Protestors gathered in downtown Chapel Hill Friday to push the candidates of local elections to support more effective affordable housing policies.
Demonstrators with Community Empowerment Fund and Meeting of the Minds met Friday at Peace and Justice Plaza with dozens of posters reading ‘We might be magical, but we’re not invisible’ and ‘Homes for people, not for profit.' The group chanted “Chapel Hill won't survive without a 30 percent AMI.”
Yvette Mathews, Chapel Hill advocate program associate for CEF, led the hour-long march.
“The population of homelessness, low-income and no-income folks is growing and growing and growing,” Mathews said. “People that serve you, people that maybe park your car and people that serve you food, they make $7.25 an hour. No way they can afford Chapel Hill this way.”
More than 40 people, including UNC students, CEF advocates and Chapel Hill Town Council candidates participated in the march.
The rally made its way down Franklin Street and eventually made a long stop in front of Chapel Hill Town Hall where the demonstrators chanted in favor of affordable housing for low-income residents.
As the march made short stops along the way, CEF Orientation Coordinator Chinita Howard shared her experience as an advocate and highlighted Chapel Hill’s need for better policies protecting lower-income families.
“We had 72 percent of the residents in Chapel Hill that voted for affordable housing in 2018. $10 million was awarded because of those citizens, and there is a desperate need for it,” Howard said. “So with CEF and what we do — and Meeting of the Minds — our focus is to make sure that they don’t ignore those that they’re trying to make invisible. And we want not only for them to know that we are here, we exist. We’re taxpayers too, so our cry for affordable housing should be heard.”
Several students also took part, not only to support the cause but to share their perspectives. Erika Roberson, a CEF advocate and UNC senior studying public policy and political science, expressed her support without hesitation by upholding the march’s large banner along the way while chanting with the group.
“I joined the protest because affordable housing is a really crucial issue in Chapel Hill, and I work with members on a weekly basis at the Community Empowerment Fund, who a lot of them are experiencing homelessness,” Roberson said. “It is super important to get the word out about how affordable housing can change the lives of these people that we are working with.”
Valerie Lucas, who studies economics at UNC, is also a CEF advocate who helps the homeless regularly.
“People come in who need help looking for housing or looking for jobs or enrolling in health care or applying for food stamps,” Lucas said. “Housing by far is the biggest issue. If you make minimum wage or if you are on social security disability payments, it’s literally impossible to live here.”
Besides CEF advocates, a multitude of Tar Heel newcomers with less experience as advocates showed their sympathy and support, including Kevin Hernandez, a first-year business major who was notified about the march through an email.
“This is something meaningful to me because I know that poverty exists,” Hernandez said. “I take it into my heart that these people need to feel like they are important, they are valued, they are human beings.”
After just over an hour, the marchers' chants came to an end, but not their mission to propose and promote affordable housing.
“I promise that I would be a resource to people in the future that actually need the resources,” Hernandez said. “I think it’s important to make it a social movement to the fact that as a society we actually care about the problems of other people.”
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