Friday, July 29, 2016

The power of place. . .and data

Can you tackle poverty without taking on place?

June 28, 2016

Throughout June, Urban Institute scholars will offer evidence-based ideas for reducing poverty and increasing opportunity.

Earlier this month, House Republicans released a new plan to fight poverty and help Americans move up the economic ladder. The plan begins and ends with the premise that “The American Dream is the idea that, no matter who you are or where you come from, if you work hard and give it your all, you will succeed.” In between, however, there is scant mention of the role that place (i.e., where you come from) plays in perpetuating poverty or shaping economic opportunity.

This is a glaring omission, especially in light of the plan’s insistence on grounding poverty-reduction policies in the best available evidence. The evidence shows that geography plays a powerful role in determining life outcomes in the United States. Better understanding the mechanisms by which zip codes determine destiny and identifying effective strategies to sever the connection between poverty and place should be central to any federal antipoverty plan.

Read on

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Poorest neighbors must not be ignored any longer. . .

Funds to help Dallas' homeless could be in short supply after police shooting

The Dallas Commission on Homelessness is preparing for a budget fight when the group presents a proposal next week to solve the city's homeless problem.

The group expects to face tough competition for limited funds as city leaders finalize next year's budget.

The commission, formed in May by Mayor Mike Rawlings, was tasked with finding housing solutions for the estimated 3,900 homeless people in Dallas.

But after a gunman killed five Dallas police officers, including a DART officer, downtown earlier this month, commission members said police are likely to be a priority to the City Council.

Continue reading. . .

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Resource for inner city community development

Annual Conference
Save the date:  October 5-7, 2016
Dallas, Texas
Cliff Temple Baptist Church
(details here)

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. . .


Children and grandchildren.










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


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


1610 S. Malcolm X Blvd.
Dallas, TX 75226
P: 469.904.7033

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


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
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

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!