Note: The Lawrence Times is offering some space for area organizations and organizers to express their views, provide updates and attempt to reach other folks who might share their mission. This post is contributed content (i.e., not produced by the Times staff). See more in our Community Voices section, or see how to submit your own piece.
Post updated at 10:10 a.m. Thursday, April 21:
We have been part of Justice Matters since it began, and we have witnessed how this grassroots organization has made real differences in our community over the past seven years. These differences remind us of what we can accomplish when we are united. Together, we are part of something more powerful than we could ever be individually. And when we are united around addressing systemic issues of injustice, the impact is long-lasting and profound.
How has Justice Matters changed our community? When focused on the high cost of housing, Justice Matters led the way to establish an affordable housing trust fund that stewards at least $1 million annually and has so far awarded grants towards over 200 units of new affordable housing, plus vouchers and services to help keep people stably housed. When focused on the lack of mental health services in our community, Justice Matters fought for the creation of the Treatment and Recovery Campus of Douglas County, which will be fully operational this summer and will provide 24/7 services and housing for individuals with serious mental illness and substance use disorders. When focused on the needs of those experiencing homelessness, Justice Matters championed the Built for Zero initiative, resulting in our local leaders resolving to develop a comprehensive plan to reach functional zero chronic homelessness in our community.
These victories directly improve quality of life and change the way our community is perceived. Just a few weeks ago, Ann had a conversation with someone who recently moved to Lawrence to accept a position in the health care field. Their decision was influenced by the existence of the Treatment and Recovery Campus, which reflected an understanding of the need for structural solutions to address complex mental health challenges. Justice Matters is truly transforming our community into a better place to live and work.
But our work is not done. Our mission is to move Lawrence toward a city of God where justice rolls down like a mighty river. We still see gaps in our systems, and we still see needs for more just policies and practices in our community. We continue to seek just solutions for our neighbors who are experiencing homelessness, for those who have been unnecessarily incarcerated, for students pushed into the school-to-prison pipeline by punitive disciplinary practices, and for quality-of-care issues for our elders.
Each spring, we hold a citywide gathering called the Justice Matters Action Assembly. At this event, we invite our community to call for change with one collective voice. We invite our elected leaders to hear well-researched proposals from our action committees and to commit to policies and practices that will make a real difference in our community.
This year’s Action Assembly will be held from 6:30 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, April 28 at the Douglas County Fairgrounds. We will be seated inside the Open Pavilion – a semi-outdoor, well-ventilated environment with ample space for social distancing. Masking will be required based on the latest COVID-19 guidelines from Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health.
Join us to witness the power of uniting for justice! As stated by Justice Matters Network members Cindy and Isidro Rivera, “We support Justice Matters because Justice Matters has already accomplished so much in Lawrence – and we can’t wait to see what happens next!”
Cynthia Eubanks and Ann Spangler
9th Street Missionary Baptist Church; First United Methodist Church
Co-Presidents, Justice Matters
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