Thursday, July 24, 2014

Deed restrictions and discrimination as "ethical"

My good friend, Randy Mayeux writes in a most revealing way about a problem that persists in other, more respectable forms even today. 

Read what he has to say here.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Context and interpretation. . .

   Through Whose Eyes?

Reading the Bible with the eyes of the poor is a different thing from reading it with a full belly. If it is read in the light of the experience and hopes of the oppressed, the Bible’s revolutionary themes—promise, exodus, resurrection and spirit—come alive.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Join AmeriCorps at CitySquare!

2014-15 AmeriCorps Member Requirements

Position Title: Afterschool Hero!

Eligibility: 17 or older by 09/08/2014

High School Graduate

US Citizen or Permanent Resident

Pass a criminal background check

Must have reliable transportation

General availability Sept-May, M-F, 1-7pm

Commitment: 09/08/2014 through 05/29/2015 (full 9 months)

Min. Hours: 20 Hrs/Wk

675 Hrs Total
Compensation: $221 Biweekly; $4,200 Total Living Allowance

$2,150 End of Term Education Award
Required Events: AmeriCorps & Site Training 09/08-09/12/2014

Additional Trainings TBD

Afterschool Position Description:
Members serve with one partner agency for the length of their term to provide afterschool assistance, homework help, tutoring and lead academic enrichment and recreational activities to youth grades K-12 under the supervision of a Site Coordinator.

Before students arrive on site, members plan, gather materials and prepare their stations for the day’s activities. When the students arrive, members guide students to the appropriate stations, help with homework and provide an afterschool meal. Based on the curriculum set out for the day, the member will assist or lead an academic enrichment activity. In the evening, the member will ensure students are picked up safely by a parent or guardian. Workstations will be cleaned up and team meetings may take place at this time. Any required data collection will be completed at this time, including time sheets, student attendance records, meal counts and homework completion.

Members also assist with program-related special projects and events as determined by site staff. Members are expected to help with program based events to help whenever possible, as long as these requests are within the AmeriCorps guidelines and do not take away time from essential functions.

Placement Process:
All prospective members must be interviewed by both the partner agency and AmeriCorps before receiving an official offer to be a part of the AmeriCorps program. This offer will be made by the AmeriCorps program via email and requires an official acceptance. Once a member has accepted the position, information on training and completing the required FBI fingerprint background check is provided.

All members will be confirmed no later than September 8, 2014.

Partner Agencies:
Cornerstone Baptist Church

Jubilee Park and Community Center

Kids University

Trinity River Mission

Wesley Rankin Community Center 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Amazing growth in poverty. . .will we wake up?

This is amazing and disturbing.

Our current trajectory as a nation and an economy is not sustainable socially, economically, or morally.    

Simple fact:  Poverty must be reduced. 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

For Our Country

O God, keep our whole country under your protection.  Wipe out sin from this land; lift it up from the depth of sorrow, O Lord, our shining light.  Save us from deep grief and misfortune, Lord of all nations.  Bless us with your wisdom, so that the poor may not be oppressed and the rich may not be oppressors.  Make this a nation having no ruler except God, a nation having no authority but that of Love.  Amen.

Toyohiko Kagawa
20th Century
(c) 1950 by Harper & Brothers

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Regional recognition for The Cottages project!

The Cottages at Hickory Crossing received a great "shout out" in the latest edition of the Corporation for Supportive Housing's Central Region newsletter.

Check the report out right here

Thursday, July 10, 2014

It could be me. It could be you.

No doubt most of my readers have never been so poor that they had to sign up for public, safety net benefits.  You know, like SNAP (Food Stamps) for example. 

In addition, those of us who are fortunate beyond imagination sometimes form opinions about people much less fortunate than we.  Some of our opinions are misguided. 

I suppose this discussion falls under the category "You have to be here to really understand." 

How would you feel if you knew that today you would be going to the food stamp office to apply for relief to feed your family?  How would you handle the knowing stares of the people around you? 

How would I feel when I checked out that first time at the local grocery store using my SNAP benefit card?  What would the cashier and other customers think of me? 

What impact would the constant berating of programs like SNAP in media have on me and my children? 

Take a moment and read the compelling story of a young mother's first experiences with just these dilemmas, feelings and impressions.


Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Compassion and ROI

The longer I live in the city with all of its challenges and complexities, the more I realize that doing the right thing is almost always the best thing

When it comes to serving hard core, down-and-out, mentally ill, addicted people who have racked up impressive criminal records and a huge tab for urban taxpayers, lots of folks lose all touch with compassion and any notion of "shared humanity."

I get that. I really do. 

I may not agree, I may not respect the sentiment, but I do understand.

So, let's just leave soft-hearted, "do gooder" concerns behind.

Enough of this compassion speak!

Let's talk cost. 

I mean, cold hard cash! 

Housing the seemingly "unworthy"  or undeserving poor can be tough business, if you're inclined to look at folks that way. But what if providing housing turns out to save us all money, the hard, cold cash variety? 

You need to read this thoughtful, realistic essay by Dallas Morning News columnist, .

Tell me what you think!

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

"Housing First". . .is Dallas ready?

The story of "Million Dollar Murray" and several national research trips convince me that the very best approach to overcoming the challenges facing our friends and neighbors who live without permanent housing is to provide them the housing they need first

Further, we must build into the provision of housing some "space to fail." 

Recovery doesn't happen over night for people who battled addictions.  Punitive approaches that terminate housing benefits following set backs, work against recovery, not for it.  Extending grace and coupling it with realistic expectations, turns out to be the most effective approach to overcoming homelessness in a city like Dallas.

In addition, providing permanent housing with "high-touch" support services (I like to use the word "concierge" right here), turns out to be less expensive by a factor of about three than maintaining people on the streets of our community. 

So, doing what is right by this special population,  turns out to also be doing what is best for everyone.

Funny how that works out. 

Our coming Cottages at Hickory Crossing project will embrace the strategies of "housing first" from the beginning.
 The Dallas Morning News reported Sunday on the story of a man who fits the profile of the men and women who will live in the new housing that we will complete by January 2015. 

We're ready for it at CitySquare

Hopefully, Dallas is as well.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Freedom for what. . . .?

Consider your freedom today, and its price. 

Then take a look at this data on how we spend our time, state-by-state in the USA! 


Friday, July 04, 2014

Freedom day. . .for what?

Today could be a day of national reflection on where we are actually headed.

Possibly this could be your reading for mediation today before you take in the local pyrotechnic display.

We must do better.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

"You remembered!"

A couple of weeks ago some of our volunteers from "the Corner" organized a fairly amazing event. 

We offered an old-fashioned foot washing service, not in a church, but out in a vacant lot. 

The event combined the spiritual and the utilitarian about as perfectly as any experience I've ever witnessed. 

Think about it.

If you are homeless, you walk a lot.  Your feet remain perpetually tired from the parade march that fills your days.  Your shoes may not fit.  A major challenge is finding some place where you can sit down to "get off your feet."  Having your feet washed is like a little taste of heaven, just for a short while. 

What made this event special was the fact that homeless people returned the favor.  Some of our homeless neighbors washed the feet of their housed friends. 

Special stuff.

In the midst of the activity, over at the edge, a friend of mine showed me the blisters that plastered his feet.

His foot is size 14 extra wide!  He has a big foot.

The shoes he wore were about size 11.  They were worn out.  They rubbed the top of his feet raw.

"Brother, Larry," he said, "do you think you could find me a pair of shoes that fit?  That's all I ask."

Of course, I said, "Sure.  I'll work on that." 

Later that day I learned that a size 14 extra wide shoe has to be special ordered! 

About a week later, after the shoes arrived, I found my friend out on the street. 

I pulled up beside him at the corner and presented him with new socks and a pair of 14 extra wide, New Balance walking shoes.

The first words out of his mouth stunned me.

"You remembered, brother Larry, you remembered!" he almost shouted.

I thought to myself, well, sure I remembered. 

Not a big deal.

But to him it was the whole deal.

He turned to a buddy standing behind him on the sidewalk at the corner and said, "They remembered me!  They didn't forget me!"

The shoes were nice.  They fit and everything.

But the great learning, the big take-away for me was the importance and the power of being remembered. 

Like I say, utilitarian:  sore, hot, blistered feet placed in comfortable new shoes.

But, also so spiritual:  "Do this in memory of me"--spiritual in a real world way.  A sacrament of the street.

Let's not forget to remember.

Monday, June 30, 2014

"Nine for 90" United Way spotlights summer food program!

As the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas prepares to celebrate 90 years of service, coordination and engagement in our city, nine great events will be rolled out in partnership with the Dallas Cowboys, local corporations and non-profits. 

CitySquare hosted event number 2 just a few days ago. 

Look here to see what happened!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Sorry, but cash trumps volunteers!

[Not surprising, but completely wrong headed!  Just like in the for-profit world, non-profits need funding/venture capital more than volunteers.]

Wealthy Say Volunteering, Not Money, Is Best Way to Help the Poor
By Maria Di Mento June 20, 2014

Nine in 10 wealthy Americans say they want to help close the income gap between the rich and the poor, according to a new study released today. But only 39 percent say donating money to charities that provide education and employment programs is the way to help the disadvantaged. Wealthy individuals put more stock in volunteering as a way to help the poor: Forty-eight percent said giving their time and talents to programs that aid the disadvantaged would help create a more level economy.

Even more of the survey’s respondents, 53 percent, think the way to create income equality is through job creation by starting or growing businesses, or by promoting business ownership and laws that reduce regulations and taxes for entrepreneurs. The survey found that women are taking a more active role in wealth planning and decision-making, and many have their own fortunes: Fifty-two percent of women in the study came into their marriages or relationships with financial holdings equal to or larger than those of their partners, something for fundraisers to keep in mind when cultivating gifts from wealthy couples.

The nationwide survey, conducted by U.S. Trust, Bank of America Private Wealth Management, polled 680 Americans with investable assets of $3-million or more. Among other findings: One-third of women are the primary income earners or contribute equally to the wealth of their households. Three quarters of wealthy millennials (adults under age 35) consider the social and environmental impact of companies they invest in.

 Nearly 80 percent of well-off millennials believe socially conscious investing can help hold businesses and governments accountable for their actions.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Sick. . .and tired

Last Thursday we took part in a "big event" out at the Opportunity Center just across the street from "the Corner." 

A number of our community partners showed up to be with us. 

We served several hundred meals. 

People were pleasant, engaging and joyful--on both sides of the resource line!

The folks who came with the meals did a superb job in delivering them.  It wasn't just another "hand out.'  The volunteers from this company really spent time with the homeless poor who came to retrieve a box lunch.

But, simple "retrieval" wasn't possible with this group. 

If you came, you talked to these people, both at the service line and then in lawn chairs arranged for conversation! 

For them, it wasn't about the meal. 

No, it was about the common humanity of everyone. 

Beautiful event. 

In the midst of it I walked up the street a bit to invite others to join us. 

As I walked, I spotted him.

A man, slightly built, about 60-years-old, I'd hunch.

He looked ill. 

His skin tone was deeply yellowish, betraying possible liver disease. 

He was sitting on the curb resting his feet on a drain opening. 

I invited him to join us for lunch.

The only word in his reply that I could hear was "sick." 

"Are you feeling sick," I asked. "Do I need to call for a doctor?"

"No!" he snapped back.  "I said, 'I'm sick of stale sandwiches,'" he explained. 

"I'm sure you are and I'm sorry," I replied before retreating up the street further. 

He told me the truth.  (Actually, the sandwiches this time were boxed, beautiful and not stale, but this gentleman had been to plenty of our rodeos!)  He'd eaten my sandwiches before and he was tired.

In reality, what he was tired of was having to depend upon and settle for what I decided to bring his way. 

He wanted more, and he wanted more on his terms.

I wasn't offended at all. 

He just told me the truth as he saw and experienced it.

I left our encounter more determined than ever to work for the development of more permanent supportive housing.

Someday, I hope to watch him move into an apartment of his own where he can prepare his own meals, as he likes them.

If I'm lucky, maybe he'll invite me to dine with him in a home of his own.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Monday, June 23, 2014

Life without "Welfare"

What Happens If You Have No Welfare and No Job?

A new report from The Atlantic  looks at the devastating lengths single moms go to when they have neither employment nor cash assistance.

A few weeks ago I wrote about how the welfare reform of the 1990s led to many poor mothers being kicked off welfare rolls. While some poor adults could still receive help from food stamps and disability insurance, the "Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act" dramatically cut how much cash aid they could collect. The hope was that they would find work, but many didn’t.

Meanwhile, spending on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, the only cash assistance program that non-disabled, non-elderly, poor single mothers are eligible for, has dropped precipitously: It was lower in 2007 than it had been in 1970.

That left me wondering—what happened to the moms who had neither jobs nor cash assistance through TANF, which comes with strict time limits?

Read the entire report here.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

CitySquare summer food program shines. . .

Dallas groups tout program to feed kids during summer break
By MASAKO MELISSA HIRSCH / Staff Writer--Dallas Morning News
About 1 in 4 children in Texas don’t know where they’ll get their next meal — a problem exacerbated during the summer when they don’t have the option of free or reduced-priced school breakfasts and lunches.

On Thursday, several organizations aimed to raise awareness about the troublesome issue and to let local families know about a program that can help.

The United Way of Metropolitan Dallas hosted the event at CitySquare’s Opportunity Center. CitySquare is a nonprofit devoted to fighting poverty.

It was the second in United Way’s “Nine for 90” series, which honors the organization’s 90th anniversary with nine community service projects presented by Texas Instruments. Each project highlights one of the United Way’s main focus areas of education, financial stability and health.

“For all of us here today and in Dallas, Texas, that is not acceptable,” said Jennifer Sampson, president and CEO of United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, referring to the number of children going hungry.

The event corresponded with the kickoff in Dallas of the Department of Agriculture’s Summer Food Service Program, in which more than 100 organizations provide food at about 1,000 sites in Dallas County for children during the summer months.

About 73 percent of Dallas County students receive free or reduced-price school meals. Yet only about 14 percent of them take part in the summer mealsprogram.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Minimum wage and cities

U.S. labor secretary urges mayors descending on Dallas to pass resolution supporting minimum wage hike

The U.S. Conference of Mayors kicks off tomorrow morning at 6:30 with a continental breakfast on the Continental Bridge, and will include some after-work-hours performances by the likes of Lyle Lovett, Leann Rimes, Asleep at the Wheel, Marcia Ball, Bonnie Raitt, Los Lonely Boys — even “a special performance by Kool and the Gang,” says Dallas City Hall, like there’s any other kind. And: Kareem! But as you can see from the jam-packed program, there’s also work to be done, and that includes wading through 117 resolutions — everything from creating an International Jazz Day to commemorating the 40th anniversary of Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.

Somewhere in the middle of Resolution No. 67, its title “In Support of Raising the Federal Minimum Wage” from its current rate of $7.25 an hour. The mayors’ resolution is asking for an increase to $10.10 an hour and says it “supports state and local government efforts to set their own minimum wages above the federal minimum wage to help its lowest paid workers keep pace with the rising cost of living.” It was submitted by 16 mayors, among them Chicago’s Rahm Emanuel, New York City’s Bill deBlasio, Seattle’s Ed Murray and Los Angeles’ Eric Garcetti.

Read the entire article here. 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The startling wealth gap in America

Thomas Piketty's new book, Capital in the Twenty First Century, will blow your mind. 

Income inequality may be the biggest domestic threat to the future of our nation and its democratic culture.

For a preview click here

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Who are "the poor"?

What follows is not to be read as a listing of stereotypes.  Rather, these descriptions get at characteristics that various low-income persons exhibit.  I've encountered thousands of people over the last two decades here in Dallas who come to mind as I lay out this list. 

So, "who are the poor" anyway? 

1.  The poor are intelligent.  Income is no failsafe measure guaranteeing wealth or success financially.  And, being impoverished doesn't mean a person is stupid.  To the contrary, I've known highly intelligent people who live in poverty.  The vast majority of people are not poor because they are stupid.

2.  The poor want work.  In conversation after conversation, I've had men, women and youth begging me for work, for a job, for gainful employment.  Whether its in a formal workforce training effort or on the street with the homeless, the subject of jobs always come up. 

3.  The poor are often under-educated and low skilled.  Again, almost all people can learn, grow and develop.  But the fact is some poverty is caused by being under skilled.

4.  The poor are hard working.  Low-income people who have jobs work like crazy!  Countless families with whom we work have more than one job.  Poor folks aren't afraid to work.

5.  The working poor need more money.  Self-evident it would seem.  But most of us don't understand the pressure to survive under which these families and individuals live.  Low or inadequate skills lead to low wages.  We have a wage crisis in our nation. 

6.  The poor love their children.  Nothing more to say really.

7.  The children of poor people are under-experienced and under-exposed to the largeness of the world.  The funds needed to place children in enrichment activities is simply not available to the poor.  Thus, children miss out on lots that others of us take for granted. 

8.  The poor are often compromised by poor health.  Forced to use the ERs as makeshift medical homes, the poor suffer disproportionately with all sorts of chronic conditions not as prevalent among the more well-to-do. 

9.  The poor battle "toxic stress."  The daily pressure to provide the bare essentials of life place people in positions of stress and psychic strain that just doesn't let up.  A growing body of research substantiates the negative impact of this unresolved, unrelenting stress. 

10.  For the most part the poor don't eat healthy diets.  Limited funds drive people to cheap, processed food high in calories.  The combination of lack of income and accessibility often blocks poor people from healthier food selections. 

11.  The poor are loyal.  Friendship and human connections bind folks together in low-income communities. 

12.  The poor are amazingly generous.  It would be impossible to recount all of the times I have witnessed very poor people sharing from their meagre holdings to benefit someone else in need. 

13.  Basically, the poor are like you and me. . . just without the financial resources.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Wages, it's all about wages and labor's share

How do we explain how a place like Dallas, Texas, with its booming economy, continues to grow poorer and poorer at the bottom? 

Conventional wisdom would have us believe that a growing, vibrant economy--like we enjoy in Dallas--would begin to cut into the poverty rate in our city. 

But, it's just not happening. 


Read on: 

Growth Has Been Good for Decades.
So Why Hasn’t Poverty Declined?
The surest way to fight poverty is to achieve stronger economic growth. That, anyway, is a view embedded in the thinking of a lot of politicians and economists.
“The federal government,” Paul Ryan, the House Budget Committee chairman, wrote in The Wall Street Journal, “needs to remember that the best anti-poverty program is economic growth,” which is not so different from the argument put forth by John F. Kennedy (in a somewhat different context) that “a rising tide lifts all boats.”
In Kennedy’s era, that had the benefit of being true. From 1959 to 1973, the nation’s economy per person grew 82 percent, and that was enough to drive the proportion of the poor population from 22 percent to 11 percent.
But over the last generation in the United States, that simply hasn’t happened. Growth has been pretty good, up 147 percent per capita. But rather than decline further, the poverty rate has bounced around in the 12 to 15 percent range — higher than it was even in the early 1970s. The mystery of why — and how to change that — is one of the most fundamental challenges in the nation’s fight against poverty.
Read the entire article here.

Monday, June 16, 2014


The photos that follow present images of men I've met over the past several weeks at "the Corner: (use the Search tool at upper left to read more about this special location out near CitySquare's new Opportunity Center).

I post them here without comment.  They are great people, many wounded, broken and struggling.  They are fathers, sons, brothers, unemployed, working, veterans and more. 

Each has a story. 

Each brings a personal and spiritual force to the conversations we enjoy.

None, none should be dismissed out of hand. 

All deserve respect. 

These images could be multiplied in number by a factor of 20 or more. 

Meet some of my friends.