Friday, July 22, 2016

In between. . .

Classic case of "between a rock and a hard place" for us at CitySquare.

See the video posted below.

On the one hand, the pressure created by the time frame to "move along" imposed on the people living in this encampment made it nearly impossible to transition folks from the street to housing.

We could have refused to be involved in the removal.

On the other, we couldn't walk away from so many friends and neighbors who endured the trauma of being removed.

We know most of these people. Our Homeless Outreach Team interviewed every one of them in an attempt to begin the process of moving toward permanent housing.  We had no choice but to be with them and attempt to ease their burden, even if inadequately.

Dallas (City and County) and its leaders need to stop, take stock and recognize the fact that every homeless person on our streets is just as important as the person living in the best housing available. Homeless persons are citizens and constituents, and must not continually be defined as a problem.

I believe the Mayor's Commission on Homelessness provides us the opportunity to "re-boot" and approach the challenge in a much different, more comprehensive manner.

Time will tell.

I know one thing for sure: Dallas must do better.


 

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Once upon a time. . .

Earlier this year, I spoke at a "storytelling" workshop to a group of enthusiastic fund development and communications professionals.  The organizers of the event were the good folks at the Bob Schieffer College of Communication, Texas Christian University.  

I found my assigned topic intriguing:  “Awe & Aww: Storytelling to Motivate Impact and Engagement.”  What I shared were some basic principles of telling a story that either fills hearers with "awe," as in shock and awe, or "aww," as in puppy dog warm and fuzzy, good vibes. 

Here's a summary:

1)  Your story must always be true.  You know, rooted in reality.  No composites drawn from various experiences.  No embellishments.  Just the facts, please, but with great heart and emotion!

2)  Look for and journal seminal stories that arise from "breakthrough moments" that typically provide and define your organizational narrative long term.  These are tales that define your culture. If you know anything about CitySquare, you've heard the name Josefina Ortiz.  If you don't know her story, email me or, better yet, read my book, The Wealth of the Poor.

3) Gather up stories along the way--those ordinary instances that reflect your organizational culture.  These are the day-to-day events that align completely with the essence of your work and endeavors.  They reflect the state of your enduring soul. Your journal or your Outlook calendar should be full of these. 

4)  Be HONEST about your FAILURES.  All is not goodness and light!  Along the way you and your team blow it.  Include the negatives with the positives.  Keep it real.  Telling the truth always works.  Ask me sometime about our landscape company and our teenage summer program crew and buying and selling "grass"! 

5) REPEAT, REPEAT, REPEAT! Always be ready with a story, no matter how many times you've told it.  Great stories are more than worth repeating.  Telling stories again and again create the power that fuels movements and real solutions.

There you have it.  And, good luck with telling your powerful tales from your important work. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Community Engagement

Rev. George Battle served at CitySquare as one of our AmeriCorps members after his graduation from Perkins School of Theology at SMU. He has since gone on to direct the Zip Code Connection for the North Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church.

He is a great leader with a great understanding of his community.

I feel honored to call him friend.

What George shares in this interview in the aftermath of events of the last three weeks is important.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

"Losers" and Hope

The past two mornings I've stopped by "Tent City II" on my way to the office. 

At the insistence of the Dallas City Council, city staff, including police, were given about two weeks to clean up the camp and remove the residents.

The scene: magnetic.  Both days, it literally pulled me into its center as I got out of my car (a huge luxury, by the way).

The pull connected my eyes to an extremely hard, harsh reality over the two-day period. 

Possibly 100 tents with the owners and others on day one. By 9:00 a.m. on day two, virtually everything had been removed, including most of the people.

Almost all of the residents were black. 

All possessed almost nothing. 

When rounded up by the city workers, these possessions formed giant piles that otherwise I would have classified as trash.  In fact, the piles represented the net worth of the departing owners. 

The deadline on this closing, harsh itself, fit the circumstances of the people I saw Monday and Tuesday.  Better, the deadline, completely unrealistic, framed our community response to the poorest, weakest and most vulnerable among us. 

We haul trash off. 

We move undesirable persons, even when they have no place to go. 

Some regard our homeless neighbors as inherent "losers." 

If you think about it and if you hear the stories of those being moved from under now the second bridge in our city, these people are definitely losers, just not inherently so.  

You see, each has lost something precious, invaluable and essential. In most cases the loss has been in multiple layers, as loss usually goes with people.

Losses like. . .

Health.

Children and grandchildren.

Mates.

Parents.

Relationships.

Marriages.

Jobs.

Options.

Sobriety.

Sanity.

Homes.

The list goes on. 

Maybe I'm off the edge here.  But, if I put myself in the shoes of these, the weakest among us, I'd hope for better from my hometown. 

But, how realistic would my hope actually be? 

What if I lost everything and became a real "loser" due to the loss, what could I expect?  Where could I place my trust at the lowest moment of my life?   To whom could I turn with a realistic expectation of receiving the help, the hand up I would certainly need to get back home?

Based on our community performance to date, my honest answers provide me no real comfort.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Dale Hansen, prophet

Dale Hansen, longtime Dallas sports journalist, turned prophet or preacher last week after the "ambush" on our Downtown streets.

His words combine most of the themes that we heard in the memorial service today at the Meyerson Symphony Center.

It seemed to me that his perspective deserved to be published/broadcast again.


Thursday, July 07, 2016

Perspectives differ. . .

Experiences determine perspectives, attitudes and expectations.

I'm not sure why this reality is so hard to understand or accept, though I have a hunch or two.

The data below clearly reports  that African Americans possess and express quite a different experience of life in the United States than do white people.

People like me would do well to keep this fact in mind.

Even better, it would be really good for me to find out just why this is true.
 

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

The Free State of Jones

On July 4, I "experienced" the new film starring Matthew  McConaughey, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Keri Russell and Mahershala Ali, The Free State of Jones (video clip below). 

McConaughey offers up a stunningly intense interpretation of the life and leadership of Jones County, Mississippi farmer, Newton Knight.  Building a fighting, resistance force of "runaways," slave and free, Knight's influence at its apex extended across three southeast Mississippi counties. 

As the Civil War raged throughout the South, coming at last to Vicksburg, Mississippi, Knight developed serious objections to the entire cause of the Confederacy.  He analyzed the brutal conflict as a battle by the poor and dispossessed for the wealthy, and the hegemony of the landed gentry via the slave system.  As one of Knight's fundamental principles put it:  "No man should be made poor to make other men rich." 

The true story reveals the amazing depth of the suffering of people of color in Mississippi before, during and after the Civil War.  As I watched the film, an acidic grief flooded over me.  To realize something of the pain, disappointment, suffering and heroic endurance of black Americans helps frame my work and my life.

Every person of age in the United States should view and grapple with this important film.  Certainly, every white person needs to watch and inquire after this film. 

People who don't understand the Black Lives Matter movement, need to sit in a theater for a bit over the two hours necessary to soak in the rationale back of the request that as white folks, we just need to sit still, listen and learn those things about our history as a nation that we still don't want to face. 

God, have mercy on us all. 


Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Simple/Profound


What Life Is About


No matter how varied and rich our experiences, how honored we’ve been, how great our achievements, we will have missed what life was all about if we do not become love…. I think one of the great failures of ministers like myself is that we have exhorted people to love, and we have deplored the lack of love in the world, yet we have not become love. We have not known how to instruct our own souls in the art of loving.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

My truth

The pain and stress of the people we know in the inner city is beyond belief.

There are no words to make it better.

Only tears make sense.

That's all.

Friday, June 24, 2016

New Rules!

So, if I could make the rules, these would definitely be etched in stone!

1) Don't make assumptions about people because of how they look or what they are going through.

2) Always at least try to be kind.

3) Realize that "property rights" or "ownership" of a house or land or anything else doesn't entitle me to diminish in any way the human rights of others, especially those with virtually nothing.

4) Don't hate.

5) Especially, don't hate people because of what they don't have.

6) Live with basic humility.

7) Resist manipulation and manipulating.

8) Don't exclude others.

9) Support the weak with kindness and genuine friendship.

10) Work together.

11) Don't judge.

12) Partner with those who don't agree with you.

13) Never give up.

14) Never quit.

15) Remain open to learning and truth.

16) When dealing with the weak, replace pity with genuine respect.

17) Invite a "panhandler" out for coffee or a meal involving conversation.

18) Look for the real God in every human encounter--only way to reach Her/Him.

Friday, June 17, 2016

This just in. . .

[Krystal Lotspeich, Director of Housing & Homeless Services at CitySquare, sent me the following report on recent housing progress for some of our wonderful neighbors.]


I'm so excited! We moved another 4 neighbor's into housing this week. In the last 2 weeks we have placed 10 neighbor's into housing at Tierra Linda Apartments through our HCC grant and with all the hard work from our Homeless Outreach team! This is crazy awesome.  

One neighbor was in tears while signing her lease and thankful she will get to sleep inside with her dog in her own apartment. She couldn't believe it was actually happening. She said now she'll be able to sleep through the night and not have to worry about being beat up or harassed. Days like that make everything worth it! 

Thank you Edd [Eason] for making all this happen and all your hard work to secure the funding for this new HCC program. Without the HCC funding these 10 neighbor's would still be sleeping outside on the streets. 
Krystal Lotspeich
Director of Housing & Homeless Services
Neighbor Support Services


CitySquare 

1610 S. Malcolm X Blvd.
Dallas, TX 75226
P: 469.904.7033
klotspeich@CitySquare.org
www.CitySquare.org

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Public Meetings re Homelessness

Information provided by our friends at Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance:


The Dallas Commission on Homelessness Community Engagement Committee will be hosting public meetings, over the next few weeks, to educate, engage and gather feedback from the community on how to address and overcome challenges related to homelessness.

Join us for these two public meetings next week (click on each meeting title for full details):

Monday, June 20, 2016, 6-8pm - Sheltering the Homeless
This meeting will feature:
Rev. Bob Sweeney, Executive Director, Dallas Life
Daniel Roby, Executive Director, Austin Street Center
Wayne Walker, Executive Director, OurCalling
Blake Fetterman, Executive Director, Salvation Army Carr P. Collins Social Service Center
Dallas City Hall - L1FN Auditorium
1500 Marilla St., Dallas, TX 75201
You can print off this flyer to share with your network: June 20th Meeting Flyer

Tuesday, June 21, 2016, 6-8pm - Homeless in East Dallas
This meeting will feature:
Mark Clayton, Councilmember, District 9
Larry James, Chief Executive Officer, CitySquare
Ikenna Mogbo, Housing Outpatient Operations Manager, Metrocare Services
Jesse Moreno, Community Leader
Harry Stone Recreation Center
2403 Millmar Drive, Dallas, TX 75228

You can print off this flyer to share with your network: June 21st Meeting Flyer

Please follow MDHA on social media for information on more upcoming dates. We'll see you there!

Sunday, June 05, 2016

Out


If anyone calls me
Tell them I'm out.
Out of patience
Out of line
Out of my element
Out of my mind
Out in the street
Preparing the feast
The bread and the wine
For lost and for least
Out of my bubble
In to the flow
Out of myself
Finding my whole
They'll know where to find me
I'm out.

Jim Biard

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

A Fundamental Barrier

Rich Kids Stay Rich, Poor Kids Stay Poor
On Friday, a team of researchers led by Stanford economist Raj Chetty released a paper on how growing up in poverty affects boys and girls differently. Their core finding: Boys who grow up in poor families fare substantially worse in adulthood, in terms of employment and earnings, than girls who grow up in the same circumstances. (The Washington Post has a good write-up of the paper and its implications.)

But beyond its immediate conclusions, the paper, like much of Chetty’s recent work as part of his Equality of Opportunity Project, points to a deeper truth: In the U.S., where you come from — where you grow up, how much your parents earn, whether your parents were married — plays a major role in determining where you will end up later in life.
 
Take, for example, the chart below. . .read more here.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Join the fight!

As many of you know, CitySquare, along the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, Jewish Community Relations Council and Catholic Charities, has played a major role in curbing the abuses of payday and auto title lenders. Because of our efforts, the Dallas City Council unanimously adopted the most stringent ordinances in the country to regulate this industry. That ordinance has now been adopted by more than 33 different cities throughout Texas, including El Paso, Austin, Garland, Houston, San Antonio and Grand Prairie and there are other municipalities considering the Dallas ordinance. While we and our allies have not been quite as successful at the state level, we did get legislation requiring disclosure and reporting of these businesses which allows more opportunity to tell of the impact they are having on Texas families.
 
Now we have the opportunity to substantially impact the small dollar loan industry on a national level…
 
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the federal agency which provides oversight over abuses in the financial industry, is taking comments from citizens throughout the country regarding their dealings with payday and auto title loans. These comments will be considered as the CFPB recommends to Congress federal legislation that will save the people we care about across the nation, from the debt trap caused by this type of predatory lending.  

What can you do?

If you, or anyone you know, have been victimized by payday or auto title lenders, tell your story! Write it down on this form and send it to United Way of Metropolitan Dallas Attn: Stephanie Mace 1800 N. Lamar St Dallas, TX 75202, or attach as PDF document and send it to DallasStopTheDebtTrap@gmail.com.
 
Check out this Payday Lending Alternative sheet, which is a resource provided by the Anti-Poverty Coalition with counsel for those may be going through hard financial times, along with a list of legitimate lenders who may be able to help.
 
Also, ask your neighbors, co-workers, or fellow community members if they have ever been ensnared in debt because of taking out a payday or auto title loan. If they haven’t, do they have a close relative or friend who may be in debt because of one of these loans.
 
Payday lenders are one of those businesses that help keep poor neighborhoods poor. People who take out these loans are not stupid, they aren’t lazy, they aren’t trying to get something for nothing. People who take out these loans are in desperate situations and get in trouble attempting to pay them back.  For so long, we were told that there was nothing that could be done. Now we have a chance to fight for those in poverty, our friends, and our families!
 
In this fight together!
 
Rev. Gerald Britt Jr.
Vice-President of External Affairs
CitySquare

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Those without love


Getting What We Deserve


It is always a terrible thing to come back to Mott Street [where she lived]. To come back in a driving rain to men crouched on the stairs, huddled in doorways, without overcoats because they sold their overcoats—perhaps the week before when it was warm, to satisfy their hunger or thirst, who knows. Those without love would say, ‘It serves them right, drinking up their clothes, selling their clothes to buy booze, it serves them right.’ But God help us if we got what we deserve!

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Stranger?


Welcome Something New


To offer hospitality to a stranger is to welcome something new, unfamiliar and unknown into our life-world…. Strangers have stories to tell which we have never heard before, stories which can redirect our seeing and stimulate our imaginations. The stories invite us to view the world from a novel perspective.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Listen to the "poor"!

May 02, 2016


Fellow Billionaires: Let's Listen to the Poor

Pete Ryan, for The Chronicle
 
by Manoj Bhargava               
One of the biggest fallacies of philanthropy is the expectation that money will solve everything and that more money equals greater results. Trillions of dollars are spent globally on social and environmental issues, and very few problems have been solved. Why is that?

We’ve been focused on the wrong things. Our assumptions, traditions, and self-interest have made us lose sight of what it means to do philanthropy in the true sense of the word. Philanthropy should be about serving humanity and giving people what they need — not what we think they need or what feels good to give, like putting our names on buildings or giving to institutions that are already rich.

To truly change the world, we need to make significant adjustments — to our mind-sets, our motivations, our attitudes, our ways of thinking, and even our business models. Like several other billionaires, I have pledged to give most of my wealth away. As I do it, I am trying to follow these principles:

Value and success should be based on results, not dollars.
Philanthropy today is judged almost entirely. . .Read more here.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

I Fight!

[Michael Guinn works at CitySquare as a life coach to youth who age out of the Texas foster care system.  He is extremely effective at what he does.  What follows reveals just what's behind his fierce dedication to his work and to the young people he touches.]


I Fight!
                                                                                                                                                   
Do you know what it’s like to want and can’t have? To be so hungry that you eat dirt so you don’t feel  so…empty!  Do you know what it’s like to not have running water, to do homework by candlelight. To steal and lie and hustle to help out your family?

I do.                                                                            

And some nights skinny then reminds bigger now of the times when he brought home food found at the landfill, fished for compliments and crawdads, sold squirrel and black birds to pay for school clothes.                                                  
And yesterday I wondered! What good is my master’s degree if I can’t even master me?

See I fight …for the father who desperately wants to provide. But in shame he cries in the shadows of his own pride.                                                                                                                   
I fight… for the mother who stands in welfare lines, wanting more, defined by less knowing that this is not her best.

I fight.. . for the son whose hunger pangs are so loud that he can’t focus on his lesson so he sits embarrassed by his stomach’s angry confession.
I fight…for the daughter wearing hand me down smiles and borrowed blues forced to wear too tight shoes.

I fight ...for grandparents on fixed incomes feeding mama’s children when baby’s daddy runs.
I fight, I live and I learn to shape dreams from the fist of poverty’s grip as I fuse the light in their eyes with mine and pray to God to help them find hope inside.                  

And this ain’t easy! It is hard to lift self-esteem when dreams have been assaulted  and peppered  with despair so much so that they’ve forgotten to breathe freedom’s air.
And it’s not their fault that they were born verbs in past tense, unwilling subjects in sentences that kept on running. Fractured by the manner in which the wind whistled and blew down their future, I fight because I don’t want their existence to be another statistic on the back page of history.  I don’t want their lives to end up camouflaged chalk lines, lost in the shaded silhouette of a lonely bulls-eye searching for another target!

I didn’t choose this fight, this fight chose me. And I want my example to foster a deep desire for survival no matter how loudly suicide speaks of rivers. Because I believe that if they see my love and feel my soul reaching out to them that this simple act of kindness will change their lives forever.
And now that I’ve made peace with this section 8 hate, now that I’ve overcome the demons of then... I know that every time I find a new resource, service, home I am reconnecting the dots of frowns and turning them into smiles. People ask why do I fight poverty with so much energy and passion? And I tell them it’s because I know that I am still fighting for that little boy inside of me!

Michael Guinn
TRAC PSH Coach at CitySquare
May 17th 2016