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My name is Sister Dottie Almoney, a Deacon in the ELCA and a member of the ELCA Deaconess community as well as a faith leader in the PPC, I want to thank you for not penalizing those who rent by shutting off the water due to the failure of their landlords to comply with the upgrades of water meters. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing when I was told that water shuts offs were happening this week due to no fault of their own.

Unfortunately, I think this is a symptom of a larger problem on how Lancaster treats those who are on the margins economically.  Those who rent are at the mercy of their landlords and many times do not have the luxury to relocate due to financial difficulties. Landlords are not held accountable for basic repairs or improvements, even though the tenants are dutifully paying their rent.  Others face unjust eviction or are asked to relocate due to gentrification.  My daughter teaches at Fulton Elementary and tells me they are losing families due to the lack of affordable housing.

Lack of Affordable housing, or should I say, lack of acceptable affordable housing disproportionately affects not only low-income individuals, but people of color, the elderly, people on public assistance or social security due to a disability or mental health issue.  Being forced out of the city also creates barriers to public transportation for those who do not own automobiles.  Many of these persons have called Lancaster City for much if not all of their lives.

As a faith leader who works with the Community meal program, operates a clothing bank out of our church and as a member of Poor People’s Campaign, I continually hear stories about the economic struggles of having to choose between purchasing food or paying a utility bill.  Now to make things worse, many are in fear of losing their current housing situation.  Others live at the mercy of their landlords in hopes of at least having a decent place to live.

This time of year, reminds me of another family who suffered from lack of adequate housing when it came time for the birth of Jesus.  This family too had to make due with what was available and was even forced to flee their home, or in other words become refugees due to those in power who wanted to stay in power.

We talk about Lancaster as the Refugee capital of the world, but let’s make sure that it isn’t because we are creating our own refugees who need to flee Lancaster City because they are unable to afford basic, adequate housing which will disrupt their children’s education, and possibly lose access to public transportation.  All people want the chance to live in a community that values them, values their property and bestows upon them the dignity that all of God’s children deserve.

I know that you are pondering the future of the old St. Joe’s hospital – think about how your actions will impact all people in Lancaster.  Make sure your decisions don’t marginalize the most vulnerable in our city.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak and know that I would love the opportunity to be part of the solution.

Sr. Dottie Almoney, chair The Deaconess Community Board of Directors, reports: “I will be meeting in January with a representative from the Mayor’s office to help be a bridge between the city and those who are affected by poverty. Excited to be part of this campaign!”