My good friend, Dr. Marcus Martin leads the research efforts for The J. McDonald Williams Institute, the research arm of the Foundation for Community Empowerment (FCE) here in Dallas. Dallas businessman and former Trammell Crow CEO, Don Williams founded FCE in the early 1990s. Today FCE serves as one of the most important catalytic organizations in the nation devoted to the realization of urban reclamation, redevelopment and justice for everyone.
Marcus, FCE and its research Institute do amazing work bringing the realities facing low-income, inner city neighborhoods out into public space for conversation, debate and action.
Consider just a bit of the crushing reality bound up in the daily life circumstances of tens of thousands of our neighbors here in Dallas. The story of Dallas is truly "a tale of two cities" and the data that follows comes to us because of the hard work of Dr. Martin and the entire team at FCE.
*Sixty-three per cent of the households of South Dallas earn $25,000 or less annually. Seventy-one percent of these households earn below 200% of the federally established poverty benchmark.
*Only 9.5% of "Northern Corridor" households earn $25,000 or less and only 20% earn below 200% of the poverty line ($40,000 for a family of four). *In the city of Dallas, one of six residents (16.7%) lives in poverty. In South Dallas the number is 1 of 2 residents (50%).
*Forty-four percent of Dallas children live in areas of concentrated poverty.
*In 85% of Dallas' most severely distressed neighborhoods, 60% of the children are African American.
*Twenty percent of all black children in Dallas live in severely distressed neighborhoods.
*Only 12% of Southern Sector residents have a college degree.
*Only 4.3% of the adults over 25-years-old living in South Dallas proper have a college degree.
*Almost 50% of adults over 25 years-old living in South Dallas do not have a high school diploma.
*Infant mortality rates for South Dallas families for 2003 were 16.7 deaths per 1,000 live births.
*Fifty-seven percent of South Dallas residents do not have health insurance.
*South Dallas is the least healthy area of Dallas.
*The jobless rate in South Dallas is 1.5 times that of the City of Dallas.
*As of 2000, Southern Sector property in Dallas was valued at $63.54 per square foot as compared to Northern Sector property valued at $93.32 per square foot.
*The value of homes in North Dallas is 3.5 times greater than those in southern Dallas.
*Median home value in South Dallas is $43,914, while median home value in the city is $109,153.
*The median age of housing units in the city of Dallas is around 30 years, while the median age of units in South Dallas is 50 years.
*The number of business establishments in the Southern Sector have declined by 5% since the mid-1990s.
When anyone talks about poverty in Dallas or in other major U. S. urban centers, it is clear that informed discussion must move beyond individual responsibility, achievement and circumstance to the larger, systemic forces that consign entire communities to the limitations inherent in low-income areas.
Any expectation for real, sustainable change must involve public policy strategies and comprehensive city-wide responses. What we so often miss is the fact that deeply entrenched poverty hurts us all from one side of the community to the other. None of us can afford to ignore these harsh realities any longer.
Poverty is expensive. It costs all of us again and again in lost tax base revenues, mounting social services costs, public safety and health care expenses; and, most of all, in the destruction of hope. It is time for a new day in Dallas. We can't wait any longer.