AMOS helps the poor, aims high

Millions of Americans live in poverty and fall into the trap of living from paycheck to paycheck. Fortunately, there are many groups that help Americans fight poverty. One such group in mid-Iowa is AMOS, or A Mid-Iowa Organizing Strategy. AMOS is a nonpartisan, community organizing group that focuses on advocacy and long term solutions. “We listened to personal stories and identified problems and challenges that Iowans face,” said Tammi Martin, UUFA AMOS chairperson. “From the stories, we were able to establish five research teams that are focused on the current needs.” The research teams are healthcare, economic justice, environment, youth in education, and immigration. The teams were established based on the current needs and are issues that are meant to bring people together instead of divide. “The economic justice team deals with issues such as living wage, predatory lending, and housing costs,” said Chris Rehmann, coordinator of the economic justice team. “Our work is mainly done through legislation. So far, we have been successful in increasing the minimum wage, capping car title loans, and capping pay day loans.” AMOS has had many other successes, including working with Mary Greeley Medical Center to expand charity care, closing down a halfway house in Des Moines where the overseers were abusing the residents, and building a skate park in Des Moines. “Our goal is to change the system,” Rehmann said. “We want to create a community where everyone can succeed. This is accomplished by advocacy and taking action on issues that Iowans face. One such way is through legislation and advocating for certain bills and advocating against other bills.” A recent example of activism through legislative pressure is AMOS’s support for immigration reform. AMOS endorses compassionate, comprehensive federal reform and has opposed attempts to form immigration legislation at the state level (House Study Bill 717). “AMOS tries to reach the whole community,” Martin said. “There are groups like AMOS all over the country. Some issues bring the five-member organizations in Ames together while others bring the 23 member organizations in Ames and Des Moines together. An issue such as immigration can bring the organizations together on the national level.” AMOS began in Des Moines because there were more people, more power, and more areas of expertise. “AMOS was founded on Industrial Areas Foundation or IAF principles,” Martin said. “The principles say to use a structure that is already in place. This is why AMOS and other groups like it begin in churches and non-profit organizations.” “In order for organizations to start, they need numbers,” Rehmann said. “This is why organizations begin in larger cities instead of small towns. But if small towns like Boone or Gilbert wanted to join, there would be no opposition.” Even if AMOS is only in Ames and Des Moines at the moment, this does not mean that AMOS is not trying to make an impact for all of mid-Iowa. “AMOS is very effective with what it does,” Martin said. “All it takes is a small group of very dedicated people to make a difference.”