Residents Engaged to Act for Lowell
What is Real Change?
Lowell Alliance believes that residents can and do lead the way for sustainable change in Lowell, with the goal of strengthening families and the larger community.
REAL Change - Residents Engaged to Act for Lowell supports residents who choose to learn more about and organize actions around issues that impact their families and neighborhoods. Through this community organizing and civic engagement program, we:
- Identify immediate and long-term issues that affect residents
- Develop and participate in community partnerships to strengthen capacity
- Get the word out through neighborhood networks and information forums
- Provide assistance by connecting residents with needed expertise (e.g., legal and technical)
- Support resident-led actions for change that are proactive and community-based
We are presently focused on the following issues. To receive updates, and learn how you might proactively support residents, sign up for our newsletter.
Between fall 2017 and early 2018, the Lowell Housing Authority (LHA) will file paperwork with plans to sell 86 - 105 affordable housing units, which has the potential to relocate 300-400 residents presently living in those units. Our door-to-door outreach to affected residents brought nearly 75 people to a meeting at the end of June to learn more about the sales and their options as tenants.
At the meeting - hosted by Northeast Legal Aid, Northeast Justice Center, and Lowell Alliance - residents chose to form an association that will solidify and advocate for their positions. A legal team comprised of Northeast Legal Aid and Northeast Justice Center has advised the LHA to include fair housing law in their application, and is working with Lowell Alliance to inform tenants of their rights and options.
For more information and fact sheets on the rights of residents living in affordable housing, click here.
Ropes and Gray LLP and the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights filed a lawsuit in May 2017 that challenges the city of Lowell's current election system. The suit charges that the at-large plurality system dilutes the power of minority residents, which violates the Federal Voting Act and is unconstitutional. The lawsuit is outlined in an article published by Ropes and Gray, which includes links to the filing in English, Khmer, and Spanish. (You can also see and download these documents on our website.)
The suit, which will take many months to resolve. Lowell is the only city of its size in Massachusetts that still relies on an at-large voting system, so a favorable judgement means that district seats are likely to be created on City Council. and residents from those districts would need support they plan to run for and hold office in 2018.
Lowell Alliance, in collaboration with community partners, will provide public information forums about the lawsuit, its potential outcomes, and how these will impact the community. We also plan to offer support and education for both voters and potential district-wide candidates in the year ahead.
In response to changes in the federal administration regarding the rights of immigrants and refugees, Lowell Alliance hosted a spring 2017 evening presentation with the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA) to "train the trainers" about the rights of individuals who encounter law enforcement.
The Know Your Rights workshop also dealt with how families can prepare, and which local agencies can help. You can find handouts and presentation slides from MIRA on our website under Resources. We will continue to monitor changes and offer our support to residents as needed.
Voter Registration and support
In partnership with Lowell Votes, Lowell Alliance is committed to registering voters and getting out the vote for our local, city-wide elections. We do so by participating in door-to-door voter registration, and by helping to reduce barriers during elections by sharing information and finding ways to make voting easier for residents.
Voter turnout for local elections in Lowell is significantly lower than for national elections. Of our 58,000 registered voters, 33,000 voted in the 2012 presidential election; only 11,50o people voted in the 2013 local elections.
We held our first annual Citizenship Clinic in the fall of 2016, in partnership with the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA). The clinic provided one-on-one support for local area Green Card holders who were eligible to apply for citizenship, a complex and somewhat daunting task. MIRA also helped applicants track their paperwork, once they applied.
Due to excellent turnout last year, Lowell Alliance plans to offer this clinic annually, with our community partners. Stay tuned for dates and info!