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					Organizing Communities, Changing Lives

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A s s o c i a t i o n

ACORN 2005 Annual Report
o f C o m m u n i t y O r g a n i z a t i o n s f o r R e f o r m

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ACORN 2005 Annual Report Printing donated by the National Education Association (NEA). ACORN Organizing and Support Center 1024 Elysian Fields Avenue New Orleans, LA 70117 504-943-0044 - acorn@acorn.org ACORN National Operations 2-4 Nevins St. Brooklyn, NY 11217 718-246-7900 - natexdirect@acorn.org Copyright 2006 by ACORN. ACORN and ACORN logo are Registered Trademarks of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, Inc. Nothing shown may be reproduced in any form without obtaining the permission of ACORN.

Table of Contents
ACORN 2005 Annual Report

Organizing Communities, Changing Lives

Message from ACORN’s National President .......... 2 About ACORN .......................................................... 3 Building ACORN One Member at a Time ................ 4 ACORN Grows ........................................................ 6 Organizing in Katrina’s Wake ................................... 7 Financial Justice..................................................... 14 Living Wage and Minimum Wage Campaigns ....... 17 Affordable Housing ................................................ 20 Education .............................................................. 26 Healthcare Access.................................................. 29 Environmental Justice ........................................... 30 Fair Utilities ............................................................ 32 Voter Participation ................................................. 34 Taking on Wal-Mart ............................................... 35 Organizing Home Childcare Workers .................... 36 National Policy: Fighting the Bush Agenda ........... 38 Neighborhood Victories ......................................... 39 Research and Reports ........................................... 42 ACORN Housing Corporation ............................... 44 Looking to 2006...................................................... 46

ACORN 2005 Annual Report

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Message from the President
Organizing Communities, Changing Lives
In 2005, ACORN grew in size and strength, winning important victories for low-income communities around the country. ACORN also faced one of the greatest challenges in our organization’s history in responding to the devastation of our communities – and our own national and local organizing operations – in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. As we watched the news coverage and reconnected with our displaced membership in the days after the hurricane, it was painfully clear that low-income, African American families were bearing the brunt of the suffering. It was a tragic demonstration of the real impact of persistent poverty and racial inequities in not only New Orleans, but across our nation. I am proud of the way ACORN members and organizers immediately came together and responded to this crisis – by doing what we do best: ORGANIZE. We reached out to low-income Katrina survivors, helping them get the assistance they needed, and built the ACORN Katrina Survivors Association to fight for a voice for low-income families in the relief and rebuilding efforts. And together, we’ve already won real improvements for low-income survivors. At the same time, every single day of 2005 ACORN has been organizing in our communities – which now include chapters in over 100 U.S. cities and in Canada, Peru and Mexico! We have won major victories in financial justice, minimum wages, affordable housing, education, healthcare, environmental justice, and civic participation, as well as hundreds of local neighborhood wins. We’ve compiled here some of the highlights of ACORN’s work in 2005. Finally, let me share a personal thanks to everyone who has reached out to offer their support in 2005 – your contributions, kind words, and assistance have helped ACORN and its members rise to the unprecedented challenges we faced this year.

ACORN National President Maude Hurd

“I am proud of the way ACORN members and organizers immediately came together and responded to this crisis – by doing what we do best: ORGANIZE!”

Maude Hurd ACORN National President

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ACORN 2005 Annual Report

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About ACORN

ACORN – the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now – is the nation’s largest community organization of low and moderate income families, with more than 225,000 families organized into neighborhood chapters in over 100 cities around the country. Since 1970, ACORN has been taking action and winning victories on issues of concern to our members. Our priorities include better housing for first time homebuyers and tenants, living wages for low-wage workers, more investment in our communities from banks and governments, and better public schools. We achieve these goals by building community organizations that have the power to win changes – through direct action, negotiation, legislation and voter participation.

Top: Members from Pennsylvania ACORN gather in Washington DC to take part in the annual Day of Action in March. Left: Members from Louisiana ACORN protest bulldozing in New Orleans. Above: ACORN members from Columbus (OH) at a minimum wage rally. ...Changing Lives
ACORN 2005 Annual Report Page 3

Building ACORN One Member at a Time

Why do community residents join ACORN? Almost without fail, ACORN members say that it is because “no one ever came to my door and asked for MY opinion before.”

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or 35 years, the neighborhood organizing drive has been the heart and soul of ACORN’s work. In 2005, ACORN conducted over 480 organizing drives in communities around the country. Each drive follows a similar model. An ACORN organizer, working with an organizing committee of neighborhood residents, systematically doorknocks a defined neighborhood, engaging in one-onone conversations with hundreds of neighborhood residents. Organizers ask community members what issues they are concerned about; what makes them angry; and what their hopes and dreams are – for their family, for their community, for their city, and for their country. Organizers talk with residents about organizing to build power, and ask them to join the new local ACORN chapter that is being built in their neighborhood.
Top: An ACORN organizer in Baltimore talks to a prospective ACORN member. Above: Members from Harrisburg ACORN attend a community meeting.

Why do community residents join ACORN? Almost without fail, ACORN members say that it is because “no one ever came to my door and asked for MY opinion before.” This uniquely powerful insight is at the core of

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ACORN 2005 Annual Report

Organizing Communities...

the ACORN organizing model: ACORN gives low and moderate income families an opportunity to take action on issues and concerns that are defined by the community itself. Each organizing drive culminates in a neighborhood-wide meeting, where members elect their own officers, take stock of their emerging power, and choose a set of issues to work on. Within days the new ACORN chapter moves into action, and members get their first taste of collective action. This is really a process of civic education: ACORN members learn how to work together to advance their agenda, and they learn how to operate in the public sphere. Just as important, ACORN members, most of whom were never active in their community, begin to see themselves as political actors with the power to get things done. New leaders emerge as members develop their skills and discover their strengths. These new neighborhood chapters tackle a range of community issues: they demand and win better police protection, traffic signs and enforcement, vacant lot clean-ups, and more. But in addition, as chapters continue meeting monthly, they develop a broader agenda that speaks to the more fundamental concerns of the members: better schools, more affordable housing, higher wages, and an end to predatory financial practices. These are issues that are shared by local ACORN neighborhood chapters from city to city, from state to state, across the nation. As the following pages document, ACORN has developed successful citywide, statewide, and nationwide strategies that have won huge victories on many of these issues. But the fundamental principle remains the same, whether the campaign is fighting for a stop sign at a dangerous intersection or confronting a multinational financial institution: ACORN members – those who are directly affected by the issue at stake – are the ones who take action on their own behalf to win the victories that make a difference in their lives.

ACORN member Joe Sherman (right) gathers signatures for an ACORN minimum wage campaign.

This uniquely powerful insight is at the core of the ACORN organizing model: ACORN gives low and moderate income families an opportunity to take action on issues and concerns that are defined by the community itself.

...Changing Lives

ACORN 2005 Annual Report

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ACORN Grows
At the close of 2005, ACORN is now organizing in over 110 cities and 37 states across the U.S. and the District of Columbia, as well as Tijuana, Mexico, Lima, Peru, and Toronto and Vancouver, Canada!
Birmingham, AL Little Rock, AR Pine Bluff, AR Glendale, AZ Mesa, AZ Phoenix, AZ Tucson, AZ Bakersfield, CA Chula Vista, CA Concord, CA Contra Costa Co., CA Daly City, CA Fresno, CA Garden Grove, CA Long Beach, CA Los Angeles, CA Oakland, CA Richmond, CA Sacramento, CA San Bernardino, CA San Diego, CA San Francisco, CA San Jose, CA San Mateo County, CA Santa Ana, CA Colorado Springs, CO Denver, CO Bridgeport, CT Hartford, CT Washington, DC Wilmington, DE Belle Glade, FL Ft. Lauderdale, FL Hallandale Beach, FL Hialeah, FL Jacksonville, FL Miami, FL North Dade, FL North Miami Beach, FL Orlando, FL Palm Beach Co., FL Pompano Beach, FL Riviera Beach, FL St. Petersburg, FL Tallahassee, FL Tampa, FL Atlanta, GA Honolulu, HI Des Moines, IA Chicago, IL Springfield, IL Indianapolis, IN Kansas City, KS Topeka, KS Wichita, KS Louisville, KY Baton Rouge, LA Lake Charles, LA New Orleans, LA Boston, MA Springfield, MA Baltimore, MD Baltimore Co., MD Prince George’s Co, MD Detroit, MI Flint, MI Lansing, MI St. Paul, MN Minneapolis, MN Kansas City, MO St. Louis, MO Jackson, MS Charlotte, NC Raleigh, NC Carteret, NJ Elizabeth, NJ Jersey City, NJ Newark, NJ Passaic, NJ Paterson, NJ Perth Amboy, NJ Trenton, NJ Union City, NJ West New York, NJ Albuquerque, NM Las Cruces, NM Las Vegas, NV Buffalo, NY Hempstead, NY New York City, NY Akron, OH Cincinnati, OH Cleveland, OH Columbus, OH Dayton, OH Toledo, OH Oklahoma City, OK Portland, OR Allentown, PA Erie, PA Harrisburg, PA Philadelphia, PA Pittsburgh, PA Providence, RI Memphis, TN Nashville, TN Arlington, TX Austin, TX Brownsville, TX Dallas, TX El Paso, TX Ft. Worth, TX Houston, TX Irving, TX Pasadena, TX San Antonio, TX Waco, TX Norfolk, VA Seattle, WA Madison, WI

New cities are in bold

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ACORN 2005 Annual Report

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Organizing in Katrina’s Wake
n the months since Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, ACORN has played a vital role in ensuring that the needs of low and moderate income survivors are being met. In October, ACORN announced the formation of the ACORN Katrina Survivors Association – the first national organization of low-income survivors of Hurricane Katrina. With thousands of members in cities like Baton Rouge, Houston, Dallas, Little Rock, New York, and Los Angeles – and a plan to engage thousands more – the mission of the Katrina Survivors Association is to demand a voice for low-income people in the relief and rebuilding process. Members of the Katrina Survivors Association have been taking their message to local officials, relief agencies, and to their elected representatives in Washington DC. On November 7-8, the Katrina Survivors Association sponsored its first major event – the ACORN Community Forum on Rebuilding New Orleans in Baton Rouge, Louisiana – which brought together over 130 Katrina survivors and experts in the fields of urban planning, architecture, and affordable housing. The conference, which was also Webcast, provided a unique opportunity for Katrina survivors and policy experts to develop a sustainable redevelopment plan for New Orleans that allows for affordable housing, environmental protection, and economic improvement.

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Top: ACORN members from New Orleans take to the streets to save the Lower Ninth Ward. Above: ACORN members in Houston distribute clothing to Katrina survivors.

The ACORN Community Forum on Rebuilding New Orleans brought together rebuilding experts and ACORN members.

The conference provided a unique opportunity for Katrina survivors and policy experts to develop a sustainable redevelopment plan for New Orleans that allows for affordable housing, environmental protection, and economic development.

...Changing Lives

ACORN 2005 Annual Report

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Organizing in Katrina’s Wake

ACORN and the Survivors Association have already won real improvements for low-income Katrina survivors: • The Survivors Association successfully organized community pressure on FEMA to reverse plans to evict thousands of survivors from motels and hotels on December 1. The Survivors Association pressed mortgage lenders to treat New Orleans homeowners fairly, and has been meeting with representatives from major lending institutions to urge them not to foreclose on displaced homeowners. ACORN already won an agreement with one subprime lender, Ocwen Loan Servicing, to immediately stop the practice of charging prepayment penalties to homeowners and to refund penalties already collected. ACORN also participated in the filing of a lawsuit that won a temporary restraining order against the city of New Orleans, preventing the demolition of homes in the Ninth Ward. In December, ACORN launched the Home Clean-Out Demonstration Program – with the goal of preserving thousands of homes in low-income New Orleans neighborhoods.

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Top: New Orleans ACORN leader Tanya Harris (to right of podium) meets with Congressional representatives in Washington DC. Above: Houston ACORN members hold a protest outside the local FEMA office.

ACORN also participated in the filing of a lawsuit that won a temporary restraining order against the city of New Orleans, preventing the demolition of homes in the Ninth Ward.

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HEN NEWS OF HURRICANE KATRINA REACHED Sandra Milton at her home in Houston, she decided the Federal Government wasn’t doing enough to evacuate the members of her family who were stranded in New Orleans. Sandra and her husband drove into New Orleans and picked up two aunts and six other family members as well as three strangers in need of help. The Miltons then
drove the eleven survivors back to Houston and housed them in their four-bedroom home. While helping her initial group of survivor guests, Sandra continued to offer housing to those who had evacuated New Orleans and soon hosted a total of twenty Katrina survivors living in her home. She had heard of ACORN’s work through the years, but she was truly impressed with ACORN after Hurricane Katrina since it was one of the few organizations that directly assisted host families. “At the local grocery store, ACORN had grocery carts full of $25 worth of food for host families. That was a big help to me.” Sandra’s large group of guests included three senior citizens aged 65, 76, and 89. “I needed help accessing their social security benefits so I could get them their medications,” says Sandra. Meant as a one-family home, her house had its four bedrooms and double garage filled to capacity with survivors. “We had people living in the living room – and the dining room. Every corner of the house had a bed in it.” Already aiding survivors individually, Sandra decided to become a member of ACORN and help improve conditions for all Hurricane Katrina survivors. She helped organize an ACORN town hall meeting at which Houston’s Mayor Bill White agreed to improve assistance to survivors. In October, Sandra accompanied seven Katrina survivors to Washington DC, where she participated in the press conference with the Senate committee including Harry Reid. The national TV news stations were there and some of Sandra’s friends in Houston saw her on TV. “I couldn’t believe these powerful officials sat and really listened to us,” says Sandra. She and the survivors spoke out in support of reinstatement of the Davis-Bacon Act, and when it was reinstated a few days after the press conference, Sandra felt that ACORN’s techniques were really working. Over the next few months, the number of people staying in Sandra’s home dwindled to eight, then to one. Sandra’s eightyear-old daughter was able to move back into her bedroom. Sandra says she will continue to work with ACORN because the organization is in touch with needs of the communities it serves. “ACORN concentrates on the right problems. You can really depend on ACORN to be your backbone and to get things straight in your community.”

ACORN LEADER IN ACTION

Sandra Milton
Houston, TX

Sandra Milton convinced a group of 50 ACORN members to chant the traditional gospel refrain “We waded in the water” outside FEMA offices in DC. The phrase became a reminder that FEMA had left thousands of Hurricane Katrina survivors stranded in the New Orleans floodwaters.

...Changing Lives

ACORN 2005 Annual Report

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Organizing in Katrina’s Wake
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ACORN LEADER IN ACTION
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IKE MANY HURRICANE SURVIVORS WHO DIDN’T OWN cars, Trina and her two daughters and two two-year-old granddaughters lived in a dark hallway at the Superdome for six days after Hurricane Katrina struck. For the first three days, they lived without light, food, or water. When food was finally delivered on the fourth day, Trina’s family spent days waiting in long lines for food and water rations.
On the sixth day, the first buses finally pulled up and the large crowd of survivors waited in the hot sun for fifteen hours, hoping to board one. “It was so hot that people were passing out,” Trina recalls. During the wait, Trina saw a family carrying an unconscious twenty-year-old girl on a piece of cardboard used as a stretcher. “Later we found out this girl died when the MPs announced it on a loud speaker,” Trina explains. Trina’s daughters and granddaughters boarded a bus that day to Houston. The next day Trina was bused to the Dallas Convention Center where she was reunited with her family after seven days, and lived for twenty days. She also began meeting with ACORN organizers, and throughout September spoke at a series of ACORN-organized town hall meetings. After her speeches convinced local Dallas officials to respond to the needs of survivors in the city, Trina joined the ACORN Katrina Survivors Association so she could urge federal officials to offer more assistance. On October 26, 2005 Trina Daniels and seven other members of the Survivors Association traveled to Washington DC to speak with members of the U.S. Senate and Congress. During a press conference to support the Rebuild with Respect Act, Trina became a public speaker in a lineup that included Senators Ted Kennedy, Byron L. Dorgan, and Tom Harkin. Several national television news stations covered the conference and Trina found herself speaking to a crowd of 150 people while the cameras rolled. Trina was nervous but she wanted to tell her survivor story to U.S. Senators and members of Congress. “These folks didn’t realize what went on and they needed to hear about it,” she says. Trina attended ACORN’s Community Forum on Rebuilding New Orleans in Baton Rouge. When ACORN’s work to extend the FEMA vouchers was successful, Trina continued to use her voucher to pay rent on her Dallas apartment. In New Orleans, ACORN is pushing for temporary housing where Trina could live if she wanted to return to her former chef job at a New Orleans restaurant that is scheduled to reopen soon. In the meantime, she will continue to work with ACORN for the rights of Katrina survivors. “ACORN is like a big family. Everybody has the same ideals and it’s all about helping people. I’m sure if ACORN was in charge of the Katrina evacuation, they would’ve come up with something better.”

Trina Daniels
New Orleans, LA

“ACORN is like a big family. Everybody has the same ideals and it’s all about helping people. I’m sure if ACORN was in charge of the Katrina evacuation, they would’ve come up with something better.”

ACORN 2005 Annual Report

Organizing Communities...

One House at a Time
Saving Low Income New Orleans Neighborhoods

ACORN Home Clean-Out Demonstration Program

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efore Hurricane Katrina, the Lower Ninth Ward, Gentilly, and New Orleans East were all vibrant New Orleans neighborhoods where many of the city’s 9,000 ACORN members lived. After the hurricane, these communities – which were about 80% African American, with 20% of residents living below the poverty level and 10% unemployed before Katrina – were put last on the list for redevelopment by some city planners. ACORN members feared, and with good reason, that this meant their neighborhoods would never be rebuilt because of powerful downtown business interests’ goals to change the demographics and

ACORN leader Vanessa Gueringer (in green sweatshirt) stands with ACORN cleanout volunteers in front of her Lower Ninth Ward home. She has worked hard to ensure there is a voice for the residents of the Lower Ninth Ward during the rebuilding after Katrina.

...Changing Lives

ACORN 2005 Annual Report

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Organizing in Katrina’s Wake
“I’m extremely grateful for the effort ACORN has made. This is such a great help. I could not have had my house cleaned without the help of ACORN.”
– Gail Tucker, Gentilly Homeowner

Above: ACORN member Gail Tucker saves cherished photographs as ACORN volunteers gut her Gentilly home. Opposite Page: ACORN member Lloyd Lorenzo helps gut homes in New Orleans.

size of the city. In response, in December ACORN launched the Home Clean-Out Demonstration Program to preserve thousands of homes in low-income neighborhoods – and send a powerful message to policymakers that low-income New Orleans residents have a “right of return” and deserve a voice in the rebuilding process. The director of the ACORN Home Clean-Out Demonstration Program is Scott Hagy, an industrial electrician who arrived from Wisconsin in early October with a U-Haul and a work truck ready to help the rebuilding effort. “I had lived in New Orleans before and felt connected to the area, so I came down to see what I could do,” says Scott. “I was just hoping to go into the neighborhoods and make some kind of positive impact.” By early January 2006, ACORN work crews had cleaned out over 575 homes, and ACORN had raised and spent over $1 million in restoring low-income New Orleans neighborhoods. We did this by hiring local residents displaced by the hurricane and paying them living wages, as well as recruiting students and other volunteers. In all, nearly 3,000 workers have contributed to the ACORN Home Clean-Out Demonstration Program – cleaning up neighborhoods and gutting damaged houses, including removing debris and saving personal belongings, ripping out dry wall, sanitizing structures to remove and prevent mold growth, and putting tarps on roofs to prevent water damage. ACORN work crews are often met with tears of gratitude from neighborhood residents as the houses are

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ACORN work crews are often met with ACORN work crews are often met with tears of gratitude from neighborhood tears of gratitude from neighborhood residents as the houses are repaired residents as the houses are repaired and personal possessions are saved. and personal possessions are saved.

repaired and personal possessions are saved. Dorian Theodore and his family were displaced from their home in the New Orleans East neighborhood after Katrina. “We heard about ACORN through another relative,” says Dorian, whose home was enrolled in the clean-out program in January. “Just going through what we went through as far as the hurricane goes, it’s still a shock. So thank God that ACORN is gutting the house and we’re going to come back, fix it up and it’s going to be our home again.”

ACORN’s Katrina Work Earns National Recognition
ACORN Organizer Steve Bradberry accepts the RFK Human Rights Award from Ethel Kennedy and Sen. Ted Kennedy.

CORN earned national recognition for its work in the aftermath of Katrina when, in November, New Orleans ACORN Head Organizer Stephen Bradberry received the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award. Bradberry is the first individual American recipient of the award, which was established in 1984 and is given to activists who have demonstrated a commitment to social justice in the tradition of Robert F. Kennedy. In prior years, advocates for social justice in countries such as Haiti, Brazil, India, and Chad have received the award. Bradberry was especially honored for his leadership in fighting for the rights of low and moderate income Hurricane Katrina survivors, as well as for his years of work for justice in low-income New Orleans communities. Mrs. Robert F. Kennedy presented the award in a ceremony in the U.S. Capitol, where historian Douglas Brinkley, Senator Edward Kennedy and Senator Barack Obama joined in honoring Bradberry’s work.

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...Changing Lives

ACORN 2005 Annual Report

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Financial Justice
Jackson Hewitt Reforms Save Customers $19.5 Million
On Tax Day, April 15, as the result of a yearlong ACORN campaign, Jackson Hewitt – the nation’s second largest tax preparer – announced reforms to its sales practices of high-cost tax Refund Anticipation Loans (RALs). The company eliminated the $40 RAL application fee at its 605 company-owned stores and promised to work to get its franchisees to do the same, improved disclosures at all of its offices, and succeeded in getting Santa Barbara Bank and Trust to remove its surcharge on EITC refunds – saving customers over $19.5 million per year!

Liberty Tax Improves Disclosures; CT Passes Anti-RAL Legislation
In 2005, ACORN also targeted Liberty Tax, the country’s third largest tax preparation company, to improve its RAL sales practices. ACORN held a series of coordinated protests outside Liberty Tax offices in over 60 cities in February and March, including a rally of 200 ACORN members from ten states at company headquarters in Virginia Beach. Liberty has entered into negotiations with ACORN over its RAL prices and practices, and has already made changes to its consumer disclosures to promote the benefits of free electronic filing. In a related victory, Connecticut ACORN helped pass legislation capping RAL interest rates – which can normally exceed 200% – at a maximum 60%. Connecticut is the first state in the nation to regulate the interest rates of RALs.

Above and Below Right: After a hard-fought battle, ACORN was able to get Liberty Tax to improve disclosure policies.

“After years of protest and pressure, ACORN has gotten two of the nation’s largest tax preparers, H&R Block Inc. and Jackson Hewitt Inc., to promise to improve how they promote, sell and disclose the terms of refund loans.”
– Washington Post - January 23, 2005

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Wells Fargo Reduces Prepayment Penalties; ACORN Keeps Up Pressure for Reforms
In 2005, ACORN continued its two-year campaign against the abusive practices of Wells Fargo, one of the nation’s largest subprime lenders, by releasing investigative reports, holding protests around the country – including a rally at Wells Fargo’s shareholder meeting in San Francisco – and filing dozens of complaints with Attorneys General in three states. In March, ACORN released a study, The Runaway Stagecoach: Racial and Economic Inequality in Wells Fargo’s Subprime Lending which revealed that Wells Fargo’s subprime affiliate makes a disproportionate number of high-cost refinance loans in minority and low-income neighborhoods. Following a series of ACORN protests, in August Wells Fargo announced that it would reduce its prepayment penalties – additional fees charged to homeowners who refinance their mortgage before the end of the loan period – from six months of up to 11% interest to a maximum rate of 3%. ACORN members continue to pressure Wells Fargo to repay the families and communities it has hurt with its abusive lending practices, account for the racial and economic disparities in its lending, and increase access to affordable loans and equity-building for minority customers.

ACORN Helps 16,000 Families Claim Millions in Tax Refunds
In 2005, ACORN expanded its successful Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) outreach and free tax preparation program from three cities in 2004 to 45 cities around the country. Organized in partnership with the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, ACORN Free Tax Preparation Centers enabled 16,000 families to easily file returns and receive refunds. ACORN-run VITA sites in San Antonio (TX), New Orleans (LA), San Francisco (CA), and Harrisburg (PA) filed more returns than any other VITA sites in their respective cities.

Top: Members participate in a protest at the Wells Fargo shareholders meeting in California. Above: ACORN tax preparers in New Orleans help a family claim their EITC benefit.

ACORN Free Tax Center Results - 2005
Benefits to 16,000 families: o Total refunds: $19.5 million o EITC and Child Tax Credits: $13 million o Tax preparation fees saved: $2 million*
*Dollars saved by not paying commercial tax preparation fees.

...Changing Lives

ACORN 2005 Annual Report

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Financial Justice
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HRISTINA TALARCZYK FIRST JOINED ACORN IN 2003, after she moved from Minnesota to San Antonio’s Las Lomas neighborhood where she noticed that high-speed traffic and a lack of streetlights made the streets dangerous. ACORN’s organizer came to her house, and with the hope of improving neighborhood safety, Christina became one of the first members of San Antonio’s fourth neighborhood chapter, Las Lomas ACORN. With other ACORN members Christina organized a candle-light vigil to call attention to her neighborhood’s lack of streetlights and speed bumps. Local TV stations covered the vigil and were able to film an accident that was all too typical for Christina’s neighborhood. “Just as the local TV station was interviewing a woman at the vigil, a little boy went out into the street and a speeding driver had to slam on his brakes,” says Christina. The woman being interviewed was the boy’s mother, and the incident found a place on the evening news. Next Christina helped citizens take part in ACORN’s comprehensive financial justice initiatives designed to help people keep more of their hard-earned money. Working with ACORN, Christina helped promote the Earned Income Tax Credit, expose the high cost of Refund Anticipation Loans (RALs), and provide free tax preparation services. In March 2004, Christina introduced millions of primetime television viewers to RAL scams when she played an undercover role in a segment of Dateline, NBC’s Emmy-winning investigative news program. Pretending to be a naive tax preparation customer, Christina walked into a Jackson Hewitt office with a Dateline producer who had a camera hidden in his sunglasses. The tax preparation employees were caught on camera as they tried to convince Christina to take out a high-interest RAL. “The Jackson Hewitt employee said it takes the IRS too long to process a refund, and made RALs seem so much faster,” Christina explains. “It was surreal to see myself on TV. I had family members calling from Minnesota and New Mexico to tell me they’d seen it.” In 2005, Christina continued her work on RALs and helped promote ACORN’s free tax preparation services. She and other members of her ACORN crew visited the offices of tax preparation companies approximately twenty times. “We’d hand out flyers to people walking into the tax prep offices and when they realized ACORN could prepare taxes for free, they would leave,” Christina says. The local media covered the protests and when phone numbers for the ACORN office were broadcast on TV, ACORN received calls from many interested people who couldn’t believe they could have their taxes done for free. Christina’s hard work paid off and in 2005 San Antonio ACORN filed close to 2,000 returns, the most returns filed by any independent VITA site in the city.

ACORN LEADER IN ACTION
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Christina Talarczyk
San Antonio, TX

Christina introduced millions of primetime television viewers to RAL scams when she played an undercover role in a segment of Dateline, NBC’s Emmy-winning investigative news program.

ACORN 2005 Annual Report

Organizing Communities...

Living Wage and Minimum Wage
ACORN Launches Campaigns to Boost Wages in Four States
In 2005, ACORN and our community and labor allies launched ballot initiative campaigns in Arizona, Colorado, Michigan, and Ohio to increase the state minimum wage to $6.75 or more with annual indexing to inflation – potentially delivering raises for an estimated 1.6 million workers. To kick off the campaigns, in June, Senator John Edwards and ACORN National President Maude Hurd toured five cities where coalitions of labor and community groups were preparing to collect hundreds of thousands of signatures to qualify for the November 2006 ballot. By the end of 2005, Ohioans for a Fair Minimum Wage – a coalition including ACORN, Ohio AFL-CIO and its affiliates, and the state Democratic leadership – had already gathered over 50,000 signatures. ACORN is also working on a minimum wage ballot initiative campaign in Arkansas.

Winning Higher Wages in 2005
• In Florida, ACORN successfully defended the $1 per hour minimum wage increase we won in November 2004 from state legislative attack. The increase to $6.15 took effect in May, and was indexed to $6.40 in January 2006. In New Jersey, ACORN and the Fairness Alliance helped pass a $2 increase in the state minimum wage, delivering a raise to more than 300,000 minimum wage workers.

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Above: A Pine Bluff (AR) ACORN member at a minimum wage rally in Washington DC. Below, left: ACORN members and minimum wage coalition partners in Albuquerque.

ACORN and our community and labor allies launched ballot initiative campaigns in Arizona, Colorado, Michigan, and Ohio to increase the state minimum wage to $6.75 or more with annual indexing to inflation, potentially delivering raises for an estimated 1.6 million workers.

...Changing Lives

ACORN 2005 Annual Report

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Living Wage and Minimum Wage

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In Albuquerque (NM), the ACORN-led Albuquerque Living Wage Campaign collected 33,700 signatures to get a proposal on the October city election ballot to raise the city’s minimum wage to $7.50 per hour. The proposal – which would have been only the third of its kind in the nation – was narrowly defeated by an unprecedented campaign of deception by business opposition that outspent proponents 3 to 1. The campaign, however, laid the groundwork for an effort by ACORN and allies to pass a statewide minimum wage hike at the same level. After winning a minimum wage increase in 2003, Illinois ACORN and our labor allies beat back business opponents’ attempts to halt the second stage of the increase to $6.50, ensuring that the full increase will benefit nearly 500,000 workers. Philadelphia ACORN joined coalition allies to pass a living wage ordinance raising wages for some of the lowest paid city workers, tying the living wage rate to 150% of the state minimum wage.

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Top: An ACORN minimum wage rally in Ohio. Above: In June, Senator John Edwards joined ACORN President Maude Hurde on a five city tour to help kick off ACORN’s 2006 minimum wage ballot initiative campaigns.

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ACORN LEADER IN ACTION

ILLIAM KYSER JOINED ACORN IN OCTOBER OF 2004, because he wanted to help get out the vote for the upcoming presidential election. He and his son canvassed door to door in their Albuquerque neighborhood and registered as many voters as they could. William enjoyed doing outreach for ACORN, so in 2005 he continued to work on ACORN’s campaign to improve healthcare
and wages for Wal-Mart workers by distributing fliers and meeting with New Mexico’s U.S. Representative Tom Udall and Senator Jeff Bingaman. William also ran the sound system and cameras for ACORN’s TV talk show on the public access Channel 27. The show, which has been broadcast for three years, reaches 1,000 viewers weekly, and features experts and guest speakers who debate a variety of local issues. When the opportunity arose in early 2005, William took on the challenge and became the show’s new host. “I’m not Merv Griffin, but I like talking to people,” William says of his host position. William worked especially hard on the ACORN-led Albuquerque Living Wage Campaign and its ballot initiative to raise Albuquerque’s minimum wage to $7.50. He hosted expert economists and featured city council members and union leaders on the show. He even had a McDonald’s worker on the program who talked about how hard it is to survive on the minimum wage. “His wife was pregnant and he needed medication too. Every month they had to decide which one of them they would buy medicine for,” William notes. In addition to the show, William put his high school debating team experience to work, and faced off with Chamber of Commerce CEO Terry Cole twice, once on a radio show and once at a live public forum. “I argued that we needed the increase now, not five years from now, and I pointed out that many municipal fees had just been increased in 2005,” William says. Fifty audience members listened to the debate and William feels he was able to sway them into supporting the minimum wage increase. “We changed their minds,” he says. “After the debate, they came out enlightened.” ACORN members collected over 33,000 signatures in favor of the initiative and did their best to counter the heavily funded business interests who fought it. Even though this high powered opposition outspent ACORN 3 to 1, ACORN’s initiative came very close to passing and lost only by a slim margin. William remains optimistic about the chance of increasing the minimum wage in New Mexico and feels that his show can continue to gather popular support for the proposed statewide increase in 2006. “We’ve got people talking about it now, and we’ve learned a lot,” he says. “I think we know now how to pass a statewide wage increase.”

William Kyser
Albuquerque, NM

Fifty audience members listened to the debate and William feels he was able to sway them into supporting the minimum wage increase. “We changed their minds,” he says. “After the debate, they came out enlightened.”

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Affordable Housing

Texas ACORN members participate in a rally to end contract for deed scams.

The new ACORN-backed law provides groundbreaking protections to families holding a contract for deed, including the right to convert their contract into a traditional mortgage.
Contract for deed is a traditional Texas form of real estate purchase, a kind of “rent to own” plan meant to benefit homebuyers who don’t qualify for traditional mortgages. Contract for deed homebuyers live in the home they are purchasing, make down payments and monthly payments to the seller, pay for homeowners’ insurance and property repairs, but do not have the deed put in their name until certain conditions are met. Often the deed is withheld indefinitely and the homebuyers are treated like renters. Sometimes homebuyers are evicted on dubious grounds just before they earn their deed.

Texas Passes Legislation to Stop “Contract for Deed” Abuses
After a year and a half campaign against unscrupulous real estate investors that use contracts for deed to prey on families in Texas, in 2005 Texas ACORN won passage of statewide legislation providing significant protections for homebuyers. Contract for deed scams target low-income and immigrant families, promising families that after 20-30 years of on-time payments, they will “own” their own homes – only oftentimes the seller forces families to move and forfeit their investment in the properties before the contract is up. ACORN initially organized 200 victims who bought property from the same real estate investor in Houston – and then ACORN members took their fight to the state capital, testifying at legislative hearings and holding rallies around the state. The new ACORN-backed law provides groundbreaking protections to families holding a contract for deed, including the right to convert their contract into a traditional mortgage. If the title holder cannot convey clear title to the buyer, the law obligates the seller to refund the buyer 100% of the money invested into the property since the date the contract for deed was signed.

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A

T HER FIRST ACORN MEETING IN JANUARY 2004, Toni McElroy was impressed with ACORN’s in-depth knowledge of her neighborhood. “I was interested in learning how to buy a home. When the organizers showed us a map of all the vacant properties in my area, I realized ACORN cared enough to do its homework.” Toni attended meetings regularly and after a year, in January
2005 became one of the first ACORN members to lead the fight against contract for deed scams. “We had homebuyers paying homeowner’s insurance premiums and then not receiving benefits when the house burned down, because everything was still in the seller’s name,” Toni explains. “One homebuyer had paid $15,000 on her home, but when her home was flooded, she never got a dime.” Toni and fellow ACORN members first approached the Houston City Council, but since contract for deed agreements were legal in Texas, the council members explained that ACORN needed to get a bill passed in the Texas State Legislature. Undaunted, Toni’s ACORN chapter worked city by city, and found 200 families in Houston alone who had lost money in these housing scams and wanted to join ACORN to fight contract for deed abuses. She worked closely with Texas Senator Harold Dutton who sponsored House Bill 1823 which guarantees protections for contract for deed homebuyers. She also coordinated the massive busing of ACORN members from all over Texas to Austin. 200 ACORN members bused into the State Capitol and met oneon-one with Texas Senators and Representatives in February, and in April, 300 members bused to the Capitol again to urge Texas Legislators to protect home-owners. Toni made eight trips to Austin in 2005, and as she organized press conferences and rallies, the bill steadily drew bipartisan support. The state legislature passed the bill in June, and Toni and a small contingent of eight other Texas ACORN members watched Governor Rick Perry sign the bill and shook his hand. Through all of this work with ACORN, what has impressed Toni most is the selflessness of ACORN members. Many of them worked on the contract for deed bill, though it would not benefit them personally. “One member had already lost her house, but she made the trips down to Austin to keep these crooked sellers from exploiting other homebuyers. Another group of members made a pact not to move from their homes until the bill passed, because they didn’t want another family to sign a contract for deed. They stayed and fought for others.”

ACORN LEADER IN ACTION

Toni McElroy
Houston, TX

Toni’s ACORN chapter worked city by city and found 200 families in Houston alone who had lost money in these housing scams and wanted to join ACORN to fight contract for deed abuses.

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Affordable Housing
New York Wins 2,500 Affordable Housing Units
In April, New York ACORN leaders joined Mayor Michael Bloomberg and developer Bruce Ratner to announce an ACORN-negotiated agreement that requires 50% of the apartments – at least 2,500 units – in a multi-billion dollar development in downtown Brooklyn to be set aside for affordable housing. Also in New York, Housing Here and Now – a coalition co-founded by New York ACORN that includes over 100 housing groups and labor unions – negotiated commitments to set aside affordable housing in two large rezonings that will account for thousands of affordable units. In addition, the coalition got the Mayor to support a $130 million New York City Housing Trust Fund, which will create or preserve 4,500 affordable housing units for more than 11,000 New Yorkers over the next four years.

Fighting for Inclusionary Zoning
In 2005, ACORN chapters around the country, including New Jersey, Washington DC, Los Angeles (CA), and Chicago (IL), mobilized thousands of community members as they made progress towards passing inclusionary zoning ordinances – policies that set aside a fixed percentage of affordable units in housing developments. In Los Angeles, while fighting for inclusionary zoning, ACORN members and neighborhood residents successfully pressured a developer to set aside 150 affordable units in the “Northwest Gateway” downtown development and secured an agreement from another developer to pay $600,000 to the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund.

Top: New York ACORN Exec. Director Bertha Lewis announces a groundbreaking agreement, creating thousands of low-income housing opportunities. Above: Washington DC ACORN members and allies marched on the mayor’s office to deliver almost 2,000 postcards calling on the mayor to support inclusionary zoning.

“Last month, in a boisterous rally at Brooklyn Borough Hall, Mayor Bloomberg, [Bruce] Ratner and [NY ACORN Executive Director Bertha] Lewis announced an agreement to build thousands of units of low-cost housing. The agreement was a milestone.”
– The New York Times - June 9, 2005
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ACORN LEADER IN ACTION

REG BLANKINSHIP HAS BEEN A COMMUNITY leader in fair housing in Brooklyn since 1998 when he became tenant association president for his Prospect Heights building. In 2000, he joined ACORN because he liked the way ACORN helped low-income people access affordable housing and learn their rights as tenants. “Tenants vastly outnumber landlords in New York, so
the more they understand their rights, the more empowered our communities are,” Greg explains. In 2005, Greg began assisting Brooklyn ACORN’s negotiations with Bruce Ratner who was bidding for a chance to develop the Atlantic Railyards into a massive 24-acre complex including an NBA arena for the New Jersey Nets and thousands of residential units in new high-rise buildings. Greg knew this development could radically change his Prospect Heights neighborhood, a modest residential area that has only witnessed gradual, patchy gentrification in the past few years. Unlike some Prospect Heights residents who wanted to stop the Ratner development, Greg and Brooklyn ACORN felt that ACORN ought to work with the developer to make sure the plan would benefit Prospect Heights’ low-income residents. Along with other ACORN members, Greg drummed up local support for a development plan that included low-income housing. He attended several community board meetings, helped distribute information about the plan, and recruited leaders of local community groups to speak out on behalf of ACORN’s efforts. The hard work paid off on May 23, 2005, when Ratner signed ACORN’s Memorandum of Understanding that guaranteed the Atlantic Yards project would provide 2,250 affordable housing units which would be rented at only 30 percent of the renters’ incomes. This means that 50% of the development’s units would be devoted to low and moderate income residents, a significant percentage in a city where affordable housing agreements are rare and often require developers to set aside only 20% of units. “Now someone making just over $17,000 a year can rent the same apartment as the tenant next door to him, someone who makes $103,000 a year,” Greg explains. In addition to affordable housing, the ACORN agreement guarantees construction contracts and leased space for minority- and women-owned businesses, gives low-income people from the area priority for jobs, and includes plans for a health clinic and day care center in the development. To make sure that Ratner follows through with these plans, in 2006 Greg will serve on a board to keep the housing development in compliance. “Financial penalties can be levied if Ratner backs out of any of the provisions he signed onto,” he explains.

Greg Blankinship
Brooklyn, NY

“The agreement guarantees truly affordable housing. Now someone making just over $17,000 a year can rent the same apartment as the tenant next door to him, someone who makes $103,000 a year.”

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Affordable Housing
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ACORN LEADER IN ACTION
Page 24

HEN SHAROL JASON MOVED INTO HER 12THfloor apartment in Toronto 22 years ago, her luxury high-rise building and its twin next door were the jewels of the neighborhood. She never imagined a new landlord would take over in 1995 and neglect the buildings for years, turning them into roach-infested slums. And she never imagined that in December 2004, she would spend
In the months following the elevator disaster, Sharol and several other tenants who were ACORN members took their landlord to court. As she attended hearings and rallies, Sharol hoped that along with her fight for tenants’ rights, her presence as an activist in a wheelchair would also get people thinking about how important public wheelchair access is. “ACORN members who have helped push me up a ramp or two are beginning to understand how difficult it is to get around,” she explains. The ACORN plaintiffs were eventually awarded a 20% rebate on rent paid in 2004 and a 10% reduction in rent for most of 2005. Collectively, tenants won $250,000 from their landlord. But for Sharol, more impressive than the settlement was the way ACORN helped tenants in her building come together. Sharol recalls that, at first, “people were so afraid. But ACORN was so professional – they helped us become a force to be reckoned with.” Sharol will soon be moving to the small town of Barrie, Ontario, where she plans to start a new ACORN chapter. “Barrie doesn’t have any slums, but they do have some check-cashing places that need to be shut down,” she says.

Sharol Jason
Toronto, Ontario

As she attended hearings and rallies, Sharol hoped that along with her fight for tenants’ rights, her presence as an activist in a wheelchair would also get people thinking about how important public wheelchair access is.

six weeks trapped in her own apartment. Sharol has Multiple Sclerosis and uses a wheelchair. In December 2004, when a flood in both buildings disabled the elevators and heating systems, the landlord’s lack of response was typical – the elevators were down for six weeks. Sharol couldn’t leave the 12th floor and her sister Toby, who lived in the complex’s other building, at times had to walk down 24 flights from her apartment and then up 12 flights to bring Sharol groceries. Luckily, Sharol was ready to take on her landlord. She had been a member of ACORN for three months, and was already organizing a group of tenants to fight for improvements in the building. “Becoming a prisoner in my own apartment was a good opportunity to spotlight our problems,” Sharol explains. Sharol contacted the media and was soon interviewed on local news stations. A sign Sharol had written and posted on her door read “The Prisoner of 1202,” (her apartment number) and newscasters who liked Sharol’s nickname began using it in their stories. The name stuck and even now Sharol is recognized by strangers as “The Prisoner of 1202.”

ACORN 2005 Annual Report

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Local Affordable Housing Wins
ACORN neighborhood chapters have also won numerous victories to create safe and affordable housing, with highlights including: • In San Antonio (TX), ACORN won a new emergency home repair program with initial funding from the city of $100,000. In Philadelphia (PA), ACORN, the Women’s Community Reinvestment Project (WCRP) and United Communities successfully pushed the city council to increase the Basic System’s Repair budget by $3.4 million, which is expected to save more than 650 homes over the next year. In Little Rock (AR), the owner of Rolling Hills Mobile Home Park was fined $12,000 and required to install propane tanks, bring electrical outlets up to code, and make other improvements for 150 families after Arkansas ACORN members protested conditions that forced park residents to live without hot water, heat, or cooking facilities. Toronto ACORN members helped secure $4 million in repairs and new appliances and won new security equipment and health and safety repairs in several city apartment buildings. Also in Toronto, the Ontario Rental Housing Tribunal granted ACORN members a rare rent abatement for one year, after ACORN protested deplorable conditions in two high-rise apartment buildings, including safety problems and massive pest infestation.
Top: Members from Toronto ACORN rally to get improvements in several city apartment buildings. Above: ACORN members take HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson (left) on a tour of neighborhoods impacted by contract for deed scams.

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Education

Houston ACORN members and other allies call for community members to “Vote for Schools, Vote for Change.”

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CORN worked around the country in 2005 to prevent cuts in education, press for new school funding, and create pilot programs to improve the quality of education in low-income schools. In Chicago (IL), the ACORN-organized Chicago Learning Collaborative secured $1.5 million from the state of Illinois to implement the “Grow Your Own” teaching program, which provides training for paraprofessionals, parents, and community members to become certified teachers in Illinois’ low-income public schools. The allocation followed a two-year effort by ACORN and allies that helped pass enabling legislation for the program, which is designed to combat high teacher turnover rates. In New York City, ACORN and the Community Collaborative to Improve Bronx Schools (CC9) worked with the Department of Education to expand its Lead Teacher program citywide. Lauded by The

“Hey, D.C., put your money where your mouth is – No Child Left Behind should be a solution not a slogan.”
– Sharon Patterson-Stallings, ACORN Member

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New York Times for improving test scores, the Lead Teacher Program supplies under-performing schools with veteran educators who work in the classroom and mentor new teachers. In Brooklyn, New York ACORN and its labor and community-based allies in the Brooklyn Educational Collaborative (BEC) pushed for better science education in the borough’s middle schools and won initial funding of $200,000 to open and fully stock science labs. • In Providence (RI), after a number of protests including a 500 person rally at the state house in June, ACORN members prevented further state cuts to education and stopped the Providence School District from cutting $4 million and 102 positions – including elementary teachers, nurses, and social workers – from the school district budget. In California, in June over 1,500 ACORN members and allies from community, religious, and labor groups participated in the “Everyone’s Voice Should Be Heard” rally in Sacramento to successfully oppose the governor’s proposed ballot initiatives that would have, in part, reduced funding for K-12 public schools. In Los Angeles (CA), ACORN members partnered with the staff and leaders of United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) to organize a convention on education policy as part of a new effort to address both school-specific and larger policy issues in South Los Angeles. In Hartford (CT), ACORN leader Sharon PattersonStallings was elected to the school board after defeating the Republican incumbent by a 2 to 1 margin.
Top: California ACORN members lobby for better education funding in Sacramento. Above: Oregon ACORN members host a forum to grill school board candidates on issues like school closures, testing requirments, and abandoned properties.

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“In addition to fighting for safer streets around schools and better trained teachers and principals, CC9 last year brokered a remarkable deal between the teachers’ union and the school system to create a ‘lead teacher’ program.”

– The New York Times - May 20, 2005

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Education
MOTHER OF THREE YOUNG CHILDREN, MARTHA Sanchez joined Los Angeles ACORN in 2002 because she wanted to improve the safety of her neighborhood where her children play and go to school. She worked with ACORN to clean up alleys and tear down abandoned homes. And she began a long fight against the polluter Palace Plating, a chrome plating factory located across
the street from the 28th St. Elementary School that her children attend. “Teachers and people living around the school were getting sick. There were several cases of cancer,” Martha explains. Martha used her reputation as a community activist and her bilingual skills to rouse her lowincome, predominantly Hispanic neighborhood that had been long neglected by public officials. “We had never complained before. We were an abandoned community,” Martha says. After two years of steady work, in February 2004, the Los Angeles City Attorney filed ten charges against Palace Plating. City and state officials also launched several efforts to crack down on similar polluters throughout Los Angeles and California. In 2005, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger introduced Proposition 76 to cut the state’s education budget by scaling back payments that the state owes to the school system and by circumventing Proposition 98, the 1988 voter-approved measure which prevents education budget cuts. Martha began working with ACORN to keep “The Terminator” from terminating California children’s rights to a quality education. On August 21 at the L.A. Convention Center, Martha rallied with one hundred other people – including ACORN members, UTLA teachers union members, the firefighters’ union, and the nurses’ union – and demanded a chance to meet with Gov. Schwarzenneger who was speaking there at a restaurant owners’ convention. Schwarzenegger’s security guards sneaked him out to a nearby building and he never met with Martha and her crew, but the event was covered in the local newspapers and TV news. Martha also played a nonspeaking role in UTLA’s antiSchwarzenegger TV spots, and was the main speaker in three versions of their Spanish-language radio spots. “In one version I say how his budget hurts children, in another how it hurts teachers, and in another how it affects all education,” Martha explains. The joint effort of ACORN and the teachers’ unions was successful and California voters refused to pass Proposition 76. In 2006, Martha plans to continue her ACORN work and to work on her own education: an Associate’s Degree in Community Planning and Economic Development. “My educational goal is to learn to be more efficient with issues around my community. I’ve learned a lot about that from working with ACORN too,” Martha says.

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Martha Sanchez
Los Angeles, CA

“In one version I say how his budget hurts children, in another how it hurts teachers, and in another how it affects all education,” says Martha, describing her speaking role in several Spanishlanguage radio spots for UTLA’s anti-Schwarzenegger campaign.

ACORN 2005 Annual Report

Organizing Communities...

Healthcare Access
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n 2005 ACORN members organized around the country to demand that hospitals provide free or reduced cost care, or “charity care,” to low-income patients and stop aggressive debt collection practices. As part of this campaign ACORN released two studies jointly with The Access Project, which found deficiencies in hospitals’ charity care disclosures and documented widespread housing problems facing patients with medical debt. • In Ohio, Columbus ACORN negotiated with the OhioHealth hospital chain to win debt reductions for patients eligible for charity care and removal of liens totaling over $700,000. In Pittsburgh (PA), ACORN members forced the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center to improve its charity care policies, resulting in the reduction of approximately $100,000 in debt for low-income patients at its 17 hospitals. In Arizona, Banner Health, in response to pressure by ACORN, increased the number of families who qualify for charity care at its hospitals and lowered the hospital bills of low-income patients by $30,000. In Arkansas as a result of ACORN’s efforts, St. Vincent Hospitals – in a critical step towards reducing medical debt for low and moderate income families – became the first health care provider in the state to announce it would offer the uninsured the same discounts on services as those negotiated by private insurers and government programs – reductions that average 60%. In Chicago (IL), ACORN, TARGET Area Development Corporation, and other allies stopped the closing of Bethany Hospital, a 150-bed acute care facility serving low-income patients.

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Top: ACORN members and allies stop the closing of Bethany Hospital. Above: ACORN members in Palmetto County (FL) push for bilingual language access at area hospitals.

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In Missouri, ACORN organized to successfully challenge the hospital association and the state to include an $.85 increase in the cigarette tax to fund smoking cessation programs and restore Medicaid to almost 100,000 families. In 2006, ACORN will participate in an effort to gather 150,000 signatures to qualify for the November ballot

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Environmental Justice
Lead Poisoning Prevention
ACORN expanded its innovative childhood lead poisoning prevention program to a total of fourteen cities in 2005. ACORN also conducted dust wipe sampling in over 750 high risk homes to identify lead hazards and organized lead-safe trainings for hundreds of low-income families in New Orleans (LA), Baltimore and Prince George’s County (MD), Dallas and Houston (TX), Atlanta (GA), Wilmington (DE), Philadelphia (PA), Paterson and Newark (NJ), Cleveland (OH), Phoenix (AZ), Little Rock (AR), and Louisville (KY). In October, 400 ACORN members from 7 states and 18 cities marched into the annual meeting of the National Paint and Coating Association (NPCA), demanding they take responsibility for the continued lead poisoning of millions of low-income children – and won negotiations with the NPCA around cleaning up and compensating affected communities. In Baltimore, ACORN won the clean up of 150 lead contaminated units. Maryland ACORN and allies also successfully fought pro-slumlord provisions in lead laws endorsed by the Governor and instead helped to pass statewide legislation that forces all landlords to comply with lead-safe provisions by February 2006.
Above and Right: ACORN members from around the country rally in Ohio to take on Sherwin Williams.

In October, 400 ACORN members marched into the annual meeting of the National Paint and Coating Association demanding they take responsibility for the continued lead poisoning of millions of low-income children.

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Environmental Health in Our Communities
ACORN chapters also organized campaigns around local environmental justice issues. In El Paso (TX) ACORN members secured an agreement with the city’s Solid Waste Management Department on a work plan for the $850,000 allocated to clean up a six-acre lot containing medical waste bordered by residential neighborhoods. Also in El Paso, following testimony by ACORN members as “affected parties” in a legal contested case hearing, a judge recommended that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) deny the air quality permit application of ASARCO – a smelter known for releasing large amounts of contaminants, including arsenic and lead, into the community. In Orlando (FL), as a result of negotiations with the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), ACORN won regular groundwater, soil, and air quality testing in a neighborhood surrounded by seven polluting facilities, a comprehensive health study, and regular meetings with the DEP.

Left: An ACORN member in New Orleans participates in a lead dust sampling training. Above: ACORN members won cleanup of the Cheryl Ladd Dump in El Paso (TX).

“Then [my neighborhood] organized around the pollution issue and the local government had never seen so many of us wanting attention. We had hundreds of people asking for environmental justice, using their voices.”
– Martha Sanchez, ACORN Member

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Fair Utilities
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• n 2005, ACORN waged successful campaigns to preserve and expand access to affordable utilities for low and moderate income families across the country. In Pennsylvania, Governor Edward Rendell signed into law an ACORN-backed bill to create a $20 million Emergency Energy Assistance Fund, fulfilling a key component of Pennsylvania ACORN’s Fair Utilities for All Platform and marking the first time the state has moved any funding into the federal LowIncome Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Harrisburg (PA) ACORN successfully pressured the UGI utility company to expand its LIHEAP Customer Assistance program to serve 4,000 additional lowincome families. In Arkansas and Memphis (TN), ACORN nego-tiated with local utility companies to extend mora-toriums on shut-offs to thousands of low-income people during the winter months starting in 2005. After being confronted with dramatic increases in their utility bills in the aftermath of Hurricane Wilma, Palm Beach County (FL) ACORN mobilized hundreds of residents against the rate hikes – winning an independent utility commission and a total rate reduction of $1.7 million. In St. Louis (MO), ACORN members’ testimony persuaded the Public Service Commission to reject a utility rate increase of $39 million statewide. Also in St. Louis, ACORN members and SEIU Local 2000 members got Laclede Gas to match 10% of dollars spent by social and governmental agencies on low-income energy assistance programs – totaling $150,000 in additional utilities assistance for lowincome families. Orlando (FL) ACORN, in its ongoing affordable utilities campaign, has won initial victories with the Orlando Utility Commission (OUC) including more funding for low-income energy assistance, a lower temperature threshold which bars OUC from disconnecting service in high heat, lower deposits, and a direct representative for ACORN members.
Organizing Communities...

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Top: Members from Central Florida ACORN hold a candle light vigil as part of a utility campaign against OUC. Middle: Members from Philadelphia ACORN stop utility trucks to prevent shut-offs during the winter. Above: ACORN members in Kansas City (MO) hold a meeting on utility rates.

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ACORN LEADER IN ACTION

N JANUARY 2005, ROSA CHACON DISCOVERED THAT many of her Harrisburg neighbors were having their heat shut off. She remembered that in 1997 her own family – which included three elementary school children – had their heat shut off for two days in the middle of winter. “I know what it’s like. They don’t tell you about the assistance programs. They just shut you off,” Rosa
explains. An ACORN member since 2004, Rosa decided to work on Harrisburg ACORN’s utilities campaign so she could fight for fair heating payment policies for other low-income families. From January to December 2005, UGI, which supplies natural gas for Rosa’s hometown Harrisburg, shut off heat to lowincome households that had fallen behind in payments and couldn’t afford to make their back payments in the lump sums UGI required. Rosa tells how one family spent several months whittling their $1,400 gas bill down to $200 and then were shut off in December because they hadn’t paid all of it off by the due date. “In order to have heat again, they are required to pay the full $200, a reconnection fee, and a deposit,” Rosa says. “They are living in the cold while they try to get UGI to put them on a payment plan.” On November 2, 2005, Rosa and 35 other ACORN members rallied and held a press conference outside UGI’s Harrisburg branch and brought city council candidate Linda Thompson with them. ACORN members chanted: “UGI, you’ve been told, leave no family in the cold!” UGI officials refused to speak with ACORN, and instead a UGI employee slipped a press release under the door. Rosa ripped up the press release on camera and told her local news stations how ACORN wanted UGI to make it easier for low-income families to pay their gas bills. On the day of the rally, UGI responded to one of ACORN’s major demands when the company announced it would double the number of people enrolled in its customer assistance program and provide assistance to 21.3 million people. A month later, on December 16, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell earmarked $20 million for an Emergency Energy Assistance Fund to supplement federal assistance. While these measures were helpful to low-income people, Rosa and Harrisburg ACORN still believed that UGI needed to provide accessible payment plans. They urged the Pennsylvania legislature to support SB 1005, a bill that would reform a previous law that makes it too easy for companies to shut off heat. Until Bill 1005 is passed, Rosa plans to keep publicizing UGI’s policies. “For each shutoff, we’ll have a vigil,” Rosa says. “We’ll call the local news stations to come to each house. We’ll fill up the house with ACORN members and we’ll all light candles.”

Rosa Chacon
Harrisburg, PA

“For each shut-off, we’ll have a vigil. We’ll call the local news stations to come to each house. We’ll fill up the house with ACORN members and we’ll all light candles.”

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Voter Participation
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• uilding on our 2004 Get Out the Vote (GOTV) campaign which registered 1.1 million new voters, ACORN mobilized organizers, canvassers and ACORN members in 2005 to reach hundreds of thousands of voters and inform them about state and local elections around the country. California ACORN worked with union partners on a successful statewide GOTV campaign to stop four ballot propositions backed by Governor Schwarzenegger which would have placed crippling restrictions on school funding and teacher tenure, taken authority to redistrict from legislators, and curtailed the political voice of union members. California ACORN worked nearly 700 precincts, and knocked on over 229,000 doors targeting over 130,000 voters. In New Jersey, ACORN partnered with the New Jersey Citizen Action Education Fund and the Clean Water Fund on a voter turnout campaign for statewide elections – targeting over 71,000 voters (32,000 by New Jersey ACORN alone) in four cities. New Jersey ACORN’s program grew to 400 Get-Out-theVote crew members, 80% of whom were ACORN members and volunteers. Pennsylvania ACORN, as part of the GOTV effort for local campaigns in five cities, recruited over 100 ACORN members to host candidate forums, contact neighbors and friends in their local precinct, and run a field effort that reached thousands of voters. In partnership with Project Vote and Demos, ACORN also continued to target states that discourage the registration of new voters, and released the study Ten Years Later: A Promise Unfulfilled which found that nearly every state has failed to meet its obligation to register potential voters through social service agencies serving low and moderate income families. Since 1995 the annual number of registrations gathered in this manner has dropped from 2.6 million to 1 million, in violation of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993.

ACORN members in California work with union partners and allies, including Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villagairosa (far left) and Congresswoman Maxine Waters (at podium) on a successful statewide GOTV campaign to stop Governor Schwarzenegger’s ballot initiatives.

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ACORN also continued to target states that discourage the registration of new voters, and released the study “Ten Years Later: A Promise Unfulfilled” which found that nearly every state has failed to meet its obligation to register potential voters.

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Taking On Wal-Mart

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n 2005, ACORN co-founded two organizations – the Wal-Mart Alliance for Reform Now (WARN) and the Wal-Mart Workers Association (WWA) – to hold WalMart accountable to community standards and fair labor policies. WARN, a community-based alliance of faith, labor, and advocacy groups, successfully fought WalMart’s expansion in Orlando, Tampa, and St. Petersburg (FL) in 2005, and will expand into Texas and other key states in 2006. The Wal-Mart Workers Association (WWA) – a group of current and former Wal-Mart workers fighting for affordable health insurance, fair treatment, and decent wages – organized members in 25 Wal-Mart stores in Orlando, Tampa, and St. Petersburg (FL), and secured unemployment benefits for workers whose hours are being cut by the company. In November, WARN and WWA released a report entitled Wal-Mart Real Wage and Turnover Study finding that the average hourly wage of Wal-Mart workers in Florida, based on a 40-hour work week, is $6.35, as opposed to the $9.63 the company has quoted as its hourly wage nationally. Also in November, ACORN participated with thousands of church, labor and community allies around the country in screening the anti-Wal-Mart film The High Cost of Low Prices.
Top Left: A Wal-Mart Alliance for Reform Now (WARN) community meeting and rally against the expansion of Wal-Mart in Orlando. Top Right: A WARN rally in St. Petersburg (FL). Above: The Wal-Mart Workers Association, ACORN, and other allies oppose Wal-Mart Bank.

In September, ACORN, WARN and dozens of allies hosted the “Site Fighters” conference for 85 representatives from union and community groups to discuss strategies such as zoning ordinances and local referendums that can be used to keep Wal-Mart out of local communities. WARN has also developed “fight-ina-box” software that accurately predicts the expansion of Wal-Mart stores in the next 5-10 years – allowing community groups to develop more strategic and comprehensive campaigns.

...Changing Lives

ACORN 2005 Annual Report

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Organizing Home Childcare Workers
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CORN organized over 50,000 home childcare workers nationwide in 2005 as part of a partnership between the ACORN Community Labor Organizing Center, SEIU, AFT, and CWA. In Illinois, ACORN’s sister union SEIU Local 880 also organized an additional 50,000 home childcare workers who won collective bargaining rights and recognition by the state legislature. In a historic victory, in December Local 880 home childcare providers signed their first contract, providing salary increases averaging 35% over three years, incentives for training and education, and access to healthcare. In New York City, ACORN partnered with the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) and New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) to organize home childcare workers – many of whom work overtime for an average wage of only $19,933 per year – to fight for legislation recognizing their right to unionize. The campaign included a rally of over 1,000 providers in October. Similar organizing drives are underway in Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, California, Iowa, Washington, and Oregon.

Over 1,000 ACORN members and childcare union supporters rally in New York City.

SEIU Local 880 Wins Landmark Contract for 50,000 Home Childcare Providers

F

Children who are Children who are taken care of by taken care of by Local 880 childcare Local 880 childcare providers parproviders participate in a rally to ticipate in a rally to support the union. support the union.

or over twenty years, SEIU Local 880 – currently the largest local union in Illinois – has organized thousands of homecare workers and home childcare workers to win better rates and benefits like health care, initially going door-to-door in low-income neighborhoods to overcome the challenge of organizing without the benefit of a common worksite. In 1996, Local 880 started organizing home childcare workers.”It’s been a long, long struggle,” says Angenita Tanner, a childcare provider in Chicago. “We work in our own homes and have always been isolated from each other. But SEIU Local 880 gave us a way to unite our voices. We slowly built a movement to fight for better reimbursement rates and food subsidies for our kids.” In 1999, Local 880 mobilized childcare providers to win one of the largest rate increases in state history – a raise of $5-$7 per child per day for Chicago-area licensed providers. Local 880 also successfully fought millions of

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Organizing Communities...

“It’s been a long, long struggle. We work in our own homes and have always been isolated from each other. But SEIU Local 880 gave us a way to unite our voices.”

– Angenita Tanner, Chicago childcare provider

dollars in cuts to childcare subsidy services in the 2002 state budget, and helped to change income guidelines to make thousands more children eligible for the Child Care Assistance Program. In 2004, Local 880 collected more than 20,000 cards from providers across Illinois authorizing the union to represent them. On April 7, 2005, Local 880 won the union election with 97% of the vote, and Illinois’ home childcare providers became the first in the country to gain union recognition. After the Illinois governor signed a law in July 2005 granting collective bargaining rights to over 50,000 home childcare workers, Local 880 negotiated a landmark $250 million three-year contract providing higher wages, incentives for training and education, and health care. This success has sparked a national movement of close to 150,000 childcare workers organizing with SEIU in over a dozen states. “Now that we have our union contract, we will get more respect and recognition for the work that we do,” says Ella Stacy, a home childcare provider in Peoria, Illinois. “Our first contract is only the beginning of what we can achieve when we stick together.”

SEIU members and SEIU President Andy Stern (back, center) celebrate as Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich signs into law new legislation giving collective bargaining rights to over 50,000 home childcare workers.

...Changing Lives

ACORN 2005 Annual Report

Page 37

National Policy: Fighting the Bush Agenda
Defending Social Security
In 2005, ACORN organized in Washington DC and around the country to protect social security from privatization, defend the rights of immigrants, and prevent cuts to critical safety net programs. ACORN members – working with Americans United to Protect Social Security – organized town hall meetings in Delaware, Washington DC, and Broward County (FL), and held rallies in cities across the country to oppose Social Security privatization. ACORN members also targeted undecided members of Congress and urged them to vote against privatization, solidifying public opposition to the proposal and helping to assure its defeat.

Fair Immigration Policy
ACORN also joined the New American Opportunity Campaign and, in May, held media events across the country – including rallies in Rhode Island, Delaware, and West Palm Beach (FL) led by immigrant ACORN leaders – in support of the McCain/Kennedy immigration bill, which would create a path to citizenship for undocumented U.S. residents.

The Budget: Defending Community Services
ACORN also worked with the Emergency Campaign for America’s Priorities on a broad national effort to stop a Republican plan to cut taxes for the wealthy, while reducing funding for safety net programs like Food Stamps and Medicaid. As part of this campaign, ACORN members marched into the offices of their representatives in Pennsylvania, Kansas City (MO), and Albuquerque (NM) and won commitments to oppose the budget cuts.

Top: ACORN members rally in Washington DC to stop privatization of Social Security. Left: ACORN members in Louisiana deliver a message to state representatives regarding fair immigration reform.

“We have to stand in solidarity. No matter what color we are, no matter where we come from, we are all one people.”
– Tamecka Pierce, Chair, Florida ACORN
Page 38 ACORN 2005 Annual Report

Organizing Communities...

Neighborhood Victories

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very day, over 1,000 local ACORN neighborhood chapters fight for improvements in their communities and win hundreds of victories each year. A few notable examples from 2005 include: After the successful Englewood neighborhood pilot project, Chicago (IL) ACORN and the Developing Justice Coalition won the expansion of the CeaseFire violence prevention program into bordering highcrime city neighborhoods. By recruiting former gang members to intervene in potentially violent gang conflicts, the program is credited with reducing the number of shootings in the target neighborhoods by 40%. In Las Vegas (NV), ACORN forced the City to release a 10-acre parcel of City-owned land, and pledge more than $300,000 in development incentives, for development of a full service grocery store in a low-income neighborhood. Colorado Springs (CO) ACORN won $130,000 in public and private funds to convert an abandoned 31-acre field into a park in the Wildflower neighborhood. Louisville (KY) ACORN won over $20,000 for the cleanup of 7 dangerous and neglected parks, including graffiti removal, more lighting, and new equipment.
Top: Members from Las Vegas ACORN demand grocery stores in low income neighborhoods. Above: An ACORN rally for better communities draws thousands in Chicago.

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“Unofficial numbers show about a 40 percent reduction in shootings in the neighborhoods where CeaseFire is active. Community leaders say the program...has proven capable of bringing down the number of shootings and murders.”
– Chicago Tribune - December 27, 2005
ACORN 2005 Annual Report Page 39

...Changing Lives

Neighborhood Victories
ACORN National Clean Up Day

ACORN members in Riviera Beach (FL) come together to fight eviction by the city. Dixmoor, IL Mayor Keevan Grimmett and Illinois ACORN member Rickia Smith at their local Clean-Up Day event.

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n June 18 ACORN members in dozens of cities worked to clean up their neighborhoods. ACORN National Clean-Up Day 2005 marked the 35th anniversary of the organization. Virginia ACORN members cleaned neighborhoods in Norfolk. In New Orleans, members cleaned up abandoned and vacant properties in three neighborhoods. Portland, Oregon members cleaned streets and got rid of graffiti. Pennsylvania ACORN members picked up litter from streets and a playground. Arizona ACORN members in Phoenix,

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In Florida, as part of a fight to stop the eviction of over 5,000 residents of Riviera Beach in order to build a luxury condominium development, Palm Beach County ACORN prevented the sale of a public beach and got the state to look into the use of funds by the city and the Community Redevelopment Agency. In Orange County (CA), ACORN prevented the evictions of over 100 residents of Travel Country RV Park in the city of Garden Grove and secured almost $100,000 for improvements to park facilities. The group is fighting the evictions as part of a larger campaign to stop the city, which is close to Disneyland, from redeveloping a main street into a tourist zone. In Oakland (CA), in response to pressure from ACORN, the city agreed to provide a multi-lingual message on the Code Enforcement phone system, and add multi-lingual staff to field calls from non-English speakers with housing complaints and other concerns. In Lima, Peru, ACORN won a reduction in personal property taxes, and negotiated payment plans, impacting hundreds of thousands of people living in one large area of the city.

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Glendale, and Mesa also conducted Clean-Up Day events.

“ACORN succeeds because it’s made up of people from the community who work on issues they care about.”
– Veronica Dunn-Jones, Chair, West Las Vegas ACORN

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A

ACORN LEADER IN ACTION

CORN ORGANIZERS OPENED A NEW LAS VEGAS office in September 2004, and that October, Veronica Dunn-Jones, who wanted to procure speed bumps for a dangerous street in her West Las Vegas neighborhood, became one of the founding members of Las Vegas ACORN’s first neighborhood chapter. “A child a few miles from my house had been struck down and injured by a
speeding driver, and two ladies pulling out of a driveway had been killed,” Veronica explains. West Las Vegas ACORN members and their children picketed for speed bumps near a street where speeders typically violated limits. Several local TV news teams filmed speeders zooming past the ACORN members and aired footage on the evening news. Veronica’s chapter followed the neighborhood rally by gathering petition signatures and attending city council meetings. During one televised city council meeting, city council members promised to install speed bumps in Veronica’s neighborhood in six months, but Veronica argued that, given the city’s budget surplus, the speed bumps could be built in one month. They agreed to the one-month timeline while the cameras rolled. Later Veronica watched the confrontation on TV. “I’m still nervous talking in front of cameras,” she says, “but I do what I have to to get things done.” After the speed bumps were installed, more of Veronica’s neighbors joined West Las Vegas ACORN and in April 2005 the growing chapter started fighting for the construction of a new grocery store in their community. Since the only grocery store within five miles of West Las Vegas had been closed down for seven months, Veronica and her neighbors had to either shop at convenience stores that charged high prices and didn’t carry fresh produce or meat, or travel to a distant grocery store. “People have to walk fifteen or twenty minutes just to get to the bus stop,” Veronica says. “People were making a business of renting out vans and charging elderly people to go to the store.” On May 31, in a public forum that drew 150 attendees, as well as Las Vegas Mayor Oscar B. Goodman, Veronica’s ACORN chapter publicized the fact that there was city land available for a grocery store site in West Las Vegas. Officials from the Clark County Health District also made a presentation that linked health problems to lack of full service grocery stores in low-income neighborhoods. On July 6, city officials finally responded to pressure by agreeing to release 9.5 vacant acres for bids to build a store. In 2006, Veronica plans to celebrate the construction of the store and to learn more about community activism from ACORN organizers. “ACORN staff know the process of getting things done, who to reach, and how to get the point across.”

Veronica Dunn-Jones
Las Vegas, NV

After the speed bumps were installed, more of Veronica’s neighbors joined West Las Vegas ACORN and in April 2005 the growing chapter started fighting for the construction of a new grocery store in their community.

...Changing Lives

ACORN 2005 Annual Report

Page 41

Research and Reports
In 2005, ACORN produced several national studies, in many cases co-authored with the American Institute for Social Justice (AISJ) and other research partners, which documented inequities in education, housing, and financial services.

The Runaway Stagecoach: Racial and Economic Inequality in Wells Fargo’s Subprime Lending – March 2005

The Runaway Stagecoach
Racial and Economic Inequality in Wells Fargo’s Subprime Lending

A Case of

Black and White
Racial Inequalities in Wells Fargo’s Mortgage Lending
September 2005

A Case of Black and White: Racial Inequalities in Wells Fargo’s Mortgage Lending – September 2005

ACORN REPORT

The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now

The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now

ACORN REPORT

The High Cost of Credit: Disparities in High-Priced Refinance Loans to Minority Homeowners in 125 American Cities – September 2005 Another Crisis in the Making: How the Subprime Mortgage Industry is Sandbagging Katrina-affected Homeowners – September 2005 Home Sick: How Medical Debt Undermines Housing Security – November 2005 (with The Access Project)

THE HIGH COST OF CREDIT
Disparities in High-priced Refinance Loans to Minority Homeowners in 125 American Cities
SEPTEMBER 27, 2005

Research Conducted By

ACORN Fair Housing
FOR ACORN

16 West 25h Street, Baltimore, MD 21218 fairhousing@acorn.org

How the Subprime Mortgage Industry is Sandbagging Katrina-affected Homeowners

Another Crisis in the Making!

739 8th Street SE, Washington, DC 20003 www.acorn.org

FOR ACORN HOUSING CORPORATION 650 S. Clark Street 3rd Floor, Chicago, IL 60605 www.acornhousing.org

ACORN 2005

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September 22, 2005

a report by 

The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now and

	



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Voluntary Commitments:
HAVE HOSPITALS THAT S IGNED A CONFIRMATION OF COMMITMENT TO THE AMERICAN HOSPITAL ASSOCIATION’S BILLING AND COLLECTIONS GUIDELINES REALLY CHANGED THEIR WAYS?

Voluntary Commitments: Have Hospitals That Signed a Confirmation of Commitment to the AHA’s Billing and Collections Guidelines Really Changed Their Ways? – May 2005 (with The Access Project)
May 2005

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Ten Years Later: A Promise Unfulfilled – July 2005 (with Project Vote and Demos)

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ACORN 2005 Annual Report

Organizing Communities...

“Research ACORN: Past, Present, and Future” Conference

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n December 6-7 ACORN, in partnership with the University of Connecticut Urban & Community Studies and the School of Social Work, convened leading scholars in community organizing, social work, and community economic development at the “Research ACORN: Past, Present, and Future” Conference. The event, which was held at the University of Connecticut and web cast to viewers nationwide, examined the history, strategies, and impact of ACORN’s organizing work over the last 35 years. Presenters spoke on a range of thought-provoking issues in talks that included: • “ACORN and the Living Wage Movement in the U.S.” by Stephanie Luce, Assistant Professor at the University of Massachusetts Labor Center. “Protest Movements and Electoral Politics,” by Frances Fox Piven, Distinguished Professor of Political Science and Sociology at the City University of New York Graduate School and University Center. “ACORN and Progressive Politics,” by Peter Dreier, the Dr. EP Clapp Distinguished Professor of Politics and director of the Urban & Environmental Policy Program at Occidental College.

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Norm Fruchter and Janelle Scott of NYU speaking at the conference on 35 years of ACORN organizing.

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Other participants included Joel Rogers, Professor of Law at the University of Wisconsin Law School, Louise Simmons, Associate Professor at the University of Connecticut School of Social Work, John Atlas, President of the National Housing Institute, and Gary Delgado, Executive Director of the Applied Research Center. The conference was the first event in the organization’s history to bring together researchers from around the country who are studying ACORN’s work.

The event examined the history, strategies, and impact of ACORN’s organizing work over the last 35 years. Presenters spoke on a range of thought-provoking issues.

...Changing Lives

ACORN 2005 Annual Report

Page 43

ACORN Housing Corporation
H
• ighlights of the work of ACORN Housing Corporation (AHC), ACORN’s housing counseling and development sister organization, in 2005 included: AHC’s housing counseling program helped 5,729 families become first-time homebuyers, and refinanced another 772 homeowners into more affordable mortgages. ACORN Housing’s development projects began development of 600 new units of affordable housing – including 251 units of affordable rentals with new, 20-year project based section 8 contracts in the Lawndale neighborhood of Chicago; 200 units of affordable rentals in Brooklyn and the Bronx, NY; a new 89 home subdivision in Houston; and a new 51 home subdivision in Phoenix. As part of the ACORN/ACORN Housing Corporation settlement with Household Finance, ACORN Housing helped over 1,078 Household borrowers receive reductions in their mortgage interest rates. In total, in 2005, delinquent Household borrowers received over $36 million in assistance from the Foreclosure Avoidance Program, making it by far the most effective anti-predatory lending program in the country. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, ACORN Housing quickly mobilized to help thousands of displaced homeowners contact their mortgage servicers to secure payment deferrals and prevent foreclosure proceedings.

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Top: An ACORN Housing client stands in front of her new home in Los Angeles. Above: Peter and Kristina Armetta are saving $6,000 per year on their mortgage payment thanks to ACORN Housing. Below Right: ACORN Housing participates in an information fair for Katrina survivors in Houston.

As part of the ACORN/ACORN Housing Corporation settlement with Household Finance, ACORN Housing helped over 1,078 Household borrowers receive reductions in their mortgage interest rates.

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ACORN 2005 Annual Report

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D

ACORN FIRST TIME HOMEBUYER

URING THE LAST 20 YEARS, ACORN HOUSING HAS helped thousands of first time homebuyers achieve their dream of homeownership, including Linda Baldwin of Chicago. As a single mother with four children, Linda struggled to raise her family in Chicago’s South Side. Determined to make a change, Linda earned her GED and started attending college courses at night, while
working full time and volunteering at a youth center. But when the house she was renting was destroyed in a fire, Linda was faced with the fundamental challenge of rebuilding her life again. Friends referred her to ACORN Housing, and Linda began to think homeownership was possible. Linda recalls, “AHC encouraged and pushed me [saying]: ‘We know you have family, work and school but you need to clean up this credit report.’ They took the time to explain everything and to encourage me that things would work out.” When she had improved her credit, Linda began renting a home owned by ACORN Housing and finally saved up the down payment to purchase her own home. Linda is anxious to share her success with other families, and advises: “Don’t give up. It can be done. ACORN Housing walked me through exactly what I had to do to get a home of my own.”

Linda Baldwin
Chicago, IL

ACORN Housing – 1986-2005
Number of Clients counseled: 195,906 Number of Mortgages created: 67,927 Total Mortgage Amount: $7,611,853,073 Number of Clients educated: 250,886

“AHC encouraged and pushed me, saying, ‘We know you have family, work and school but you need to clean up this credit report.’ They took the time to explain everything and to encourage me that things would work out.”

With the help of ACORN Housing, Sunshine Echevarria bought a new townhouse in Warrenville (IL).

...Changing Lives

ACORN 2005 Annual Report

Page 45

Looking to 2006

n 2006, the need to keep ORGANIZING will be even more critical, as ACORN takes on national campaigns and challenges including: • Fighting for justice for low-income New Orleans families in the city’s rebuilding process. Gathering thousands of signatures to put measures on the ballot to raise the minimum wage in Ohio, Arizona, Colorado, Michigan, and Missouri. Running major GOTV campaigns to increase voter participation in the upcoming mid-term congressional and critical gubernatorial elections. And keeping up the daily fight to win justice for low and moderate income families across the U.S., and now in Canada, Peru, and Mexico!

I

ACORN’s work is more important than ever. With big challenges that lie ahead in 2006, ACORN members are ready to take on the fight and continue to win improvements for lowincome families.

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...Changing Lives

ACORN 2005 Annual Report

Page 47

“Ordinary citizens step up to do ACORN work. Once you get involved you will never be satisfied with grumbling again. After getting organized and making change happen, you can never go back to doing nothing.”

– Toni McElroy, Chair, Texas ACORN

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ACORN 2005 ANNUAL REPORT
Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now


				
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Description: ACORN is an acronym that stands for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now. This document is an emial newsletter that went out to ACORN's mailing list as the 2006 annual report was published.