By Jean Lotus
The still weak U.S. economy is wreaking havoc on churches in low-income communities, resulting in many facing foreclosures of their buildings, says U.S. Rep. Danny Davis (7th).
The poor economy has taken a toll on the "unexpected group of property owners," Davis said during a recent town hall meeting in west suburban Forest Park. The middle-class suburb is part of Davis' 7th Congressional District, which includes Austin and the surrounding West Side. The congressman hosted the town hall on May 15 at Forest Park's Village Hall.
Obamacare, post office problems and foreclosures were among the topics addressed.
Davis said he's working with those struggling congregations to help them cover their mortgages through federal insurance programs. Davis' last town hall meeting took place in February to address complaints from suburban residents about their neighborhood post offices not delivering mail as temperatures fell dangerously below freezing.
Forest Park and neighboring Oak Park were among the affected communities.
At his latest town hall, Davis, in his homegrown Arkansas style, invited participants to share their concerns on various issues. One concerned the lack of resources for mental illness.
Also attending was Charles Watkins of Get Covered Illinois, who gave an update on the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare.
The law, he said, has changed the lives of people who are first-time buyers of affordable health care coverage. Obamacare has also expanded state Medicaid benefits for Illinois residents, Watkins said.
More than 216,000 Illinoisans are enrolled in Illinois' insurance market through the law, and roughly 287,000 are enrolled in expanded Medicaid, Watkins said, adding that mental health and substance abuse riders are also available on "every single plan."
Concerning much-needed public works projects, Davis said he believed a "movement was underway" to get the federal government to address infrastructure issues. At the local level, that means providing federal grants directly to communities, Davis said.
Foreign affairs also come up during the town hall.
Davis credited President Obama for keeping the United States out of further military conflicts in Syria and Ukraine.
"We've been able to stave off war," he said. "We've been on the verge of war. If we had a certain kind of president, chances are we'd have some tanks there."
Forest Park resident Brian Mullin recalled wanting to join the military after graduating college but instead joined AmeriCorps' "City Year" program, where he volunteered at Al Raby High School in West Garfield Park.
"For students, it's hard to concentrate on school when they're scared for their safety and don't know what to do after school," Mullin said.
A former Chicago schoolteacher himself, Davis said he knew Al Raby — the civil rights activist and educator who worked to desegregate Chicago's public schools. Responding to Mullin's concern, the congressman suggested that a "change of heart and discipline" were necessary to confront crime.
"Crime and the problems we face relative to violence are not going to be solved by more policing," Davis said. "We need to prevent the development of those violent attitudes and behavior."
Jean Lotus is editor of Forest Park Review
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