Interfaith Communities United for Affordable Housing

Interfaith Communities United for Affordable Housing (ICU) develops and maintains collaborative relationships with leading Bay Area interfaith and inter-religious organizations, including key partners listed below.  ICU aims to advance housing justice through faith leaders and communities, and bring to light the shared struggle with workers’ rights, immigrant rights, and economic justice.

Major activities include the Annual Interfaith Breakfast, “Shelter in a Time of Storms,” every October, and Housing Sabbath every May during Affordable Housing Week. For more information or to get involved, contact our Interfaith & Community Organizer, Vanessa Riles at


The 14th Annual Breakfast of EBHO’s

Interfaith Communities United for Affordable Housing (ICU)

Our September 6th Interfaith Breakfast is approaching fast! We look forward to seeing you for a day of community, faith, and fabulous food!

Hear words and strategies of hope from faith and movement leaders

Laugh, enjoy good food, and build beloved community

Share solutions and collective power

Thursday, September 6, 2018
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
4000 Clayton Road, Concord, CA 94521

Registration 8:30

Breakfast 9:00

Program 9:30


No one will be turned away for lack of funds. If you would like a sponsored ticket, contact Vanessa Riles at or at 510-663-3830 ext. 350.

Please click here to reserve your tickets, and make sure to follow us for more updates as we finalize our program for this year. We hope to see you there on September 6th!

New ICU research on the impacts of displacement on faith community

no place for faith image

Read the full report.

The foreclosure crisis, followed by drastically increasing rents, landlord pressures, and uneven tenant protections have caused a turnover in the population in Oakland and throughout the Bay Area. We know the numbers, but what are the personal and community effects? Numbers don’t have a face.

This report, prepared by East Bay Housing Organizations and Interfaith Communities United seeks to reflect the community costs of displacement through the eyes of the faith community. From October to December 2015, members of the clergy were interviewed over the phone about their congregation’s experiences with displacement.

Several patterns emerged from these conversations:

  • Despite the socioeconomic, ethnic, and geographic diversity of the congregations represented, each one was/is affected by displacement. Some congregations are losing parishioners, and some are gaining, but all felt pressure being exerted on them.
  • Congregations of color have watched their membership drop significantly in Oakland due to displacement, but throughout the Bay Area, pastors noted that low-income families, regardless of racial background were struggling, and that the younger generations had found that coming home after college simply was not an option.
  • While interviews reflected a small sample, some patterns of displacement paths emerged: faith leaders from Oakland observed congregants moving to Richmond, Richmond congregations noted moves to Antioch/Pittsburg, and moves from Pittsburg and Antioch to Stockton have begun to surface in pastoral discussions of displacement

Many thanks to Rachel Thomson, intern with EBHO’s Interfaith Communities United, for her intensive work on this report.

Read the full report.

 Adult Study Group on Faith and Displacement

faith study group

Based on East Bay Housing Organizations’ FORUM ON FAITH AND DISPLACEMENT
Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church, Oakland, CA December 8, 2015
Moderator: Rabbi Shifrah Tobacman Panelists: Camisha Fatimah Gentry, Jeanne Robinson, Rev. Sandhya Jha
The event was designed so that panelists answered three questions and then attendees answered the same questions in small group settings with time to report back on what emerged from the group. This adult group study is structured so that people who participate in the group study can reflect on the same questions as participants during the forum as well as expanding their reflections on the issues.
Invite participants to read the panelists’ responses before the discussion time, or read it out loud together before moving into discussion time. There will also be suggestions for how discussion leaders might want to prepare to discuss this issue through the lens of your community’s specific faith tradition, since the panel represented Jewish, Christian and Muslim perspectives.
Please note that the reflections of the panelists reflected their understanding of their faith traditions and should not be read as the universal understanding of every person from that faith tradition. We hope you find your discussions inspiring and perhaps even motivating! The work of building the Beloved Community happens best when we work together. We hope this inspires your community to even deeper work on housing as a human right and a moral obligation.
Rev. Sandhya Jha
Director of Interfaith Programs East Bay Housing Organizations

 A collective interfaith prayer for housing justice in 2015

hands pic

Liturgy based on the prayers and wisdom shared by participants of the East Bay Housing Organization’s Interfaith Forum on Housing Displacement on December 6, 2015. Compiled by Rabbi Shifrah Tobacman. Interfaith housing activists used the prayer in their ‘Home for the Holidays’ campaign, where they held vigils right before Oakland City Council meetings to raise awareness and hold the City accountable for the dire housing and homelessness crisis. 

We are many but you are One; your multi-faceted unity makes our unity possible.
Jesus, Allah, Elohim, Great Creator, Father, Mother, Breath of Life;
WE CALL OUT FOR TRUE JUSTICE, invoking the memory of the powerful prophets and teachers in whose broad footsteps we walk, knowing that we can only truly keep our balance when travelling together.
WE STAND TOGETHER in the belief that every human being has the right to a safe, healthy and truly affordable place to live, a personal sanctuary, a place they can call home without fear of displacement. 
IT IS OUR SACRED INTENTION to witness one another lovingly; to notice the collective enlightenment evidenced by hearing one another’s stories; to experience the power of sharing our experiences in the public realm. 
IT IS OUR SACRED TASK to use the knowledge we gain wisely; and to apply our shared wisdom through skillful action, both collectively and as individuals. 
That the homelessness that plagues far too many of our sisters and brothers come to an end – in Oakland, in Alameda County, in the Bay Area, in California and throughout the world; 
That powerful people whose hearts have been hardened by the demands of their office or scarred by their own need for healing will have their hearts softened to the needs of the poor and the vulnerable; 
That we feel the movement in our own hearts;
That courage, compassion and unwavering faith prevail when we feel most vulnerable;
That we are able to spread good in the world;
That the seniors at St. Mary’s shelter find housing; 
That ministers and faith leaders understand their own role in being good stewards over their property;
May these prayers and those still in our hearts be heard. 
May every person have a place to call home.
May our longing for justice be fulfilled.


September 17th, 2014: 10th Annual Shelter in a Time of Storms

Thank you for gathering around our table at EBHO’s 10th Annual Interfaith Breakfast!

We couldn’t have asked for a more inspiring morning to celebrate our 10th Annual Interfaith Breakfast and call us all to action around housing justice. We received blessings from Buddhist, Muslim, Sikh, and Catholic traditions. We heard joyful songs from Nique Santos and the newly formed EBHO band. We sat captivated by the powerful and critical words of Rev. Kamal Hassan and Rabbi Mike Rothbaum, two younger generation faith leaders committed to building beloved community and, as Rabbi Mike mentioned, to helping transform a walled-in society to a community that goes out serves in solidarity with sisters and brothers in need. We were moved by Rev. Phil Lawson’s closing call to action, which reflected on 10 powerful years of Interfaith Communities United and made clear for all of us, but especially the new generation of leaders, the importance of a faith-rooted lens for affodable housing advocacy. Lastly, we were able to take pause from our everyday work and come together as faith leaders, affordable housing developers, housing and homeless advocates, elected leaders, resident leaders, architects, and builders – and remember why we do what we do. Together, around EBHO’s breakfast table, we discover new ways to support one another in our collective goal of creating communities where all people have shelter, all people have dignity, and all people’s gifts are valued.

Click here for photos from the event! “Like” us on Facebook and tag yourself!

Special thanks to ICU’s host committee, our generous sponsors, Earp Events & Fundraising, the Buddhist Church of Oakland for hosting us in their spiritual space, Father Thomas Bonacci for creating the beautiful interfaith sacred space display, and all of our amazing volunteers for helping to make the breakfast such a successful and moving event. 

If you did not get to fill out a Call to Action form, please fill one out here or email Rev. Sandhya Jha at to let her know how you would like to get involved. Your voice and action as a person of faith makes a world of difference.

This year’s breakfast gave us the spiritual nourishment we need to continue EBHO’s rich legacy of faith-rooted organizing for affordable housing and housing justice. Thank you for being a part of it, and see you next year!

EBHO IB14-070

Special thanks to our 2014 Interfaith Breakfast Host Committee 

Janny Castillo, St. Mary’s Center • Louise Bourassa, Contra Costa Interfaith Housing • rev. boona cheema • Mary Fenelon, Mt. Diablo Unitarian Universalist Church • Donald Frazier, Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency • Rev. Clarence Johnson, Mills Grove Christian Church • Dr. Harmesh Kumar, South Asian Behavioral Health and Training Foundation • Kristi Laughlin, Faith Alliance For a Moral Economy & EBASE • Rev. Phil Lawson, EBHO Interfaith Director Emeritus • Hozan Alan Senauke, Clear View Project • Rev. Michael Yoshii, Buena Vista United Methodist Church

We thank our generous 2014 sponsors:


BBI Construction - 500


abhow-logo boss unnamed 1 CCH Logo


Friend: boona cheema, Nico Calavita, The Interfaith Peace Project, The San Francisco Foundation FAITHS Program, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 595, Contra Costa Interfaith Housing (CCIH), Mercy Housing, Faith Alliance for a Moral Economy/East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (FAME/EBASE), Graduate Theological Union, Bay Area Community Services, Temple Sinai

EBHO IB14-116 EBHO IB14-294 EBHO IB14-013


fblogo  twitterlogo

Homelessness, the woman on my patio and the Woman at the Well

Sermon preached at First Christian Church of Palo Alto, August 10, 2014.

Text: John 4:5-15 (with references to later verses), the story of the Woman at the Well

Preamble to the sermon:

I am known in some circles for preaching a really up-on-your-feet, clap and shout amen kind of sermon. I think that was why I was invited to preach. So I want to apologize in advance. Three things have happened to me this week that placed a more reflective message on my heart:

1. A friend of mine from FCC Redding told me this week that when she went on vacation to Savannah, Georgia, she noticed there were no homeless people downtown. When she asked about this, she found out they weren’t allowed in the tourist district. Unsheltered people used to get locked up in jail, but too many of them tried to get arrested so they would have a roof over their head and regular meals. So now they get rounded up and put in an open air pen, to create a greater disincentive to be visible or get arrested.

2. In addition to working at East Bay Housing Organizations, I also serve as director of the Oakland Peace Center, a nonprofit collective at First Christian Church of Oakland, made up of over 40 organizations working to create peace and justice in one of the most violent cities in America. Since homeless people have been evicted from nearby areas, we have experienced a surge of people setting up camp in the many dark pockets around our building. We invited the city to help us figure out how to respond, and a caseworker came from Operation Dignity, the organization that works with the homeless population in the city of Oakland to find them shelter and services. She let us know that there are shelter beds for 25% of the homeless population. She personally has a caseload of over 200 unsheltered people she is working with. She told us, “You can push them off your property, but know that there’s nowhere else for them to go. If you want to know what to do, let the city and county know they need to provide more money for shelter and housing. Nothing will change until that changes.”

3. A friend of mine works for Dream Catcher, a homeless shelter for youth in Oakland. They need $100,000 to buy the building that the owner needs to sell due to debts. I learned from my friend that there are 2,000 homeless youth between 13 and 18, and only eight beds for them, which might be lost.

So with all of that resting on my heart, I appreciate your grace in letting me share a reflective story this morning rather than a rev ‘em up sermon. Let us be in an attitude of prayer:

Spirit of the Living God, Fall afresh on us;

Spirit of the Living God, Fall afresh on us;

Melt us, mold us, fill us, use us; 

Spirit of the Living God, Fall afresh on us.


I do not remember her name. It may have been Rhonda, but I’m not sure.

It was only eight years ago that I met her, but I’ve met so many homeless people on the property of First Christian Church / the Oakland Peace Center since then, and I do not remember most of their names.

Since I met Rhonda, I’ve met the father and son who could not find a shelter, because shelters are designed for MOTHERS and children, but when the boy was young he had been molested in a shelter and told his father he was never leaving his father’s side again, so they slept outside, bat at the ready.

I’ve met the woman clearly on meth who was always kind to me but always raged at our facilities coordinator Allen, since it was his job to tell her to move off of the patio before organizations came to use the room there. It was also his job to clear out the objects she left behind or the objects she sometimes claimed he shouldn’t have thrown away because she was coming back for them, and I think about the PTSD he has probably taken on so I wouldn’t have to be the bad guy evicting her every morning. One day she asked me for my leftovers because she had a baby on the way. When I asked on the street about her a few months later, I heard she had miscarried.

I’ve met the man who is always dressed well and eager to work but who becomes belligerent and even potentially violent when he doesn’t get what he wants.

I’ve met the woman whose daughter helped her set up camp in the breezeway of the church, who is so kind and gentle, and whose boyfriend shows up at 2 in the morning drunk and violent and leaving a mess.

I’ve met the man who works hard all day and tucks himself into a not always used doorway of the church to drink and talk to himself, who always heads off amiably if you let him know his talking is disrupting a meeting in the building.

I have known dozens of people who have found shelter under the eaves of our building. It’s tucked away from the drug corridor and offers a restful spot for those trying to stay out of trouble or do their trouble without interruption. I’ve learned their names and forgotten most of them. Those who settle in for longer than is comfortable, I learn their stories before making them leave.

Rhonda was the first woman whose story I learned, and she settled in fairly unapologetically at the far end of the patio, about 50 feet from the entrance to my apartment in the basement of the church. I had been living there about 4 or 5 months—it was part of how the church paid me. I chatted with her, and I asked a trustee to talk to her as well. We didn’t like the idea of throwing anyone off the property, but we didn’t want the property to become an encampment, either. When Ernie talked with her, she had just finished changing in the bushes into a short skirt and sparkly top, explaining to him that she was a good Christian woman but sometimes you had to do what you had to do in order to survive. And she wandered off to San Pablo Avenue, half a mile away from the church, where drugs and sex are both fairly available on the street.

When I met Rhonda, I wasn’t thinking much about the woman at the well. I had studied the story extensively in graduate school—in fact, I had written a paper on the passage, studying the original Greek, in a course taught by the preeminent scholar of the Book of John. But there were similarities I wish I had noticed.

I wish I had recognized that Rhonda was a lot like the woman at the well who had to draw water at noon in the heat of the blazing sun. I wish I had made that connection to Rhonda taking care of her needs at off hours when she would draw the least attention because people around her didn’t want to be bothered with her, didn’t want to notice her. While I had believed the woman at the well slept around a lot, in fact, she was probably widowed several times and passed on from brother to brother in the family out of obligation, not valued or respected. And whether she was unwelcome to fetch water in the cool morning hours with the other women because she was seen as a burden or whether she was seen as a tramp, she was not used to being treated well by anyone, even a stranger.

Rhonda wasn’t all that different—she found a corner of the church to camp out in because it kept her off of people’s radars and kept her away from both danger and judgment. And I know that in Oakland, there is shelter provided for 25% of the homeless population, but it is illegal to camp out on either public or private property. The laws in my community are designed to make sure I don’t have any more interaction with homeless people than absolutely necessary. Rhonda was getting treated in my community an awful lot like the woman in the well got treated by her community. (As an aside, I know that there are not homeless people in Palo Alto—the city calls them “unhoused people”—and their numbers have decreased significantly in the past 5 years as the city has found ways to encourage them to relocate although not necessarily to house them.)

The other thing I wish I had recognized about the story of the woman at the well is that when Jesus tells her that he knows she has had five husbands, he wasn’t shaming her—he was telling her that he knew her story. He was neither ignorant of it nor embarrassed by it. My instinct is to ignore what is hard or awkward about others’ stories because I do not want them to be embarrassed. My instinct would have been to ignore what was potentially embarrassing to me about Rhonda’s story. But Jesus knew the story of the woman at the well and he wanted to offer her living water. It wasn’t just that her story didn’t matter; it was that he loved her, story and all, and he took away her shame and gave her dignity and power—he told her she was worthy to be a prophet in a community that had pushed her to the sides, not even wanting to interact with her during the morning ritual of drawing water. She mattered. Her story mattered. And the fact that she was open to receiving the love of Christ mattered most of all.

So the next time I saw Rhonda, I offered her living water, as best I knew how. She was pushing a shopping cart full of recycling to earn some extra money. I stopped her and said, “Church is Sunday morning at 11. When do you want me to wake you up so you can get ready in time?” And for a couple of months she became a regular participant in worship. She read scripture once or twice, and she always had a passionate word of prayer during community prayer times. The congregation loved on her a little and gave her some extra cash or food sometimes, but mostly she just got treated like the rest of the church, which was her favorite part of the arrangement. And we worked on finding her some sort of shelter that would be safer than staying on the street, although we didn’t realize how urgent that was.

10577067 10152382091808702 6352465355308358118 n

My doorbell rang at 6AM one Sunday morning. It was Rhonda, looking pretty messed up. She said some men had come to steal her shopping cart of recycling and when they found her they raped her before taking the recycling. I called 911 and waited with her for the ambulance. A few days later, she came by to let me know the nurse had paid for a few days at a cheap motel in the neighborhood so she could heal and get on her feet. I don’t think I’ve seen her since.

My biggest prayer for Rhonda is that she did get back on her feet and that she found a church as willing to embrace her and maybe even more able to help her get her needs met. But as I said, I’ve met a lot of Rhondas since then, and sleeping on our property hasn’t necessarily been the living water they’ve needed. It also risks the safety and the thriving of all of the programs happening in our building since we became the Oakland Peace Center, and programs for children and at risk youth happen throughout the day as well as programs to help immigrants and people in need of food and clothing and many people living on many margins.

So when I get despondent about our ability to be living water to people on the street while we are in the midst of building a movement for peace in one of the most violent cities in the country, I remember that Jesus did not want us to be living water by ourselves.

I remember that there are organizations providing social work services to homeless people such as Operation Dignity, and I can make sure my city council knows that the Oakland Peace Center wants to see them be better supported.

I remember that to be part of the solution, I can work with my denomination through Week of Compassion, which funds programs addressing homelessness and human trafficking, both of which impact our communities in such serious ways.

I remember that Jesus may have provided living water all by himself, but that he sent the woman at the well back to her community as a preacher so that she could build up a community of believers, and that who they believed in was a savior who showed compassion for people the rest of society rejected. And therefore, whenever we preach that message, whenever we live out that message of embracing and including everyone, we become less isolated, we become stronger, and we have more living water for ourselves and for others.

I find myself thinking about Rhonda because in its own small way, I think FCC Oakland provided some living water for a season. But what is particularly powerful to me is the fact that there was a gift for us, too—it gave us a chance to practice being more Christlike. Jesus invited EVERYONE, rich and poor to the table. He liberated EVERYONE, although our liberation may look different.

For the woman at the well, the living water was being fully seen, having her story honored and not swept under the rug. It was the message that she was worthy of being a bearer of God’s good news to the community. For others, the living water is being liberated from the pressure to have the best of everything, it is being liberated from the possessions that threaten to crush us and force us to work so hard we lose important relationships with our family and our church and our community and with God.

When the church is at its best, it offers that living water in deeply personal ways. And it participates with others to eliminate barriers to living water. To me, the church today provides living water when it is treating every person with dignity, when it is working to build shelter for all of God’s children, when it is making sure that systems of government are partnering in providing services for homeless people and not just punishing people for being homeless.

That is too much work for me to do on my own—there are too many Rhondas I see every day, and too many Rhondas being intentionally hidden from my view. There are too many women going to the well at noon so they will not have to experience the shame and harassment if they were in plain sight.

But God invites us to linger in the noonday sun and to know the women at the well, to extend compassion, to honor their stories and let them know they are bearers of the gospel. When we do that, we will truly be Disciples of Christ. Amen.


 Housing Sabbath May 2014: May 16, 17, 18

An essential part of Affordable Housing Week’s calendar each year is Housing Sabbath, when faith communities dedicate their worship services to the theme of affordable housing as a moral issue. As you may know, this year, May 16-18, congregations throughout Alameda and Contra Costa Counties are elevating the importance of affordable housing. We’re lifting up access to safe and clean and affordable shelter as an issue of healthy communities and human dignity and as a spiritual mandate.

Here’s what we’re asking of you:

1) Sign your congregation up to participate in Housing Sabbath! If you would like a speaker, we can provide one. If you would like worship materials, we can provide those. We can also provide you with materials and information on getting involved in the working of promoting and preserving affordable housing in your community. If you would like me to contact a specific person from your congregation myself to explain the program, we would be happy to do that. Just let us know.

2) Volunteer to speak at Housing Sabbath! You may want to speak in your own congregation, or you may be interested in speaking somewhere else. We can arrange for the opportunity to speak, and we’re offering a fun and helpful speaker training on April 10 in downtown Oakland; let us know if you can attend! If you think you’re not an appropriate speaker, think again! Previous Housing Sabbath Speakers have been affordable housing residents, non-profit developers, city officials, community members and people living without shelter. Your voice would be a valuable contribution, and the congregations that participate are always grateful to the speakers for taking the time to educate and inspire them.

Click here for a sign-up sheet.

EBHO’s Housing Sabbath
Worship services addressing affordable housing in interfaith congregations across the East Bay
Fri., May 16 – Sun., May 18

Optional Speaker Training:
Thurs. April 10th from 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM
The Oakland Housing Assistance Center, 250 Frank Ogawa Plaza, 6th floor, Oakland
To participate, contact Rev. Sandhya at

Please contact Sandhya, Director of Interfaith Programs at or 510.663.3830 x312 with responses and questions. I would dearly love for you to be a part of the OTHER half of the bookends that make up EBHO’s Interfaith Communities United initiative. Together, we can create a beloved community throughout Alameda and Contra Costa counties where all of God’s children can share the best of who they are because they do not have to worry about having safe shelter.


EBHO’s Interfaith Communities United for Affordable Housing (ICU) 9th Annual Interfaith Breakfast:

Shelter in a Time of Storms…Roots & Branches


Thank you for joining us at our 9th ICU Interfaith Breakfast in Walnut Creek!

When the visionary Interfaith Communities United advisory committee suggested we host our annual interfaith breakfast in Contra Costa County for the first time ever as an act of intentional solidarity, we committed to the idea because we value our Contra Costa members and wanted to reflect the geographic growth of our work and partnerships.

We didn’t know what to expect in our new location, but through the hard work of an amazing host committee (special thanks to Janny Castillo of BOSS, Louise Bourassa of Contra Costa Interfaith Housing and Gerald Lenoir of BAJI) along with staff and Earp Events & Fundraising, over 150 people came to the Walnut Creek United Methodist Church. THANK YOU for joining together for the opportunity to reflect together as one community on why we do what we do – and for making it our bestattended interfaith breakfast to date!

Highlights from the morning included:

  • Prayers of inspiration from the Sikh, Muslim, Jewish and Christian traditions
  • A diverse and inspiring panel that lifted up ways the faith community can stand with affordable housing residents and developers and many others to build a more vital community
  • A chance to interact with leaders from some of our great Contra Costa allies like CCIH, Interfaith Council of Contra Costa County, and Greater Richmond Interfaith Program

If you did not get to fill out a Call to Action form, please look at the form that was handed out and email Rev. Sandhya Jha to let her know how you would like to get involved. Your voice as a person of faith makes a world of difference.

This year’s breakfast really connected us with our roots and branches, but it also gave us wings. Thank you for being a part of it!

Thank you to our host committee for their leadership:

Louise Bourassa, Contra Costa Interfaith Housing • Rev. Will McGarvey, The Interfaith Council of Contra Costa County • Rev. Phil Lawson, EBHO Interfaith Director Emeritus • Joseph Turner, Resources for Community Development • Art Hatchett, Greater Richmond Interfaith Project (GRIP) • John Watkins, Diocese of Oakland • boona cheema, boonache Presents • Mary Fenelon, Mt. Diablo Unitarian Universalist Church

We thank our generous event sponsors of 2013:

BBI Construction - 500

abhow-logoCCH Logo

BBI Construction

American Baptist Homes of the West

CCH (Christian Church Homes)

Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI); Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency (B.O.S.S.); Nico Calavita; Catholic Charities of the East Bay; Contra Costa Interfaith Housing; EBASE/FAME; The Interfaith Council of Contra Costa County; The Interfaith Peace Project; International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers L.U. 302; Mercy Housing; Temple Sinai; The San Francisco Foundation FAITHS Program

Housing Sabbath 2013: May 17, 18, 19

2012 Breakfast Banner

The theme of EBHO’s Affordable Housing Week this year, “Empowering People, Strengthening Communities,” is the perfect theme for faith communities. An essential part of Affordable Housing Week’s calendar each year is Housing Sabbath (this year, Fri, May 17 – Sun., May 19), when faith communities dedicate their worship services to the theme of affordable housing as a moral issue.

EBHO’s Housing Sabbath
Worship services addressing affordable housing in interfaith congregations across the East Bay
Fri., May 17 – Sun., May 19

Optional Speaker Training: Friday, April 26, 10AM-12 noon at EBHO
To participate, contact Rev. Sandhya at

This is where you come in. Can you help us make this a major event by doing one of the following?

  • RECRUIT YOUR CONGREGATION! Contact your Rabbi, Minister, Imam, or other leader to ask if he or she will invite speakers to tell the story of housing needs and/or incorporate the message of affordable housing into worship on May 17, 18, or 19 (We at EBHO can provide worship materials, sermon aids and bulletin inserts as well as providing speakers to share brief testimonials).
  • SPEAK OR ACCOMPANY! Volunteer to be a speaker or accompany speakers to visit congregations (there will be an excellent speaker training on April 26 so all speakers can enter into Housing Sabbath confident in their task).
  • RECRUIT OTHER CONGREGATIONS! If you know other faith leaders, invite them to participate in Housing Sabbath.
  • Click here to for a speaker sign-up sheet
  • Click here for a congregation sign-up sheet
  • Our Housing Sabbath resource package will be available here shorly

Please contact Sandhya, Director of Interfaith Programs at or 510.663.3830 x312 with responses and questions. Housing Sabbath truly moves and inspires people who might not otherwise realize that the affordable housing movement needs them. Thanks for your role in spreading the word to those who do not yet know they are critical to providing housing for all.

If you’re interested in the 20+ other great events that make up EBHO’s Affordable Housing Week 2013 (May 10-19), see the complete calendar here!

October 10th, 2012: 8th Annual Shelter in a Time of Storms – Strengthening Our Faith-Full Vision Together

1 Open Space5 Sandhya and Phil3 Attendees

Click here to view the slideshow!

From Rev. Phil Lawson’s summary of an amazing eight years of EBHO’s interfaith advocacy, to Amie Fishman’s sharing of the shehekianu (an ancient prayer that invites all of us to welcome this new moment), and to Rabbi Andrew Straus’s blessing that tied us to the Jewish season of sukkot and its invitation to create shelter for those without it, this year’s interfaith breakfast fed the stomachs and the souls of over 120 leaders, congregants and advocates at HS Lordships restaurant at the Berkeley Marina. Attendees were blessed by the fellowship of longtime leaders in the movement as well as brand-new ICU members, and by the wisdom and passion in that room, which will fuel the movement for housing in the coming year.

We experienced powerful blessings from Jewish, Christian, Six Nations, Muslim, and Sikh traditions, thanks to faith leaders and ICU partners Rabbi Andrew Straus, Rev. Emily Lin, Patricia St. Onge, Dr. Amer Araim, and Dr. Harmesh Kumar. We heard first-hand testimonies from Christan Church Homes resident leader Marie Taylor, advocate and Executive Director of Contra Costa Interfaith Housing and EBHO board member, Louise Bourassa; and Rev. Michael Yoshii, whose congregation –Buena Vista United Methodist Church– rallied to help address affordable housing needs in the City of Alameda. And we brainstormed! Every single person in the room (including Mayor Jean Quan of Oakland) helped develop ideas for what ICU will engage in the coming year. People engaged in deep conversation and rich visioning about the role of people of faith in addressing homelessness, foreclosure, and other justice issues, and how much good we can do together to create dignity and safe homes and communities for all people in the East Bay.

Click here to download and send in the Call-to-Action form from the event.

2 Symbols1The table is set for interfaith community building at ICU’s Annual Breakfast Gathering.


Reverend Phil’s Retirement Party: A Warm Send-Off – But Not a Farewell – to Reverend Phil Lawson

two phils 2v7

On December 16, 100 friends and allies gathered at Easter Hill United Methodist Church in Richmond to honor Rev. Phil Lawson’s 7 years with EBHO.  Reverend Lawson has spearheaded EBHO’s Interfaith Communities United work, bringing together faith and lay leaders and weaving together in economic, housing, immigration and racial justice. 

In addition to great food, live music and a slideshow of Phil through the decades, the party featured toasts from State Senator Mark DeSaulnier, County Supervisor John Gioia, Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, and many others.  Key EBHO partners including Greater Richmond Interfaith Program, Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice, Northern California Interfaith Religious Conference, Interfaith Council of Contra Costa County, Contra Costa Interfaith Supporting Community Organizations, and Black Alliance for Just Immigration were represented and helped to make it a truly special event.  Reverend Phil assured us that he is not truly retiring – just “swinging from one trapeze to the next” on his journey of social activism.

Click here to see a slideshow of photos from the event!


Housing Bill of Rights

Developed by EBHO’s Interfaith Communities United for Affordable Housing (ICU), the “Housing Bill of Rights” is a campaign to get all faith leaders, public officials, and jurisdictions in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties to sign on and support the idea that “Housing is a Human Right”.

Please join us! Sign on below to show that you too support the “Housing Bill of Rights”. To print out and distribute this document at your congregation, community group, or neighborhood, please click HERE for the PDF. Please return to or contact Rev. Sandhya Jha, Interfaith Program Director, at

Please sign the Housing Bill of Rights!


Micah 4: Verses 3,4,5
And God shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.

But they shall sit under their vine and under their fig tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the Lord of hosts hath spoken it.

For all people will walk every one in the name of their god, and we will walk in the name of the Lord our God for ever and ever.

– Micah 4: verses 3, 4, 5 –

The prophet Micah, in 800 BC, anticipated an ideal period in life when all persons will enjoy pleasant, peaceful, and secure shelter, “each under their own vines and fig trees.” And “no one shall make them afraid.” A time when all would “live and let live,” each with their own gods and beliefs. Interestingly, one’s own “vines” today might mean safe, secure shelter; and one’s own “fig tree” certainly translates into productive jobs at livable wages.

The need for adequate, safe, secure, accessible and affordable housing in Alameda and Contra Costa counties is critical. Less then ten percent of residents in both counties can afford to own a house. Many tenants live in deplorable, overcrowded, unaffordable housing situations. And too many are homeless.

Since the first National Housing Act of 1944, the United States Congress has set a goal that every person be housed in “decent, safe and sanitary housing”. This moral commitment has been re-affirmed in every subsequent Housing Acts by Congress (1954, 1968, 1974, and 1978). Because “decent, safe and sanitary housing” is the right of every person, a much greater moral and political outcry must be raised.

Therefore, we the undersigned members of Interfaith Communities United (ICU) in response to the critical housing situation in our counties will begin to raise our moral indignation against this injustice. The current crisis is an outrage! Justice demands that every voice be raised until governments from the federal, state, county and city levels begin to listen. Justice demands that economic interests and businesses begin to respond much more creatively. Justice demands that substantial remedies emerge. We call upon every congregation, every temple, every mosque and every spiritual and moral constituency to consider what we have initiated, and add their voices to this cry for justice.


ICU Partners and Congregations

    Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI)
Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency (BOSS)
Catholic Housing Initiative of the East Bay
Contra Costa Faith Works!
Contra Costa Interfaith Housing
Contra Costa Interfaith Supporting Community Organization (CCISCO)
Easter Hill United Methodist Church, Richmond
FAITHS Initiative, San Francisco Foundation
Greater Richmond Interfaith Program (GRIP)
Interfaith Committee for Workers’ Justice, East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (EBASE)
Interfaith Council of Contra Costa County
Mills Grove Christian Church, Oakland
Northern California Inter-Religious Conference
Sojourner Truth Presbyterian Church, Richmond
St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, El Cerrito