Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Coffee diplomacy. . .

Most problems between and among people lose a bit of their edge once folks become acquainted.  Possibly that common sense reality is what we've been leaving out of the current debate on the development of permanent supportive housing for our homeless neighbors. 

And, I am as guilty as anyone on this one.  When I heard that another community task force had been appointed to work on the "problem," my cynicism kicked in prematurely. 

Shame on me!

The result of City Council Member Dave Neumann's appointed work group has been encouraging to say the least.  Clearly, the group set about the tough business of addressing a community crisis in a most creative and pro-active manner.

My hat is off to everyone concerned. 

The following editorial appeared in Tuesday's (9-14-10) edition of The Dallas Morning News.  Take a moment to read about the power of a good cup of coffee and getting to know new folks.

Editorial: A good book and cup of coffee to help mend wounds

Trust, frankly, did not exist. Bad blood doesn't begin to describe it. When the Dallas Housing Authority and The Bridge quietly tried to relocate dozens of formerly homeless people from Dallas' downtown assistance shelter into Cliff Manor, a north Oak Cliff high-rise, angry accusations poisoned the atmosphere.

Despite community protests from several Cliff Manor neighbors, 50 apartments were set aside for the formerly homeless.

But instead of the hard feelings one might expect, a community task force appointed by City Council member David Neumann is helping the new residents meld into Oak Cliff life. The approach includes a "good neighbor agreement" and a nonprofit organization to operate a coffee shop, bookstore and employment training.

Cynics among us might not expect this idea to make much of a difference, but our hope is that it can bring together north Oak Cliff residents and their new Cliff Manor neighbors in a true sense of community. This model could prove especially important as the housing authority moves forward with plans to place formerly homeless people across Dallas.

People who have struggled on the street with mental illness and addiction must feel secure and welcome again in neighborhoods. And by getting to know our new neighbors, the rest of us can learn that many of those who have fallen on hard times can make it back, with a little help.

Yes, it's a learning process for everyone, but it's one that offers great promise for rebuilding lives and neighborhoods in small, meaningful ways.

1 comment:

brad said...

a lesson well-learned. hope this allays the fears of some that Oak Cliff isn't willing or able to welcome new neighbors from diverse backgrounds. also good to see Oak Cliff neighbors working to overcome hostile atmosphere created by mr. neumann's initial pot-stirring.