The Kalamazoo community organizing group ISAAC will hold one of its regular issues convocations Tuesday, October 3rd. But this time there’s a twist: the Interfaith Strategy for Advocacy and Action in the Community usually asks the community for input on the issues it should address. But this time the group says it doesn’t plan any changes in the agenda set at the last meeting in early 2012.
ISAAC Vice-President Tobi Hanna-Davies says no changes are in the offing because the group believes it is making good progress in four areas identified last time: youth violence and drug prevention; countywide transportation; affordable housing; and education and early childhood development. Hanna-Davies says the latest convocation was called to give the community an update on work in each area.
ISAAC Executive Director Brendan Flanagan says it is working with Kalamazoo Public Safety officials on the “Cease Fire” program developed by David Kennedy. It includes “call ins” that encourage young men involved in drugs and violence to get off that path and work on finishing school or getting jobs. Flanagan says “Cease Fire” also sends a message to those who continue causing trouble that their neighborhoods will fully support crackdowns by police.
In the area of affordable housing, Hanna-Davies says ISAAC is exploring the possibility of a program modeled on the FUSE project in Minneapolis. It started after officials there realized that 85 percent of people who regularly wound up in jail were homeless. That led to an initiative to provide more affordable housing and other support services. Hanna-Davies says one result of the Minnesota project was an annual reduction in costs of $13,000 per person even after paying for the new services. She says ISAAC and Kalamazoo’s two hospitals, the Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Department, Community Mental Health, and area housing agencies are considering a similar approach to dealing with people who end up in emergency rooms.
Earlier this year volunteers from ISAAC knocked on thousands of doors in Kalamazoo to recruit more volunteers for literacy and positive parenting programs. ISAAC is also helping inform the community about a significant increase in the number of state-funded preschool slots available in Kalamazoo.
The ISAAC Issues Convocation is open to the public. It starts at 7 p.m. at the First Congregational Church, 129 South Park Street, in downtown Kalamazoo.