma,” Baldwin-McGinnis said. “If they’ve had losses in the past, they’re less able to regulate their emotions, they have higher levels of anxiety … (and) you can get all kinds of crazy behavior including higher aggression.&rdquo

[Photo by Brett Coomer, Houston Chronicle]

Houston Has Experienced a Series of Unfortunate Events. Our Children Are Suffering for it, Houston Chronicle

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