Visions for Community Change.

Can you imagine what Charlottesville-Albemarle might look like if it were an “ideal community?” IMPACT is one local group working to make changes that would work toward that end. Others are dreaming about this as well.

In December the IMPACT research committee working on our new issue, Immigrant Conditions, decided to focus on immigrants’ problems with the legal system. They have been meeting with a number of local organizations that interact with immigrants in various ways. They have learned that when groups of immigrants are picked up by police, both documented and undocumented immigrants are sometimes jailed. They have begun to focus more closely on the issue of Immigrant and Customs Enforcement (ICE) notifications, and have found that the city-county jail voluntarily follows the practice of informing ICE when an undocumented immigrant is being released from jail. ICE can then easily pick up immigrants for possible deportation.

In interviews, IMPACT researchers were told that jails were required by law to report this information. But the research committee has learned that there is no such “law.” When Charlottesville Sheriff James Brown was told this and checked for himself, he was reportedly “surprised” to learn that this was true. It remains to be seen whether the new members on the Albemarle Charlottesville Jail Board will vote to continue this practice.

IMPACT research work on Affordable Housing continues as well. Interviews with new and continuing city councilors and county supervisors are being held, in addition to talks with high level UVA administrators. In the city, the plan is to push for $3 million in the City Affordable Housing Fund in the next budget. In the county, IMPACT expects to be working for $5 million in an Affordable Housing Trust Fund. With UVA, the research group is investigating possibilities for university investments of land or money to assist with affordable housing projects in the city and county.

The Albemarle County Stakeholders Committee is working on updating the county Housing Policy under the leadership of Stacy Pethia. IMPACT is represented on this committee. The updated Housing Policy will become a chapter in the county’s Comprehensive Plan for the next 5 years. A progress report will be on the agenda for the Board of Supervisors February 5th meeting. Establishment of an Affordable Housing Trust Fund and a continuing Housing Stakeholders Committee are proposals currently supported by the committee. These have been important pieces of IMPACT’s proposals for change over the past two years.

On Friday, January 24 from 12 to 2 at the County Office Building the Jack Jouett Student Housing Project, which has been conducted by 8th graders, will be presented. This has been a Community Design project, with two different groups of 8th graders working to develop descriptions of their ideal communities. Members of the Stakeholders Committee are looking forward to hearing what changes the next generation of county residents would like to see in our community. YOU might be interested in hearing this report as well.

YOU can also share in this work by highlighting March 31 on your 2020 calendar, and planning to attend the IMPACT Nehemiah Action, 6:30 to 8:00 p.m., at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Performing Arts Center. There we will tell community leaders what improvements we want to see with regard to these issues. TJMC’s attendance goal is 100% of our average Sunday service attendance, which is currently 134 people. Your presence will make a difference.

Greta Dershimer, TJMC IMPACT Network Team Leader