The first Women's March in Newark was held downtown on January 20th.
Organized by Jen Kanagy of Licking County Revolution, in collaboration with Garry Goldsmith of Working Families First, over 200 people attended to hear women from different cultural and economic backgrounds voice opposition to sexist, racist, and classist violence, followed by a march around the courthouse square.
The Think Tank and Justice’s own Lesha Farias was one of the speakers. We have included her speech below, along with more reporting of the event.
Another march is planned for 2019.
Thank you, Jen Kanagy, for organizing this march today, and thank you Newark and surrounding communities for coming out to stand together on this one-year anniversary of the Women’s March. I appreciate all of you who are here, and want to express my admiration for all those who are speaking out today with words and signs, showing our community that we are tired of the status quo and all the excuses for why the people at the margins of our society must always wait a little while longer for change, while the rich and powerful grab up more resources for their own benefit.
My name is Lesha Farias and I am a member of the Newark Think Tank on Poverty. The Think Tank is a grassroots organization growing a movement of people experiencing poverty, who are educating the community about the issues keeping people in poverty. We are working together to make change in our community and we invite you to join us.
I also am a home visitor with the Society of St. Vincent de Paul at St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church. As a home visitor, I have been in many homes, talking with people who need help with their bills, food, medicine, and transportation costs, because of all the barriers they face that keep them in poverty, and prevent them and their children from living in homes and neighborhoods that that they can be proud of. We have far too many slumlords in Newark who rent apartments that are unsafe, poorly maintained, and overpriced. This has to stop!
Jen Kenagy asked me to speak today on the state of poverty in Newark, especially the lack of safe, affordable rental housing for working people, as well as for those who try to survive on Social Security and Disability incomes.
In November last year, the United Way held a very thorough community forum on housing. Here is what we learned:
- We have many properties that have been condemned, that are uninhabitable. Just drive through the neighborhoods that surround this Courthouse Square, and you will see what I am talking about.
- We do not have enough emergency shelter in our county. The Salvation Army offers shelter for 30 to 90 days. They are seeing more seniors and more children who have lost their homes. SA is full most of the time, and they have to turn away more people than they like.
- We need more recovery housing in Newark. Unless people who are trying to stay clean and sober have safe and stable drug-free and alcohol-free housing, their sobriety is threatened. People in recovery have to live in recovery. Currently, we have one house with a manager for five women. A new one just opened and two women are living there. With the epidemic of opiates and meth in our community, how can there be any chance of saving lives and giving people hope if there is nowhere appropriate for them to live?
- Our battered women’s shelter, New Beginnings, has been at capacity for more than 1 ½ years, housing women with children who are victims of domestic violence. The numbers have gone up since the shooting in Kirkersville. Women are running for their lives and many stay beyond the 30 days, up to 120 days, because the wait is long to get into transitional and affordable housing.
- There are 728 low income seniors housed by our Aging Program. The waiting list is 8-12 months long. Many are disabled.
- The waiting list for a metro voucher is up to 2-4 years! There are 2000-3000 people on that waiting list. The HUD application is 70 pages long and each page requires a signature!
- The issue of bedbugs has become a local epidemic.
- 80-85% of our seniors survive on less than $1000 per month on SS checks. Those still living in their homes can no longer maintain them.
- Our annual Point in Time count only reports half of the known homelessness that we know exists in our community and in our state. We need 622 Rapid Re-Housing units. We only have 76 transitional units in Newark.
- The St. Vincent de Paul men’s shelter and the transitional apartments are a nice addition, but cannot meet the need. We need hundreds more.
- The Greater Ohio Policy Center reports that 54,000 Central Ohioans pay more than 30% of their income on housing costs. And 1000s more pay more than 50%.
- According to John Fisher, director of our local Jobs & Family Services, 80% of the people who receive benefits are working.
- We need jobs that pay a living wage so that people can afford housing. According to the Fair Market Rent value of 2017, an average one bedroom apartment in Newark will rent for $687 a month. This means a person would have to work 68.7 hours a week at a pay rate of $10 an hour to afford that apartment.
- Ohio is the 34th most expensive state in the nation for renters.
- 21% of the people living in Newark are in poverty, and another 34% are below the threshold of ALICE: asset limited, income restrained, and EMPLOYED!
We have JFS and other social service providers that do their best to provide a safety net. But that safety net is on the chopping block in Columbus, and in D.C. Even CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program) has been sacrificed. The tax overhaul to balance the budget achieves its goals by cutting social services and giving more to the rich, and to the U.S. military budget.
But who is trying to solve poverty? Certainly not the developers.
Where is the action to demand more affordable and safe rental housing in our communities?
As Frederick Douglas said so many years ago: “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”
What are we going to do? What is our demand?
Newark News Analysis: Impressions Of The 2018 Newark Women’s March