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 Works to Reach Election Day Voters After Early Voting Push

[Excerpt]

Regardless of the outcome, it’s clear the election has brought out many new voters. According to the Metropolitan Organization, a coalition of faith-based nonprofits in the Houston area, “low propensity voters” — which the group defines as voters who are newly registered, infrequent, young, or from communities of color — are casting ballots at rates on par with or exceeding those seen in the 2016 election in nearly all of the precincts that the group is monitoring.

Metropolitan Organization leaders credit that in part to a recent ramping up of ongoing get-out-the-vote efforts, including having church leaders focus more on civic engagement within their congregations ahead of the election.

Joe Biggs, an organizer with the group, said it and other nonpartisan groups have spent months doing what one leader called “disciplined” outreach to typically disenfranchised groups. Some, he said, “didn’t even know early voting was going on.”

[Photo Credit: Mark Mulligan/Houston Chronicle]

Campaigns Try To Reach Election Day Voters After Record Early Voting, Houston Chronicle [pdf]

 

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TMO Calls Attention to the Disproportionate Impact of the Pandemic on Latino Families

[Excerpts]

The novel coronavirus is devastating Latino communities across the country, from California’s Imperial Valley to suburban Boston and Puerto Rico. Workers at Midwestern meatpacking plants and on construction sites in Florida are getting sick and dying of a virus that is exacerbating historic inequalities in communities where residents, many of whom are “essential” workers, struggle to access health care. The undocumented are largely invisible.

Latinos, who are not a racial group and come from diverse backgrounds, make up an increasing portion of deaths from covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. More than 36,500 Latinos have died of the virus, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed by The Washington Post.

“If you look at all the negative factors, risky jobs or unemployment, unsafe housing, poor air quality and preexisting conditions, it’s all people of color,” said Carlos E. Rodriguez-Diaz, an associate professor at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University.

Angela Orea, a community organizer with The Metropolitan Organization of Houston, said each day she receives desperate calls from families trying to get tested or find care. Many struggle to find transportation. Some who aren’t sick are moving out of their homes or apartments because they lost jobs and can no longer afford rent.

Every day, Amelia Averyt sees coronavirus patients at Legacy Community Health Clinic in Houston who waited too long to seek help after home remedies failed. The results can be particularly tragic for the undocumented, she said. When a family gets sick, she said, members vow to defeat the disease and take care of each other with minimal medical intervention. The repercussions can be devastating.

[Photo Credit: Sergio Flores/Washington Post]

‘It’s just too much to handle,’ In Texas, the Burden of Coronavirus on Latinos is Diverse, With an Impact That is Almost Certainly Underestimated, Washington Post [pdf]

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TMO Welcomes CDC Eviction Moratorium, Calls for More Rental Assistance

[Excerpts]

According to community leaders, about 10,000 renters have been evicted from March through August in the Houston area before the recent eviction moratorium was put into place by the Center for Disease Control to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The CDC ordered a national eviction moratorium, halting evictions effective Sept. 4 through the end of 2020 as COVID-19 continues to cause health and economic hardships. But residents will still be under obligation to pay rent, so those eligible need to apply to Houston’s $60 million rental assistance program allocated through the City of Houston and Harris County, said The Metropolitan Organization (TMO) members, a nonprofit of church groups.

“Evictions put us all at risk,” said TMO’s Bob Fleming. “People who are evicted move in with other people and compound liability to COVID-19 by creating more density....”

Baptist Rev. Jaqueline Hailey, as part of a TMO press conference, said, “The CDC order creates a welcomed pause in evictions in this area, but it is only a half-measure because all rents and late fees will continue to pile up and be due when the moratorium expires on December 31.”

[Photo Credit: Jo Ann Zuñiga, Texas Catholic Herald]

Thousands Evicted in Houston Area Before Eviction Moratorium, Rental Assistance, Texas Catholic Herald [pdf]

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TMO, Texas IAF Leaders Call for Police Reform in Justice Summit

[Excerpts]

Pastor John D. Ogletree reflected Thursday evening that it had been a sad day in Houston, and a somber one. Four city police officers were fired that day for their roles in the April 21 death of Nicolas Chavez, in an incident captured on police video that was finally made public after months of calls, from activists, to “release the tapes.”

But as Ogletree noted Thursday evening, at the beginning of an online summit on justice coordinated by The Metropolitan Organization of Houston and the Network of Texas IAF Organizations, Chavez’ death wasn’t an isolated incident.

“Chavez was the first of six killed by HPD officers during a two-month stretch, April and May,” Ogletree said. “All of these were men of color who were killed....”

“The cry now across the nation is for justice,” Ogletree continued. “Since May, there has been a heightened sense of rage, desperation, and resolve to shift the way policing is done in America.”

That’s certainly true, and it’s the best reason to feel optimistic about the prospects for police reform in Houston, at least.... 

Grieder: Push for Police Reform Shouldn’t be Scuttled in Favor of Partisan Politics, Houston Chronicle [pdf]

TMO Police Reform Action Agenda

FacebookLive event

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TMO Assistance With Evictions During Coronavirus: What You Need To Know For September 4th

[Excerpts]

Leaders with The Metropolitan Organization of Houston, a coalition of churches and organizations that work to help low-income, local communities, are calling on Justices of the Peace to halt evictions and for renters to take action to prevent losing their homes.

Beginning Friday, a new evictions moratorium issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention takes place. The rare order prohibits landlords from evicting any tenants through the end of the year but does not relieve renters of having to pay their rent and other fees in the future.

TMO leaders said during a Friday press conference while the CDC's sweeping moratorium is a step in the right direction, it's not enough.

“The CDC order creates a welcome pause in evictions in this area but is only a half-measure because all rents and late fees will continue to pile up and be due when the moratorium expires on December 31” Rev. Jaqueline Hailey, a leader with TMO, said in a news release.

“COVID-19 is not going anywhere, and it is time for Congress to return to negotiations to pass the next stimulus bill, including $100 Billion in rental assistance,” TMO Leader Rev. Scott Cooper said in the release.

[Photo Credit: Courtesy of UT Physicians]

Houston Coronavirus Updates: What You Need To Know For September 4th, Houston Chronicle [pdf]

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TMO, IAF Raise Alarm on Impact of Executive Order on Undocumented Immigrants

[Excerpts]

Whenever [TMO leader] Father Carmelo Hernandez makes a live appearance on his church's YouTube channel, he asks the same question each week: "Have you filled out your census form?"

The parishioners of St. Leo the Great Catholic Church in Houston are largely Hispanic, undocumented or of mixed status, living in one of the most diverse cities in the nation. Hernandez has spent months using his pulpit to demystify the census, disentangle the misinformation and quiet the fears that congregants have about being counted.

But news that President Trump signed a memorandum Tuesday that would exclude many of his parishioners from congressional apportionment is enough to scare them back into invisibility, he said. To them it is proof — against Hernandez's many efforts to the contrary — that the census is a trap and should be avoided.
....

Tuesday’s memo comes as the Census Bureau begins outreach to the nation’s hardest-to-count groups, including immigrants. If the government is seen as trying to disadvantage them, some might be less likely to respond to the survey, immigrant advocates said.

“This is an order designed to sow fear and mistrust between peoples and becomes a matter of life and death as the US battles a deadly pandemic,” said a statement from the Industrial Areas Foundation, a group that works with churches and organizers in the West and Southwest to educate and support minority communities.

....

Soco[rro] Perales, an organizer with Dallas Area Interfaith, said that organizers will continue to encourage immigrant families to cooperate with the Census.

“That information cannot be shared” with immigration authorities, she said. “Everybody still needs to be counted and it is still safe.”

[Photo Credit: Mandel Ngan, AFP / Getty Images]

Some in Texas Fear Trump Ban on Undocumented Immigrants in Census is Scare Tactic to Suppress CountWashington Post [pdf]

Trump Administration Seeks to Bar Undocumented Immigrants From a Portion of the 2020 Census, Washington Post [pdf]

New Trump Order Excluding Non-Citizens From Census Could Cost Texas a Seat in Congress, Dallas Morning News [pdf]

Statement on today's Executive Order, Industrial Areas Foundation

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Texas IAF Celebrates $350M Won in Local Relief, Launches GOTV Effort for Fall

Exceeding their turnout goal by 50%, more than 1,500 leaders from Texas IAF organizations assembled online and in (socially distanced) watch parties to launch a Get Out The Vote drive, pledging to deliver 200,000 voters this fall to support a nonpartisan agenda for change.

Declared the Rev. Dr. Rhenel Johnson, pastor of Abundant Life United Methodist Church and leader with TMO: "Here today are the prophets like Moses who are called to set the people free. Set them free from slave jobs, set them free from not having access to mental health for our adult and children, set them free from police brutality and set them free from inequality! The Texas IAF network is ready to take to the streets and sign up voters to our agenda of issues and March them to the polls starting October 19 for early voting through election day on November 3rd."

Bishops, clergy, lay leaders, and community leaders from 10 Texas IAF organizations ratified an agenda that includes COVID-19 recovery, workforce development, healthcare access, immigration, and police reform. Speakers included: Catholic Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller (Archdiocese of San Antonio), Auxiliary Bishop Gregory Kelly (Diocese of Dallas), Rabbi Alan Freedman (Temple Beth Shalom in Austin), Danielle Alan of Harvard University, Paul Osterman of MIT, Luke Bretherton of Duke University, Charles Sabel of the Economic Policy Institute, and Teresa Ghilarducci and Richard McGahey of the Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis.

Similar statewide “Sign Up-Take Charge/Get Out The Vote” campaigns by the Network of Texas IAF Organizations have netted over $2 Billion in infrastructure funding for colonias along the border, tens of millions for workforce development for living wage jobs, over $50 Million for public school parent training and staff development, expansion of CHIP and Medicaid at the state level, and living wage measures in cities, counties, and school districts across the state.

Over the past three months Texas IAF organizations have focused on COVID-19 recovery, leveraging over $250,000,000 in rental/utility assistance and $100,000,000 in workforce development at the city and county levels, in addition to statewide and local moratoriums for utility cutoffs and evictions.

“We've won hundreds of millions in immediate COVID-19 economic relief, our organizations are now focusing on longer term workforce and economy recovery strategies brought about by the pandemic,” said Rev. Minerva Camarena-Skeith, a leader with St. Michael’s Episcopal and Central Texas Interfaith. “This includes long-term training for in-demand living wage jobs, reducing underlying health care disparities, and education investments like internet connectivity for students from low-income communities to bridge the digital divide.”

Leaders pledged to identify 5,700 leaders in house meetings and small group gatherings this summer and prepare them to each deliver 36 voters to the polls this fall.

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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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