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Committee seeks change in Orange County

The Orange County Organizing Committee asked local leaders Sunday night to address issues related to affordable housing, living wages and the treatment of immigrant families.

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — People of different backgrounds, races and religions gathered Sunday evening to fight for change. The newly formed Orange County Organizing Committee held its first public meeting at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church.

“We get to look at issues from all different angles and come together as one,” committee member Stephanie Perry said.

The committee, with 250 people and representing 23 institutions, studied and identified what it sees as some of the biggest concerns in Orange County: education, living wages, health care, immigrant families, environmental justice and affordable housing.

“It is very difficult for people who work in this area to afford a place to either rent or to live,” committee member Becky Ceartas said.

Committee members used Sunday night's meeting, with local leaders in the audience, as an official call to action.

“We just want to make it a better place to live,” Perry said.

The group also identified several issues specific to the growing Latino community.

“There are some big concerns, as well as some issues that have to do with public safety,” committee member Mauricio Castro said.

Members say Latino immigrants often face the biggest problems with housing.

“With many places, where you can afford the rent, they may be unsafe or unsanitary conditions and that's just unacceptable for anyone in our community,” Ceartas said.

“This work is about the future. It's about how do we think and work together collectively,” Castro said.

Area mayors and council members agreed to work with the committee on plans to improve many of the issues highlighted during the meeting.