Friday, August 05, 2016

Cindy Crain: First responders should not be our first response to homelessness

G.J. McCarthy/The Dallas Morning News
People pitch a tent under I-45 south of downtown after being kicked out Tent City Tuesday, May 3, 2016 in Dallas.
Three months ago, a patrol officer called me regarding a person experiencing homelessness who was trespassing. I asked the officer to hand his cell phone to the man. I calmed him and recommended a solution, and he agreed.

Unfortunately, my staff and I were not immediately available to help. The Dallas Police Crisis Intervention Team was working on stacked calls. The two street outreach workers were knee-deep in cases involving the Interstate 45 tent city removal.

I called the officer back. I could clearly hear his frustration and agitation. He had been on this call for more than an hour, and it was hot outside.

"Ma'am, if y'all cannot get here soon, I am going to take him in."


Thursday, August 04, 2016

People keep asking me. . .

Never before have more people asked me more times this one question:

"Larry, when will The Cottages open?"

A close second is:

"Are The Cottages open yet?"

So many people have asked so many times in so many places with such interest that I feel the need to give you the "inside scoop" on why this creative project has taken us so long to complete. 

And, I get it!  We intended to open the project in the fall last year, already! 

So, here are the reasons--not excuses, reasons:

1)  2015 turned out to be the wettest year on record in Texas.  Rain, heavy rains and storms slowed the earliest, muddiest times of the year, and then some. 

2) We endured a few "technical issues."  Early on, civil engineering challenges were a factor.  Our contractor made a big mistake when he ordered a big shipment of the wrong materials for the houses.  The order had to be resubmitted, delaying us several weeks. There were other fairly typical matters that you just expect, but taken with the other matters simply added to our "days behind" count. 

3)  Our General Contractor got sick and almost died.  Our project was a tough one, made tougher by the 6-week plus absence of the leader of the company in charge of the project due to serious health problems. 

4)  We finally landed a competent project superintendent who shortly thereafter suffered a serious heart attack on the job! Shortly after surgery, he was back on the job and will see it to completion.  Still, a very disruptive event for our project.

5)  Our award-winning design strategy turned out to be very difficult to construct, requiring artisans to address the challenging metal work, a slow, tedious process. 

6)  More recently , the General Contractor underestimated the amount of material needed to complete a crucial aspect of the build out--another time draining mistake. 

7)  In general, across our region, labor is in very short, highly competitive supply.  We have not been able to keep enough workers on our job, our comparatively smaller job.  Our staggering progress is the result of this labor reality. 

Thankfully, we negotiated a guaranteed cost contract, so cost overruns are not a big concern. 

It's all about time.

As I read back over my list, I can tell you again I don't intend these to be excuses. 

There is no excuse for this ridiculous delay. 

Every day we delay means that 50 people have no home to call their own. 

No one is more upset by the time delay than I am, unless it is CitySquare's  Neighbor Supportive Services team and/or John Greenan, our leader at the Central Dallas Community Development Corporation.

I'm sure I've overlooked something else that has slowed us down.  The Cottages will be wonderful.  They've been too hard to bring to life for the result to be anything but terrific. 

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Irish wisdom, delivered and received

Recently, John Greenan, Executive Director of the Central Dallas Community Development Corporation, traveled to Ireland to present a paper at the Second International Housing First Conference at the University of Limerick.   No doubt, John represented us well with this presentation. 
While he was away, he sent me an email that made me think  (John's like that continually!).  Here's just a part of what he communicated to me: 

. . . going to the Housing First conference made me realize just how much we are doing. Combined, CitySquare and Central Dallas CDC are housing more formerly homeless people than any European country except France.

The Cottages themselves are a bigger project than any countries but France and Belgium have taken on.

France has now managed to house 600 homeless people for two years--after a full two-year planning process with real experts in the field--people with doctorates in the social sciences and psychology and the full support of the French government (which in France means a  lot). And the only reason the French were able to do so much is because their national health system is so robust that they didn't have to bring on or pay for additional support services. All they had to do was find the people and put them in apartments with vouchers. . . .

Actually, Denmark is doing a project for twelve homeless men, but that's it. Ireland thinks it has a terrible problem because Dublin, which is almost exactly the same size as Dallas, has 100 "rough sleepers" (the European term for unsheltered homeless people). We had almost three times that number in Tent City alone before it was taken down.

I understand John's point, and am encouraged by it.

But, there is something else here:  a troubling comparison.  European nations experience nothing near the terrible scale of our homeless population in the U. S. 

Why is that?

I'm sure there are contextual complexities that I don't understand.  However, it seems clear that European nations do a much, much better job at prevention than we do in this country.  Many of the factors that topple individuals and families into homelessness just aren't present in France. 

Why do you suppose this is true?  I

n large part Europe does better at preventing homelessness from ever happening because of things like: 

Universal health care

Mental health services

Living wages

Housing supports

Worker's leave benefits

Much of our hard work on housing development would not be necessary if we as a people decided to put in place systems of protection and support designed to assist and benefit neighbors who need a hand up, back onto the road to success.

Lots to think about here.

Monday, August 01, 2016

HighPoint Family Living

The HighPoint Family Living development will celebrate its grand opening in late August!

The multi-family complex, the latest in the portfolio of our sister organization, the Central Dallas Community Developmnet Corporation, offers great high quality housing for families and individuals.

Congratulations to John Greenan and his team.

And, a big thank you to Bank of America CDC, our partners in this great endeavor.

Drive by the development at 414 W. Louisiana Avenue here in Dallas.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Prophetic words: Reviving for the heart of our democracy

You may not agree with everything mentioned here.  There may be an issue or two you'd like to discuss or debate.  But, here is thoughtful theology--theology that moves to action by definition. 

Here we encounter the message and the values of the faith inspired by the prophetic movement of God. Here we see the strong, undeniable connection between the heart of God and the pain of the world, largely the product of the injustice we encounter at work all around us today.

When was the last time you heard anything like this in church?

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!