Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Women’s Justice Circle shares stories of ‘Dwelling with Dignity’

Story and photo by Scott Cooper, for the Inland Register

(From the May 1, 2003 edition of the Inland Register)

Jewel, a participant in the recent Women’s Justice Circle, provided drumming during the event as women’s stories were shared and affirmed. (IR photo)

“Dwelling with Dignity,” sharing stories of landlord-tenant relationships, was the theme of the closing event for the latest Women’s Justice Circle on April 24, 2003.

For eight weeks, low- and middle-income women met to form community, share stories and develop an action plan around an issue of common concern to everyone in the Circle.

The result was an afternoon of sharing experiences of the often difficult relationships between landlords and tenants. As the Women’s Justice Circle program reads, “Through listening, you realize you’re not alone.”

Both good or bad, the stories told in the Women’s Justice Circle speak to the common experiences of many women of feeling scared and powerless or successful and empowered.

One woman spoke of her struggle with housing as a single mother. Later in life and remarried, she wanted to help other young women and so made a house she owned available to a struggling single mother. She shared her disappointment at finding her home damaged by the renter.

Another participant spoke of her frustration at having no recourse when a landlord withheld damage deposit funds for no reason. A woman spoke of the discrimination she faced finding an apartment with her crminal history. Still another said she realized what a good landlord she had because of the stories told by others.

All agreed that the Women’s Justice Circle brings many aspects of the community together to bear witness to what reality is for so many among them.

The Women’s Justice Circles are a program of the Intercommunity Peace & Justice Center in Seattle, an organization supported by nine communities of women Religious. Women’s Justice Circles have been held for the past three years at a variety of places in Spokane, including St. Ann Parish and St. Margaret Shelter.

The Justice Circles are also conducted in cities throughout Oregon and Washington as a way of bringing women together across social lines to realize their shared experiences, to build community and to create institutional change that addresses root causes of poverty.

To help coordinate the circles, the Intercommunity Peace & Justice Center has received funding for three years from national grants of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), the U.S. bishops’ agency combatting the root causes of poverty. CCHD benefits from the Collection for the Church in the U.S., taken in May in the Spokane Diocese. (Editor’s note: More information about the collection is on page 11 of this issue.)

(Scott Cooper is the director of Catholic Charities’ Parish Social Ministries office. For more information about the Women’s Justice Circles or CCHD, contact Cooper at (509) 358-4273.)

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