Thursday, March 09, 2006

"Pops"




So, how do you fill up an apartment building once you build it?

It is a concern I have today.

Don't get me wrong.

I don't think it will be hard at all. There are so many people who need high-quality, affordable housing in this city.

I know that once we have our City Walk at Akard project finished, we will work with partner organizations to identify, screen and lease apartments to 200 wonderful people.

But, we have a long way to go before we arrive at that point--approximately 2 years, I expect.

In the meantime, I find myself conducting informal "street interviews" with homeless people.

After the City Council meeting on Wednesday, as I drove back to my office, I spotted four gentlemen sitting on a sidewalk leaning up against a wall just down the street from City Hall. I confess, I hung a quick U-turn, parked my car and went over for a conversation.

Three of the four were instantly friendly after I introduced myself and extended my hand--surprised, but very friendly.

The fourth gentleman was a bit suspicious of me--understandably, but he warmed as we talked.

Of the four, the oldest man stood out.

"I'm 'Pops,'" he said, beaming.

"Nice to meet you," I replied.

I conducted my simple survey/interview.

"If I could take you to a really nice, but small and affordable apartment, complete with your own bathroom and kitchen and then, if I helped you find a way to pay for it each month, would you be interested?" I asked my new friends.

Of course, they all said they would be much more than just interested.

"I get a check," Pops chimed in. "But, it is real small."

"If I could ask without intruding, Pops, could you tell me how much your check is each month?" I continued.

"Well, like I say, it ain't much. It is only $541.00 a month," he informed me.

We talked for a few more minutes and I shared with him how we could make that income level work in our new project and how he could be very helpful in building the community we had in mind.

He smiled a smile I will not soon forget.

I wished my buddies well and I was off.

But, "Pops" is on my mind today.

How would I do on $541.00 a month? Let's see. . .$6,492.00 annually.

If I am alone and if I can't find anyone who will hire me and if that is my total income, where do I go and what in the world do I do? To whom do I turn? Where do I sleep tonight?

Pops' homelessness came into clear relief for me on that gray sidewalk in the shadow of the center of Dallas government and public policy formation.

When my energy flags a bit or when the process turns uphill, I will remember him, his face and his heart.

I need to get to know "Pops," and he needs to get to know me.

I pray I get the chance.
_________________________________

For an update on Central Dallas Ministries' progress on City Walk at Akard, go to this Dallas Morning News link for today:

http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/news/localnews/
stories/DN-homelesstower_09met.ART0.East.Edition2.50b6d49.html.

5 comments:

cierakae said...

Larry,

Stumbled upon the DMN article Tuesday, quite by accident,(a friend who knows I am a fan of CDM.) It made my day!

Today's posting reminds me why, you connect the faces to the numbers. You press on for "Pops". You champion the dignity that should be afforded to every human soul.

I won't pray for you to fill CW@A, that's a given. My prayer is that CW@A is the seed of a larger harvest. A template for others to follow.

You sow Larry!

Paul said...

Ouch. I put in a resume yesterday to move to a different teaching job at a Christian school taking a $14,000 a year cut in pay. I was wondering if I could make it on that. I would still be making almost five times what Pops receives. That gives me a different perspective.

Charles Senteio said...

Thanks for having the courage to fight the good fight which of course involves developing genuine connections with people. I was also pretty suspicious of you when I first met you ;-)

Anonymous said...

the eyes of my eyes are open
e.e. cummings

I had a number of reactions as I read the related DMN article: delight (tax credit waiver is approved!) expectancy (City Council votes on the project 28Mar) and consternation (Mitchell Rasansky's comment, "I have a problem with the location"). Isn't this just code for "I have a problem with the people"? If so, the CWA project needs more than a sound economic argument.

How does one help the Rasanskys of Dallas to really see the "Pops" of the city?

I couldn't help thinking of Roberta Bondi's definition of grace: God's help in seeing and knowing the world, ourselves and each other in such a way that love is made possible.

Yes, I believe that's what we need here. Great love. Great grace. I am praying for both.

Larry James said...

Anonymous, isn't cummings amazing?

Thanks for your post. Yes, what you suggest is needed.

At the same time, we need strength, calm and courage to realize that this engagement is more than worth the cost.