Madison-area Urban Ministry
Fighting the Just Cause
with The Hues. “Anytime we create a stronger, healthier community that provides everyone with an opportunity, we think that is fulfilling
our mission to work for justice. As an interfaith organization, we recognize that all of the world’s religions call on their members to
work for justice.”
      MUM works on behalf of individuals every day through their direct service programming. “Our original focus areas almost 38 years
ago now were poverty, fair and affordable housing, homelessness and education,” Ketcham said. “Where all of those came together for
us in the late 1990s is what we are doing with prisoners. That’s how we got involved directly in prison work.” Their programs Circles of
Support, the Journey Home Prison Simulations, Mentoring Connections, Family Connections — a program that spun off from MUM, but
recently came back to the fold —  and Voices Beyond Bars work on various aspects of life for formerly incarcerated individuals and
their families.
      And while MUM provides direct service, it also equally advocates on a communitywide or statewide level for policy changes that
will make the community a more just community.
      One advocacy area that MUM has been working on is the enfranchisement of formerly incarcerated individuals when they leave the
prison walls. “Huge numbers of African Americans, particularly men, are denied the right to vote on all of these issues that affect them,”
Ketcham emphasized. “Joe Parisi has been a leader on that, so we are very supportive of his efforts to restore the vote for when they
walk out of prison as opposed to when they get off paper. Truth in sentencing has just aggravated it. People have 20 years of extended
supervision. They are working. They are paying taxes. Their kids are in school. They have no voice in school board elections on behalf
of their children, so not only do we deny them a voice, but we deny their children a voice as well. It’s not fair.”
      Another area of concern has been predatory lending. “There was a bill in the Assembly that passed just a few weeks ago,”
Ketcham said. “It was a watered down version of a bill that would have set a rate cap of 36 percent on pay day lenders. The bill that
passed is not without some good points. There are some good things in there. There is a Senate bill coming up, Senate 530, that is far
weaker. So we’re working on getting people to contact their state senators and encourage them to support, at the very minimum, the
provisions of that Assembly bill rather than the Senate bill as it is. People can call us for more information on that. It is really key. If we
are going to pass reform that it is real reform and it is not something that has so many loopholes that the pay day lending industry is
going to find a way around it, which is what they have done in other states when there wasn’t a rate cap.”
      “From a theological and faith perspective, we would see pay day lending as usury and prohibited by our faith traditions,” Ketcham
said. “It is twice what banks are allowed to charge typically. And I think there is a contingency in our coalition that would have said that
anything that is double digit, even a 99 percent rate cap is still better than the 540 percent people are getting away with charging right
now when you add in the fees. So with the Assembly bill, we would still like to see a rate cap in there. But it is definitely stronger than
what the Senate is proposing. We at least want to see if the Senate is going to do something and move on the Assembly bill. I think it is
unfortunate that it is moving so quickly now because of the problems that emerged for the speaker with his relationship with one of the
lobbyists from that industry. We’re hoping that they will take a deep breath and really do something that has some meaning for people
who have been caught up in this.”
      Several years ago, mobile home owners who resided in the Hickory Lane Mobile Home Park were forced to leave the site when the
owner sold the land for development. It had a devastating impact on some of the families. “They had no protection,” Ketcham
emphasized. “So you had 50 some families who lost their homes and investments. Many of them ended up in the shelter system
because they owned homes, but they couldn’t move the homes. A park can’t evict someone for the age or condition of their home once
they are there. But if they try to move that home to a new park, the new park can say ‘Your house is too old. We don’t want it.’ This bill
puts some minimal provisions in effect including allowing the tenants, if they want to organize and create a coop, the right of first
refusal to purchase park if it is being put up for sale. So we support that. We support the home owners in that area.”
      Another area of concern is the recent cuts to human services by the state and the county, which may force some staff layoffs at the
Mental Health Center of Dane County and limit the level of treatment in the community. What might exacerbate the situation is the early
release of prisoners by the state to reduce the number of people incarcerated in the state as a way to reduce the state’s budget, MUM
isn’t opposed to early release. But they are concerned about its impact on an already weakened system.
      “The problem is there has not yet been an influx of additional dollars into the community to help provide the release services and
treatment,” Ketcham said. “We are seeing that mental health and substance abuse are the issues in terms of people being able to
access appropriate treatment in the community when they get out.”
      After 38 years, MUM has still retained its integrity as it has fought for people and for notions of justice and fairness in a world where
it appears that only money counts. “We try to keep our funding diverse because we will not let go of our mission to hold onto money,”
Ketcham said. It’s a relief to know that values still matter.
By Jonathan Gramling

      During the past decade, it seems as if there has been few
local or national policies that have evoked the term justice as
a reason to shape a public policy a particular way. While we
talk about economic empowerment or job training as a means
to make people more productive, rarely is the debate framed in
terms of justice or equality.
      The Madison-area Urban Ministry (MUM) was established
as an interfaith social service agency to address social
inequality in the Madison area through advocacy and direct
action. Under the leadership of past executive directors
Charles Pfeiffer and Mary Kat Baum and now Linda Ketcham,
MUM developed many programs and services such as Project
Home, Transitional Housing, Family Enhancement and many of
the senior coalitions that eventually became independent of
MUM. While the programs may serve different purposes, they
are united in their common values. “Anytime we build a
stronger community, it is part of our restorative justice
perspective and approach,” Ketcham said during an interview
Board and staff members of Madison-area Urban Ministry at MUM’s Beat
the Winter Blues and All That Jazz fundraiser on March 4 at the Inn on
the Park