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Poverty, Justice Focus of Community Assembly

Over a thousand people filled the pews of Porter Memorial Baptist Church Tuesday for the 11th Annual Nehemiah Action Assembly.  They are part of BUILD, a group of 22 Lexington congregations focusing on grassroots change in low-to-moderate income communities.  Board Member and Pastor Joe Owens says at this annual meeting, the focus is on the disadvantaged. 

“We’re not here because we don’t have anything else to do.  We are here because we feel that it’s a mandate from God that we love humanity and be sure that everybody gets treated justly and fairly, and for those who are disenfranchised and marginalized, somebody needs to speak up, and that’s us," he said.

The assembly emphasized three issues: predatory payday lending (with APRs of over 300%), filling empty slots in the city’s drug treatment court, and the establishment of an affordable housing trust fund.  After passionate discussion and testimony from BUILD organizers and members of the community, several government officials promised further action on the issues ( State Senator Alice Kerr for payday lending, Supervisor Danielle Sanders for the Drug Court), and Lexington Mayor Jim Gray for the Affordable Housing Trust Fund).  At last year's assembly, Gray said the city didn't have the resources to support an affordable housing fund, but was proud he could follow through on the issue this year (having announced over $3 million in budgetary support).

“It reminds us of how remarkable and efficient our system can be when we can take an issue that’s as had to get your arms around as this one, and actually start putting together one puzzle piece at a time,” he remarked.  

Even though these issues have yet to be fully worked out,  the assembly served as a strong community call to action. 

Chase Cavanaugh first got on the air as a volunteer reader for Central Kentucky Radio Eye, a local news service for the visually impaired. He began reporting for WUKY in February 2012, after receiving his Master’s degree from the University of Kentucky’s Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce.