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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

You can "drive out" poverty!


Your old wheels can help us ‘drive’ poverty out of Dallas
Donating a vehicle you no longer need or use will enable us to provide food, health care, housing and many other services to our neighbors in need this holiday season. 

We accept cars, trucks, boats, motorcycles and more. Please contact us as soon as possible if you are considering donating your vehicle in order to receive your tax deduction this year.


•One easy call to 972.231.2220 and CitySquare will have your vehicle, running or not, picked up within 24 hours.

•Donating a vehicle is faster, easier and safer than trying to sell it yourself and lost titles are no problem.  
                                                
•When sold, you will receive a tax receipt


Donate a vehicle today….change a life tomorrow

About CitySquare
For nearly 25 years CitySquare has addressed the root causes of poverty through our work in the areas of our four pillars- Hunger, Health, Housing and Hope.

Over 90 percent of our funds go directly to program services, earning us the highest 4-star rating from Charity Navigator for seven consecutive times.

To learn more, please visit: www.CitySquare.org

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Icons: Mrs. Alexander and the CitySquare coffee pot


During my very first week at CitySquare, way back when it was known as Central Dallas Food Pantry (1994), I made an important purchase:  an industrial size coffee pot! 

I recall very clearly that first day as I broke out my new coffee maker. 

As I worked to set it up and make coffee in the interview room, a long-time volunteer said to me, "What are you doing, Larry?"

"Well, I'm making coffee in our new coffee maker!  I like coffee.  I expect our neighbors like coffee.  So, we can get acquainted over a cup of coffee!" I excitedly explained.

"Don't you know that if you make coffee these people will never go away," the volunteer informed me.

It was at that point that I realized we had a ways to go and grow when it came to community engagement and development.

Well, the coffee maker went to work, and lots of stories continue to orbit around the old pot! 

A couple of years ago, the coffee maker got put up, largely due to the crowds that have streamed into the food pantry for assistance over the past few years.  We had a hard time with the scale of demand for coffee.  Putting the pot up was a mistake, even with the understandable challenges.

Recently, we broke the coffee maker out of the closet!  Above you'll see Ms. Nois Alexander, long-time volunteer who understands the power of hospitality and friendly conversation over a hot cup of Java! 

Glad to see my old coffee back in service!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Robert's life

Robert Cooks has made CityWalk@Akard his home for the past two years and has seen, first hand, the positive effects of building genuine community. A former drug addict, Robert turned his life around after spending several years in and out of prison. He credits CitySquare for helping him find his way to becoming a better, more productive and fulfilled person.

CityWalk@Akard is a diverse, economically mixed 200-unit apartment complex located at 511 N. Akard. The building is part of CitySquare's partnership and ongoing efforts with the Central Dallas Community Development Corporation (CDCDC) to provide affordable housing options for low-income families, the homeless and those at risk of homelessness.

Continual neighbor support services for CityWalk residents are offered by our Community Life department, which Robert takes full advantage of. He participates in financial education classes and has worked with a social worker to identify his strengths and weaknesses. Through in-depth evaluations and discussions, Robert has set short and long term goals and has created an action plan to help him become more self-sufficient. "I've built up confidence in myself and I'm motivated to achieve my goals," says Robert. 

Robert suffers from cerebral palsy, a group of disorders involving the brain and nervous system affecting body movement, balance and posture. In spite of this disorder, he tries to remain positive and upbeat. Twice a week he visits with a physical therapist who has helped him realize and understand the importance of keeping his body strong. The Community Life team and neighbors at CityWalk say he always has a kind word to say and his smile and positive attitude are contagious.

Robert stays active and volunteers regularly throughout the community. He attends Central Dallas Church where he is a deacon, sings in the choir, serves on several committees and attends Bible studies and a recovery group. 

Without the stable housing at CityWalk and the life services offered through Community Life, Robert admits that he doesn't know where he'd be right now.  

Please help CitySquare continue to house and support our neighbors in need. Your gifts enable us to equip Robert and others like him with the tools and resources needed to move forward and start a new chapter in their lives. 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

There was a rich man. . .

‘There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day.  And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores.'
 
a story told by Jesus
St. Luke 16:19-21

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Our next "Big Tex"?

The video is way tough to watch, especially for a guy who grew up going to the State Fair of Texas and watching Big Tex do his thing!

Amazing how this cultural icon evaporated before our eyes in a matter of minutes!

Of course, I know Big Tex will reappear next year at the fair.

But, I'm wondering who the new icon will resemble?

Will he be a replica of the former vision of what Big Tex looks like?

Or, might the new Big Tex more nearly reflect the new Dallas community that we all enjoy?

Could he be Hispanic or African American?

Should he be?

If not, why not?

I've known lots of Latino cowboys, just come visit my neighborhood--boots and hats everywhere! 

Or, consider the legacy of the buffalo soldiers and the surprising heritage of black cowboys in Texas and southwestern history and culture.

Why not an image drawn from the "minority majority" that is our city and increasingly our state today?

Or, what about a Texas cowgirl?

Plenty of historic precedent for female leadership in the wild, wild west that was/is Texas!

The fire you'll see below just has me thinking about the opportunity we have to reconsider the Dallas
image.


Friday, October 26, 2012

Love this story!

How do we accomplish something like this down Malcolm X Boulevard to Grand Avenue and beyond?  

Hard?  Yes!

But I refuse to use the word "impossible."  

There's got to be a way without a hurricane. . .but we'll need an investment partner like New Orleans found.  

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Homeless hero

Here's a powerful story about a homeless citizen who acted quickly to assist a police officer under attack. Good people on the streets of Dallas. We need to provide housing and decency for those at the bottom.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Opportunity Center Update!

Check out the video below to get a feel for CitySquare's new Opportunity Center!

We're on course to open in late spring 2013.

Equally important is the "feel" you'll get of the surrounding neighborhood. The second video spotlights "the Porch" at the corner and the service station whose owners have been so kind to all of us and to our homeless friends and neighbors.

 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Poverty and our kids

A significant block of an entire generation of children is growing up in poverty.  As a matter of fact, almost 1 in 4 American children lives in poverty today in the United States.  The long term implications of this horrible reality staggers the mind.  Our children and grandchildren will face enormous social/community challenges as these children move into adulthood.  The impact on our economy alone promises to be devastating.  

Consider the facts:

16 million kids live in poverty--lined up hand-in-hand they could stretch across the nation 5 times!

Children of color are over twice as likely to live in poverty as are their white counterparts.

14% of our children reside in overcrowded housing.

Poor children are twice as likely to live in unsafe homes.

6% of these children live in neighborhoods without parks, recreation centers, sidewalks or libraries.

11% of poor children line in areas of concentrated poverty.

Poor children are 6 times more likely to live in unsafe neighborhoods and in neighborhoods with graffiti, dilapidated housing and litter.

Children in poverty are 5 times more likely to repeat one or more grades in school.

82% of 4th graders from low-income families are below proficient reading level.

77% of 4th graders from low-income schools are below proficient reading level.

Children in poverty are 6 times more likely to live in unsafe neighborhoods.

20% of children in poverty NEVER participate in any physical activity.

Children in poverty are twice as likely to miss 11 or more days of school annually.

These children are 13 times more likely to never feel safe in school.

They are twice as likely to be unengaged in school.

They are 7 times more likely to bully other children.

Children in poverty are 3 times more likely to have NO health insurance.

They are more likely to have unmet needs in medical care by 2 times; in mental health care by 3 times; in dental care by 4 times; twice as likely to have chronic health conditions; 5 times more likely for those conditions to be moderately or severely debilitating. 

These children are twice as likely to be overweight or obese.

"The bottom line:  Disparities for children in poverty are numerous and wide-spread.  The ill effects will reach far into the future and across generations.  It is a multifaceted issue that needs multifaceted interventions.  It is the issue of our time!"  Richard NW LeDonne

[This material "lifted" from the work of Richard NW LeDonne.]


Sunday, October 21, 2012

Offensive faith



 I believe it to be a great mistake to present Christianity as something charming and popular with no offense.... We cannot blink at the fact that gentle Jesus meek and mild was so stiff in his opinions and so inflammatory in his language that he was thrown out of church, stoned, hunted from place to place, and finally gibbeted as a firebrand and a public danger. Whatever his peace was, it was not the peace of an amiable indifference.
--Dorothy Sayers


Friday, October 19, 2012

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Tour offer for Opportunity Center!


Strange prayer requests?

To 21st century ears and sensibilities the words of this ancient prayer pull us up short.  The expressed desires of the unknown author startle us with a radical, counter cultural value set.  Possibly we've never needed to hear words like these as badly as we need to hear them today.  

Two things I ask of you, O Lord;
do not refuse me before I die:
Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
give me neither poverty nor riches,
but give me only my daily bread.
Otherwise, I may have too much
and disown you and say "Who is the Lord?"
Or I may become poor and steal,
and so dishonor the name of
my God.  (Proverbs 30:7-9 NIV)

The words of the prayer originate from Agur, the son of Jakeh, about either of whom we know nothing beyond these words. 

Fairly amazing words, don't you think, especially when laid alongside the values, goals and aspirations of most of us. 

Everything about our culture, economy, education system and passions lead us in a completely different direction, often in exactly the opposite direction. 

I mean think about it. 

Do we long only for truth?  Do I guard my heart, mind and life from falsehood of every sort?  Or, do I embrace the latest "lie of the day" that often streams at me from a variety of media with the intensity of an open fire hose?  In a world of wild, maddening abundance of information, do I pursue the truth with unrelenting dedication, no matter how demanding, confusing or tiring?  Most important, does my spiritual life train my heart on such a quest?  Or, do I settle for something short of truth, something more akin to lies and falsehood? 

More personally, am I open, even eager to face the truth about myself? 

Ouch!

Can I be satisfied with "only my daily bread"?  Are my prayers filled with desires for life's very basic, even simple places and experiences?  "Just my daily bread, Lord, just my daily bread!"

Do I understand the danger of wealth?  Am I honest enough to admit and know well in advance of shifting fortune, that wealth possess the power to swamp my spiritual life completely?  Do I accept the fact that wealth often fills me with a very false sense of self-assured arrogance.  If my net worth puts me in charge of life, what's the notion of God about anyway? 

Can I identify at all with real poverty?  What would I do if my finances turned down so that I took my place alongside my buddies who live out on the mean streets?  Would my hunger and general despair drive me to steal in order to survive?  I know myself well enough to confess that in such an extremity I'm sure I'd be capable of acts and decisions that clearly would be dishonorable. 

The prayer of Agur elevates the basic, the simple, the middle ground.  The prayer links truth in life with a refreshing simplicity of values. 

In a world dominated by materialism and consumption, Agur hands me a prayer I need to learn to pray.  

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Jose and hope

My dear friend and DREAM Act student/child, Jose Ibarra sent me the following note last week.  Jose, like hundreds of thousands of children brought to the U. S. by their parents without proper documentation through no fault of their own, now lives in Mexico after his deportation.  The small town in which he resides has been a strange place for him.  He has suffered a number of real challenges. 

In his note he describes his hopes and dreams to return to the only "native land" he's ever known.  Jose, like thousands of young people like him, needs to be given the chance to return to this country and make his contribution, a contribution I guarantee he will make if given the opportunity. 

Pray for Jose.

Write your member of Congress and your two Senators today on behalf of Jose.  Ask them to support efforts to pass the DREAM Act today.  Then, encourage them to back comprehensive immigration reform NOW!


Hi Mr Larry,
I know it's been a wile since the last time I emailed you, but I hope you understand my sad situation.
I'm emailing you to let you know that I still remember y'all and to let you know that my wife came to visit me on August! She came here for a few days but as of this year sofar, those were the best  days I've ever lived here in Mexico. I also want you to know that my wife has an important meeting with immigration in October 23rd @ 8:30am. The meeting will be about the I-130, to see if they approve it or not! We've been praying hard for it to get approved so that our nightmare ends already. I will be keeping you posted of any news that I receive so be aware :)

I hope you and your family are doing well as I am too.

Sincerely,
Jose I.

please excuse typos, if any...
        Mr. Jose I.

[To learn more about the saga of Jose and his cousin, Monica, type their names into the search tool for this blog page.]

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Gracie loves to dance!

Gracie Toombs, my beautiful granddaughter, loves to dance!

 I captured the video clips here at the recent Lake Highlands Oktoberfest celebration. Gracie will be mid-frame for me most of the time.

The Hip-Hop may be harder to follow! Just watch for the black outfit with lime green trim and the red Converse All-Stars! Gracie is pure class!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Wyatt and the self-discovery that is a game!

My oldest grandson, Wyatt Toombs finds his greatest contentment in anything related to a ball or sports. Recently, a parent of one of his flag football teammates caught Wyatt in motion on the field. Watching Wyatt provides a real time primer in self-discovery. I love my grandchildren!



Sunday, October 14, 2012

Owen swats it in comeback!

I love seeing my grandchildren enjoy themselves.

Check my short video below of Owen Frazer, my grandson, coming to bat with runners on base and two outs.  His team went ahead as the result of this comeback inning! Oh, and forgive/ignore my shouting encouragement in the background--I'm basically uncontrolable when it comes to my grandkids!


Saturday, October 13, 2012

Radical



 The radical is that unique person who actually believes what he says. He is that person to whom the common good is the greatest personal value. He is that person who genuinely and completely believes in humankind. The radical is so completely identified with humankind that he personally shares the pain, the injustices, and the sufferings of all his fellow humans. For the radical, the bell tolls unceasingly, and every man's struggle is his fight.

--Saul Alinsky

Friday, October 12, 2012

CitySquare Board member, Jon Halbert and his wife, Linda, played a major role in the production of Rising From Ashes.

 It's an amazing story.

 The Halberts possess great hearts for justice, compassion and opportunity.

 Enjoy the clip.

Plan on seeing the movie!

Here's a bit of previewingcommentary:


Team Rwanda started out as a cycling organization however they quickly learned they had to care for the greater needs of each athlete. Many of the riders could not read or write, lived in homes without water, electricity, were malnourished, and had never received healthcare, or even knew what a dentist was. But there was still a greater issue, the issues of the heart. These riders were all recovering from the traumatic psychological effects of the 1994 genocide. Team Rwanda had to look deeper.
Team Rwanda has not solved all of these problems but it is making a difference. Riders are provided a modest salary to help provide for themselves and their families, equivalent to three times the national average income. Riders are given English lessons and taught how to read and write. Healthcare is provided for the ongoing issues of malaria and water born diseases. When funds are available, the riders are given regular health checks and dental care. The riders are given the responsibility of being ambassadors for their country to the World.
While the team has taken care of the physical and mental issues it has provided something greater... hope. Rwanda is a country recovering from one of the World’s most devastating genocides and they have longed for heroes. The riders of Team Rwanda have become more then just a cycling team, they have become ambassadors of hope and men to look up to. They have given the country a vision of something greater then themselves and a renewed sense of purpose.
Rising From Ashes is more than a movie, it’s a story tool that relates to each and every one of us. It’s a gateway of hope. But this is just the beginning. Since 2005 Team Rwanda has developed a model for caring for passionate athletes and it’s about to expand the vision. In 2012 Team Rwanda will begin the next phase, the development of Africa’s first all black, all African team to attempt the greatest cycling event in the world, The Tour de France. 


Thursday, October 11, 2012

Responding to the needs of Jesus

"For I was hungry, while you had all you needed.

"I was thirsty, but you drank bottled water.

"I was a stranger, and you wanted me deported.

"I needed clothes, but you needed more clothes.

"I was sick, and you pointed out the behaviors that led to my sickness.

"I was in prison, and you said I was getting what I served."

Matthew 25:31ff
--Richard E. Stearns Version
from The Hole in Our Gospel
page 59

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Screening "Revisionaries"


CitySquare is hosting a fundraiser and movie screening of Scott Thurman's important documentary!

When:   Thursday, October 11, 2012

Where:  The Magnolia - West Village 3699 McKinney Avenue, Suite #100, Dallas, Texas

Agenda:
6:30 - 7:00 – Doors Open
7:15 - 8:45 – Movie Screening
8:45 - 9:30 – Community Conversation/Town Hall - Style Discussion

Featured guests include: Scott Thurman – the film's director; Mavis Knight – Board Member, Texas State Board of Education; Ron Wetherington – Board Member of Texas Freedom Network, Professor at Southern Methodist University; Rev Gerald Britt – VP of Programs and Public Policy (CitySquare), and  moderated by James Washington - Publisher with the Dallas Weekly

 Cost: $20 Price includes small popcorn and a drink.

About the Film:  Once every decade or so, 15 elected citizens influence what is taught to every child in the state of Texas. The often highly politicized, state education board does so by rewriting the teaching and text book standards for millions of children with most of America following suit. Because Texas is one of the nation’s largest textbook markets, as well as the deciding factor on which books its public schools buy, publishers typically print editions for all of America based on the Board’s rulings. “The Revisionaries”, a new, award-winning documentary, tracks the rise and fall of these controversial, secreted figures in American education while proving that political power and ideological beliefs indeed still have an immense effect on what our children are learning every day. It is the first-ever film to spotlight all that surrounds Texas’ bruising textbook battles, and to take seriously their far-reaching impact on public education across the country.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Paved super highway to success. . .if you can pay!

Maybe it's just me.  [I can hear my ever-faithful boo-birds chiming in on me just here!]

But there is something a bit off-center about the expansion plans for I-635 LBJ Freeway and its new toll lanes.

Dallas Morning News columnist, Steve Blow placed the spotlight on the problem in last Sunday's paper ("Untolled to untold inequity on LBJ," B-1).  It seems there is a contest to name the new, super fast lanes that will carry with them a toll.

The extra toll lanes are designed to get more traffic down the ever-crowded thoroughfare.  Those who can pay will be able to access the new lanes and will get down the road faster.  Those who can't afford them will not be able to take advantage of the new passage.

Some have suggested that the toll lanes be named "Lexus lanes."

What's really revolutionary about these lanes, as Blow points out, is the fact that the toll on the lanes will be recalculated every five minutes based on the number of cars attempting to access the new lanes (three lanes in each direction).  The more cars in the lanes, the higher the toll.  And, once fully implemented, there will be no cap on tolls.  Electronic signs will notify drivers of the "going rate" at the time.  Classic matter of supply and demand.

Here's Blow's conclusion:  "It's just inevitable that the fast lanes will be filled with the well-heeled and the slow lanes with the paycheck-to-paycheck crowd.  And are we OK with that?. . .Can any nation remain strong when the gap between rich and poor grows wider in every way--right down to the streets they drive on?"

Here's an idea.  With the current technology available, we could read the license plate number and charge a toll based on the make, model and vintage of each car that passes through the toll lane.  If I drive a Lexus or a Jag, my toll will be higher.  If I drive a 12-year-old Chevy, then the toll is assessed accordingly.

The ability to pay out of pocket should not be the measure of everything.  The enterprising desire to work and to drive to work, even at a low wage job, should be rewarded by equity in public transit.

Fast lanes should be for everyone who's battling to get somewhere.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

The Cat


Unconcerned, my extremely well-adjusted cat
Walks through the room purring like a, like a, like a
Cat, the cat she is.

Playful beyond belief, the cat finds ever-new
Ways to entertain herself, making inventive mischief a
Trait of character.

At last worn out, this exceptionally unexceptual
Cat jumps into my lap, settling down
For a nap.

The cat does well, very well at simply
Being what she is:  a cat; There seems a lesson here--
To be a man, and only that.


Saturday, October 06, 2012

Presence and vision

When we first conceived the vision for the Opportunity Center, I never imagined that we would have such a view into the "soul" of our city.

Friday, October 05, 2012

The high cost of homelessness

I came across this site recently.  It makes the case we've been working to make here at CitySquare and across the hall at the Central Dallas Community Development Corporation for some time now.  Take a look at this material.  Once inside, you'll be able to dive as deeply as you'd like.  What follows is a summation of the larger report.  Hint: the graphics alone are well worth the effort to investigate.

This report summarizes what we know about the cost of addressing homelessness by looking at key literature from Canada and the United States. What becomes clear is that the status quo is actually really expensive. It may seem counter intuitive to suggest that it is cheaper and more cost effective to provide people who experience homelessness with the housing and supports they need, rather than simply provide them with emergency supports through shelters and soup kitchens. However, the research reviewed here indicates that this is actually the case. The best social and economic policies should be based on research and evidence, and in this case, the evidence points to the fact that if we do things differently, we not only achieve better social outcomes, but we also save money.

Go to the report here.  

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Wealth gap drives new era of segregation

Rising Income Gap Shapes Residential Segregation
by NPR STAFF
September 23, 2012

The income gap is receiving much attention lately as more Americans are isolating themselves around "people like us." More accurately, they surround themselves with people who earn similar incomes, and it is now fueling a rise in residential segregation. One recent study suggests the income gap might be greater today than even during colonial times – even when you account for slavery.

 "Thirty years ago, about 9 percent of all upper-income people lived in predominantly upper-income neighborhoods," says Paul Taylor of the Pew Research Center. "That share has now doubled to 18 percent."

Taylor recently co-authored a study that tracked this income gap increase between 1980 and 2010.

 He tells Jacki Lyden, guest host of weekends on All Things Considered, that this is a national trend. But, he adds, locally several factors can contribute to residential segregation by income, including in-migration, the nature of the local economy, housing discrimination and even a city's physical layout.

 Although it might seem self-evident that people of similar incomes would gravitate toward one another, Taylor says the problem is that it creates an increasingly polarized electorate. "We are in a political moment where the sense of the middle, the sense of the cohesion, isn't feeling particularly robust," he says. "One outcome of that is a sense that the political process is ossified ... [and] that Washington doesn't work." 

Residential segregation also makes it easier when it comes to gerrymandering, or redrawing district boundaries. Taylor says that increasingly the people who draw those lines do so in order to create "safe" districts, whether for Republicans or Democrats.

Read and listen to the entire report here.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

For leaders to avoid. . .

16 Things Successful Leaders Never Do


  1. Never let the bottom line be the bottom line.
  2. Never pretend things are ok when they aren’t.
  3. Never let what you’ve never done be the reason not to try.
  4. Never get ahead by resenting those who get ahead.
  5. Never let those who aren’t doing something prevent you for doing something.
  6. Never do on the road what you wouldn’t do at home.
  7. Never trust anyone who never admits mistakes.
  8. Never achieve greatness through negativity.
  9. Never pretend you can do what you can’t.
  10. Never let others fail before doing everything appropriate to help them succeed.
  11. “An executive has never suffered because his subordinates were strong and effective.” Peter Drucker
  12. Never find wisdom in excuses, defensiveness, or blame.
  13. Never think loyalty is a gift.
  14. Never waffle when it comes to taking responsibility.
  15. Never waver when it comes to giving credit.
  16. Never make excuses. “Never make excuses. Your friends don’t need them and your foes won’t believe them.” JohnWooden
Bonus: Never create the future by recreating the past.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Discussing race. . .with the gloves off!

Things happen at "the Porch" there at the corner of Malcolm X and Dawson.

Last Thursday I was running late, but made it to my normal sitting place about 2:15 p.m., a quarter hour late.

Seated on the steps were two men, one a friend, one a stranger.

Art, my friend, happens to be African American.

The newcomer, Mr. Ortega, Hispanic.

As I took my seat a bit behind the gents, I realized that I had stepped into a lively conversation.

Art, who used to work/volunteer at the Austin Street Shelter, defended himself for his decision last year to "kick Mr. Ortega out" of the facility for a indiscretion in behavior.

The conversation seemed to be heating up just as I sat down.

In just a few moments Mr. Ortega turned his anger my direction.  After overhearing a brief conversation I had with two other men who passed by, picked up a bottle of water and engaged me in a conversation about the possibility of entering some of our permanent housing; Mr. Ortega lashed out at me.

"And, what the ______ are you doing out here?"  he asked indignantly.  "You can't do nothing.  You're giving these guys false hope. Your water don't mean nothing!"

"Well, I need more housing units for sure, but you all deserve much better than living in a shelter," I tried to explain.

"I'm a Mexican, man!" he exclaimed, now shouting at me.  "I don't need none of your ________  _________ help!  I stand on my own feet and I don't need nothing you got!" he dismissed me.

"You might be surprised," I quipped with a smile.

"Yeah, you don't understand, Ortega," Art injected in my defense.

"All you White guys are alike," he played the race card with defiance. "You're afraid of the blacks and you 'kiss up' to them and give them whatever they want."  

At this point Art and I both laughed.

This conversation went on for almost two hours.

We argued.

We reached momentary agreements.

A couple of times we almost arrived at conciliation and mutual appreciation.

When it was time for me to leave, Mr. Ortega called out to me, "Don't be afraid to come back!"

"Oh, I won't be afraid and I'll be back.  We need to keep talking."

As I've thought about this conversation since Thursday, it has become clear to me that three men, one black, one brown and one white engaged in an honest conversation, expressed deep differences of opinion and perspective, but parted amicably with the notion of meeting again.

I'm not sure but we may have stumbled upon a pathway to community reconciliation.  The secret is found in conversation, no matter how hard, rough or challenging.  We'll stay at it.

Monday, October 01, 2012

The health care homelessness connection

It is an honor to serve as a board member with Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance (MDHA) where I chair the Public Policy Committee.  

Tim Thetford serves as Director of Public Policy for MDHA.  We are very fortunate to have such an experienced voice working for us in Dallas.  

On September 23, 2012, The Dallas Morning News published Tim's Op-Ed essay on the clear connection between the lack of affordable health care and homelessness.  

Here's what Tim had to say:
Access to health care is essential for the treatment of mental illness, addiction and chronic medical conditions. Each year, the number of families who become vulnerable to homelessness increases for lack of access to medical care. The rapidly rising cost of health care in America, which has outpaced income growth for two decades, is gradually putting health insurance out of reach for more and more Texans.
The U.S. has wrestled with the public policy and financing challenges related to health care accessibility for more than half a century. Affordable health care is an especially crucial issue here because 6 million Texans are uninsured. For the poorest of the poor — homeless individuals — the related suffering and high costs are immense.
Read the entire essay here.