Tuesday, March 31, 2009

CityWalk@Akard: An Ongoing Report--Part 3

What follows by video is a continuing tour of our new studio and one bedroom apartments in CityWalk@Akard.

Walking through this building gets me jazzed about the possibilities that will open up for some really great people who need housing or better housing tonight!

Reactions invited!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Housing Trust Fund for Texas--new hope!

The Texas Legislature will likely consider a positive and dramatic expansion of the state's Housing Trust Fund. Currently, Texas places a meagre $5.8 million annually into the fund. Now Senator Royce West and Representative Yvonne Davis have drafted bills that would establish a flat document recording fee of $10 on real estate transfer/sale documents. Such a fee would generate an estimated $30 million (conservative estimate) annually to the Housing Trust Fund.

The Housing Trust Fund makes funding available for the development of much needed affordable housing for low-income families in Texas. Those of us who work in the field of affordable housing recognize the pressing need for these funds and, even more, for the creation of a steady, sustainable stream of funding for this important purpose.

Unfortunately and, in my view, inexplicably, Texas realtors oppose even this small fee increase that would fund this important work. Housing Texas provided the following page of "myth and fact" about the pending legislation relative to this important issue.

Review what follows and then contact your state senator and representative to express your support for the legislation:


Myth: The Housing Trust Fund bills before the Texas Legislature (S.B. 950 and H.B. 3163)
will create a “real estate transfer tax” on home sales.
Fact: S.B. 950 and H.B. 3163 will establish a flat document recording fee of just $10 on the first page of real estate documents. THIS IS NOT A TAX.

Myth: The proposed document recording fee will add to the cost of housing, and keep low income families from affording homes.
Fact: A $10 fee is minor compared to thousands of dollars in existing fees on real estate
transactions. It should not be the determining factor in whether a family can afford a home.
When compared to the average realtors’ fees on a home sale, $10 is minuscule. (If it is enough to make our break a home sale for a family, they clearly are not financially prepared to purchase a home.) The average real estate agent commission on the sale of a $200,000 home is $10,000 (based on a 5% commission rate). In addition, “administrative” fees and another $3,975 in title and closing costs bring total fees on the transaction to over $14,000.23.

Myth: The Housing Trust Fund is bad for realtors’ business.
Fact: Not only is the Housing Trust Funds a major economic stimulant that spurs additional private investment, adds to the tax base and creates local jobs, but it is actually good for realtors’ business. If funded at $30 million per year, the Housing Trust Fund could provide home buyer assistance to 3,000 households who otherwise may not be in the market to buy a home. Assuming the homes are resold every even years, realtors could generate over $64 million in realtors’ commissions over the next 30 years. This figure is based on the statewide, average loan of $108,231 for homes purchased under the home buyer assistance program, not factoring in likely home appreciation.

With $30 million per year, the Trust Fund could provide owner occupied home repair to 1,000 households, elevating the value of these homes by an average of 250 percent. Assuming a modest initial home value of $60,000, values would be increased by $90,000, or a total increase of $90 million for all homes repaired with Housing Trust Fund dollars. In resale, this would represent $4.5 million in realtors’ commissions.

Myth: Realtors are always opposed to generating revenue for housing trust funds from the real estate industry.
Fact: Individual realtors have endorsed the Texas Housing Trust Fund Campaign and housing trust fund campaigns in other states.


Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Hole in Our Gospel

If what we preach and believe is not literally "good news to the poor," we likely need to re-examine our message.
How would that test work in your life? In your church?

Now comes a new resource to help us understand what is so often missing from our message and, consequently, our mission.

Check out Rich Stearns' new book The Hole in Our Gospel (Thomas Nelson Sons, 2009). Click on the title link to hear an audio portion.

Stearns is the president of World Vision.

Order your copy at the link to Amazon.com to the right and below!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Another inspirational story from Rick Reilly. . .

As I've said before, I love Rick Reilly. In my opinion, Reilly's weekly column in ESPN's magazine justifies the subscription price. When ESPN hits my mailbox, I turn to the last page inside the back cover.

Read his story about Matt Steven and tell me what you think.


CityWalk@Akard: An Ongoing Report--Part 2

We'll continue our "eye witness" tour of the 15-story office tower that Central Dallas Community Development Corporation has under redevelopment.

CityWalk is set to open later this year.

Here's another "rough cut" video segment about the progress.

This particular segment focuses on the 15th floor, market rate condos that are for sale. If you want to buy one, give us a call!

Friday, March 27, 2009

CityWalk@Akard: An Ongoing Report--Part 1

Our CityWalk@Akard mixed income, mixed use housing development is churning forward!

Everywhere I go people are asking me how things are progressing. So, I thouhgt I would run out a few posts that actually show you how things are going!

I'd be happy to answer your questions over the next few days as these video posts continue.

Here's the first two:

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Urban Ministries Prayer Breakfast promises to be great!

The Dallas Observer has a great story on Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins.
Read it right here.

Mr. Watkins will be our keynote speaker at this year's Annual Urban Ministries Prayer Breakfast.

Get the details on the event here.

The Dallas No One Wants to See

We enjoy the friendship of lots of people who have no home. We are working as hard as we can to provide, develop permanent housing for as many of our friends as we can.

Thanks to many factors, our work is far from easy.

But, we keep moving forward because we know the people involved out on our sidewalks and on our back streets.

Lots to consider here:

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Needed: Human Understanding and Some Basic Kindness

Our staff here at Central Dallas Ministries numbers over 100 these days, not including our 40 or so year-round AmeriCorps members, a number that swells to about 125 during the summer. This team is filled with truly great human beings. It is amazing to watch them work. I feel incredibly fortunate to be able to work with such a great group of people.

Not long ago, I received the following email message from one of our team members, Judy Knie. Judy works at the Central Dallas Community Development Corporation and manages our various housing properties from the tenant side. She is masterful at her job. Like just about the entire team at CDM, Judy could be making a lot more money somewhere else, but she is motivated by a heart for people and by her faith. I thought the following exchange would be encouraging as well as instructive.

As I've read back over the exchange, it occurs to me again that the painful severity of most of the problems we face could be lessened if we found a way to increase our human understanding and basic kindness as a community.

Tell me what you think.

Larry, I am forwarding this email to you, not because I want to "toot my own horn" as they say (for John, Johnice and LB are doing the same each and every day), but to emphasize what we are trying to accomplish not only at CityWalk, Ashby, Gaston and Reiger Commons but to, perhaps, bring into clear context what these opportunities mean to our neighbors. I wish with all of my heart th[at] people. . . could hear what Johnice and I hear every single day. I wish they could listen to the tears being shed as a mother, father, grandmother or grandfather say all they wish is to give their children and grand children an opportunity to simply live. The need to have a safe place to come at the end of the day. A place to nurture and protect. The sense of hope for a future - not worry about what the next minute, hour or day may bring. . . .
Judy L. D'Amato - Knie
Properties Manager

Sent: Thursday, March 05, 2009 7:28 PM
To: Judy Knie
Subject: City Walk

Hello Ms. Judy

I was just wanting to touch basis with about the citywalk@akard, I did speak with you several months and you did add me to the waiting list so I was just wanting to make sure that I was still on it. If at all possible I would like to be put on the list for a two bedroom west unit. Also I want to thank you dearly for everything that you have done with open arms to assist me and my family as a tenant in your Ashby Commons Apartments. . . . I Thank God for you and the team of people that you work with within your organization. You give individuals hope that no matter how hard you may fall, if you believe and trust in God to restore he will. I truly feel that God used your organization as a blessing to me and my teenage daughters to give us a home of comfort because to some single mothers that matters. I just want to say Thank You sincerely. I pray that in return YOU be Blessed abundantly to the full, til it overflows.

Thank You Again and Many Blessings


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Oh, now I see! (or, you just can't make this stuff up!)

Texas routinely leads the nation in its record of draconian policy measures and miserly funding for health and human services. One of the reasons Texas enjoys such a surplus of funding these days is because we spend so little on our people, especially those who are very poor.

You know, things like most uninsured children, terrible enrollment rates for Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), food stamps. . .the list goes on and on.

I've always thought that our problem resided in the state's current elected majority opinion when it came to public benefits. You know, like Governor Rick Perry's latest decision to turn down $555 million of federal funding that would benefit the unemployed in our state!

But, now I have reason to believe that I was wrong!

Our problem is much more basic than differences in philosophy.

The whole problem is grounded in simple ignorance!

Just go here to see what I mean!

You can't make this stuff up!



National DREAM Action Day--You Can Help!

Today is "National DREAM Action Day" in the United States!

Below you can read the message that I received from the United We Dream Coaltion and the University Leadership Initiative. You can make a difference. Please take action today!

Dear DREAM Act supporter,

On behalf of the United We DREAM Coalition and the University Leadership Initiative we URGE you and your membership to become proactive supporters of the DREAM Act on TUESDAY, MARCH 24 [today!]-the NATIONAL DREAM ACTION DAY.

Please remember to use ALL resources to take action such as:


  • Letter writing (mail, fax, & email) and call-in campaigns

  • Mass texting friends

  • Forwarding email

  • Sign petition at dreamact2009.com

  • Facebook & My space

  • Write letters to the editor and/or op-ed columns
    • We must ensure that members of Congress understand and support the DREAM Act. The only way for the United States to out-think, outsmart, and out-innovate the competition, is to support policies like the DREAM Act that keep the best minds in the U.S. If you need more information and/or want to be armed with the facts, please contact us via email at ourdream2005@gmail.com so that we may assist you.

      United We DREAM Coalition (dreamactivist.org) and University Leadership Initiative

      What is the DREAM Act?

      The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act ensures that the United States benefits from keeping the best and brightest students in the country by allowing them to become productive contributors to the country's economy.

      It is bipartisan legislation that responds to the demographic realities of American society by acknowledging the potential contributions of some of our nation's most talented, dedicated, and patriotic youth. This piece of legislation ensures that no child in American is denied their dream of having a better life if they are willing to work for it.

      It allows undocumented students who have resided in the U.S. for more than five years, were brought to the U.S. as minors, have no criminal records, and have successfully graduated from a four-year U.S. high school to obtain conditional residence which will allow them to attend an institution of higher education or join a military service.

      It provides zero benefits for immigrants who are not already here or who have resided in the US for less than five years. Within a six-year time span, the young students must prove their merits for permanent residence. The qualified person must have completed a two-year college, two years of credits in a four-year college program, or have served in the U.S. armed forces for at least two years.

      Visit the official DREAM website - http://dreamactivist.org/ where you'll find helpful information and useful tips to become active supporters of the DREAM Act.

      Sign & Share the National DREAM Petition --Please visit and participate in the National DREAM Petition, it takes less than a minute to sign on http://dreamact2009.com/

      You may also email your member of the U. S. House of Representatives and your two Senators with one simple step, go here.

      Let our Voices be Heard!

      On Tuesday, March 24 we ask that each of your family members, friends and organization members call their congress members and urge them to become co-sponsors and/or supporters of the soon-to-be introduced DREAM Act.

      For Texas advocates, please do not forget to target Senator Kay Baily Hutchison: phone (202) 224-5922 and/or via email at http://hutchison.senate.gov/contact.cfm

      Senator John Cornyn: phone at (202) 224-2934 and/or via email at http://cornyn.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Contact.ContactForm

      Find your Member of the House at you https://writerep.house.gov/writerep/welcome.shtml

      **************************************************************** --> -->


      "I'm calling to ask Representative/Senator _______ to co-sponsor and/or vote in favor of the DREAM Act. This bi-partisan & bicameral federal proposal would provide a path to lawful permanent residence for individuals who were brought to this country years ago as undocumented immigrant children. The only students who would benefit from this bill are high achievers who contribute to their communities, have learned English, pledge love and allegiance to this nation, have successfully graduated from a U.S. high school despite many barriers, have been accepted into a 2 or 4 year university OR serve the U.S. armed forces, AND have a clean record with the law."


      Monday, March 23, 2009

      Public Education: Code Blue

      Last Friday morning Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert shared a horrifying statistical profile about our public schools and male students.

      Consider 100 boys in public schools. . .
      • 32 will end up in prison. . .
      • 44 will graduate. . .
      • Of those who graduate, only 4 will read at grade 12 levels and only 1 will be able to do grade level mathematics.

      The Mayor called us to enter the battle, to come alongside our children and their teachers in a community-wide, grassroots effort to help our children perform at higher levels.

      Much more about which to talk in days ahead. For now, is is clear that our community building efforts and all of our gains will be lost until we reform our public schools.


      Food Pantry Crowds in "Real Time", . .almost!

      So, here's what's up right now in our Haskell Avenue Resource Center, otherwise known as the "Food Pantry."

      Thought a quick attempt at a very unobtrusive view of the scene would be helpful to anyone wanting to better understand our world here in East Dallas. Check it out.

      Plans for new "poor people's " demonstration

      The Southern Christian Leadership Conference plans a June action designed to bring the nation face-to-face with its poorest people. The focus of this "poor people's" demonstration will be the towns and rural areas of the Mississippi Delta.

      Worth your reading:

      SCLC plans Poor People's Campaign
      The Associated Press
      ATLANTA - The Southern Christian Leadership Conference hopes to mobilize 50,000 people in the Mississippi Delta this summer in a campaign to draw attention to the poverty of a region where some Americans still live in homes with dirt floors and brown water flows from their faucets.

      The effort is much like the one envisioned by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who was planning a Poor People's Campaign and march on Washington before he was assasinated in 1968.
      SCLC Interim President Byron Clay announced the initiative in an interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday. He said the efforts would be centered not on the nation's capital, but in towns along the soil-rich, resource-poor Delta region.

      "We will bring this nation face to face with poverty," Clay said. "We are organizing poor people of all colors, to form the kind of beloved community that Martin Luther King Jr. talked about."

      A report published earlier this year by Oxfam America found that residents in the Mississippi Delta are living in conditions similar to the world's poorest countries.

      [Read more of this interesting report from the AP ]

      Worth watching.



      Sunday, March 22, 2009

      Resource for seeking justice out of faith

      Groups or individuals looking for a useful tool for a biblical study of faith and justice need to check out this great resource from Sojourners.

      Hungry for Justice provides a 6-week, day-by-day plan for investigating the importance of justice from a spiritual perspective. Groups can adopt the resource as the basis for weekly meetings.

      Order a copy today.

      Invite others to join you in the study!

      Saturday, March 21, 2009

      St. Patrick's Day and Willie Nelson

      Willie Nelson fans should have been wearing the green last Tuesday for the St. Patrick's Day celebration of the release of a very unique collection of music.

      "Naked Willie" offers up 17 selections of the master's music stripped naked of all the back up tracks and typical accompaniment.

      If you are a hardcore Willie fan, sample some of this fine work.

      Note: Buy the collection here by clicking on one of the Amazon.com thumbnails below and to the right and benefit CDM.

      Friday, March 20, 2009

      Health care as human right, not market commodity--an American physician speaks out

      Dr. Marcia Angell has a message for Canadians: Don't be too quick to judge the U. S. system as superior to what is already in place in Canada.

      I can already hear the "boo birds" bashing this post.

      But, that's okay. We've been working for almost 20 years in the world of hands on medical service delivery and I've got to tell you the gaps and the people falling through them call for some fresh new thinking about how we do health and wellness here in the U. S.

      Read her article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

      The key points of the essay include:

      • Health care costs per person are twice as high in the United States as in Canada.

      • The US health care system has worse outcomes, is less efficient and provides fewer of many basic services than the Canadian system.

      • The United States is the only industrialized country that treats health care as a market commodity, not a social service,and leaves uninsured those who cannot pay.

      • In the United States, for-profit health care is more expensive and often of lower quality than not-for-profit or government care, with much higher overhead costs.

      • The notion that partial privatization in Canada will shorten waiting times for elective procedures is misguided.

      • Partial privatization would draw off resources from the public system, increase costs overall and introduce the inequities of the US system.

      • The best way to improve the Canadian health care system is to put more resources into it.

      Angell is clear: privatizing health care in Canada is not the answer.

      In our arrogance, we seldom take a hard look at the facts of the system employed by our good friends to the north. Hear her out.

      Almost 50 million of our fellow citizens would likely find her point of view very interesting indeed.


      Thursday, March 19, 2009

      Starbucks, Sidewalks and "I'm Full Blown"

      Our neighborhood has a Starbucks.

      It took the place of a chain hot-dog shop a couple of years ago.

      I suppose market analysis revealed that the corner of Gaston and Haskell sat in the midst of enough coffee addicts to sustain business in this curious little East Dallas shop.

      I'll confess, I'm really proud it's here. For a number of reasons. First, I love coffee and, even more, coffee shops that encourage sitting, thinking, quiet or talking. Second, the economic development results in jobs and positive movement in the neighborhood. Third, it's just down the street, about four blocks from my office on Haskell. Access is almost always a good thing when it comes to positive places.

      Today in Dallas turned off bright, clear and not too warm. So, I decided to leave the car parked. I walked to get a sandwich and a cup of hot Java!

      Every time I walk in this neighborhood I realize that I should walk a lot more often. Sure, it's a good thing for my heart, etc. But, it's also good for my other heart, for my understanding and for maintaining some adequate vision of reality. Real easy to become shut off from what is "out there," don't you think?

      As I'm walking up Haskell, I hook up with my buddy Charles who operates a detail business of sorts from our property. He rides the bus and/or DART line to our building most mornings, washes cars until he is out of energy or customers, whichever comes first, and then rides back home. Today he decided to call it quits just as I was going for a sandwich.

      Charles and I enjoy the leisurely stroll up the sidewalk--he on his way to the bus stop, me on my way to a snack. I love this man. He's been working with us for almost 15 years. I consider him a good friend.

      He tells me about his 88-year-old father who lives in Alexandria, Louisiana where he tends a big garden. We begin to share "growing up fresh vegetable" stories from past spring and summer crop yields! Nothing like country cooking, we agree.

      Charles bids me adieu as he crosses the street to the bus. I continue on to Starbucks.

      As I reach the back of Criswell College, I notice a stairwell that I've passed thousands of times. I'm remembering seeing lots of homeless people "camped out" on those steps that today are empty. . .or, so I thought.

      Coming to the other side of the dual entrance staircase, I spot a man standing against the wall not looking in too good a shape. As I glance to my left, I see all of his belongings on the steps.

      "Hello," I say to the gentleman, an extremely thin man as he rubs his face as if in pain.

      "Hello," he replies.

      As I walk on toward my intended destination, he calls out to me.

      "Sir! Excuse me, sir!" he half shouts.

      "Yes," I reply, turning around to move back toward him.

      "Could you buy me some orange juice, please?" he asks.

      As we handle the funding issues related to 7-Eleven O.J., he tells me that he stays on the street.

      I tell him about our apartments out North, informing him that there are few requirements to this opportunity. One being disability.

      He immediately nods his head in the affirmative.

      "Sir, I'll be honest with you," he says. "I'm full-blown."

      "Full blown"--a phrase I haven't heard in a while.

      "Full blown," as in HIV/AIDS.

      On the street, withering, dying, thirsty, hungry, on these steps, the steps of a Christian Bible college and in my neighborhood.

      I explain the housing options and ask about his health care.

      "Oh, sir," he speaks with eagerness, "Yes, my doctor is over here at Baylor. He's been my doctor for 11 years. I don't mean any disrespect, but he is white. I love him like a father."

      "No disrespect in any of that," I assure him.

      Did I mention that his name is Michael, this new friend of mine?

      We talked a bit more. I shared my card and encouraged him to walk down to the Haskell building and inquire about an apartment. He promised that he would.

      Walking back after my visit to Starbucks with a sandwich in my stomach and a coffee in my hand, I see Michael across the street drinking his O. J.

      I hope to see him again.

      One thing is certain.

      I've got to start walking around more often.

      Civil Rights History--Full Circle

      You'll want to listen to this segment of Nina Totenberg's story that aired on NPR today. As Totenberg says, "In one snapshot, there it is: civil rights in America, from 1955 to 2009.

      New book from William Julius Wilson worth your time

      William Julius Wilson writes provocative, groundbreaking stuff.

      Included in his bibliography are books like When Work Disappears, The Declining Significance of Race and The Truly Disadvantaged.

      Now, Wilson is out with his latest study that promises to be his most important work to date. More Than Just Race tackles the historic debate sparked over four decades ago by the social commentary of Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan in "The Negro Family: The Case for National Action," or the so-called "Moynihan Report."

      As would be expected, Wilson comes at the issue from a new perspective that rings true upon reading the first reviews of his latest book. As a matter of fact, I heard a group of young black men speaking in exactly Wilson's terms just last week as we discussed a new project that aimed to create real jobs for their community.

      For a sample of Wilson's thinking, take a look at the review from Slate below:

      How To Understand the Culture of Poverty

      William Julius Wilson once again defies both right and left

      By Sudhir Venkatesh

      Pop quiz: Who made the following observation? "At the heart of the deterioration of the fabric of [black America] is the deterioration of the [black] family. It is a fundamental weakness of [black Americans] at the present time." Each year, I pose this question to my undergraduate students. Most will guess George Bush, Bill Cosby, Al Sharpton, or Bill Clinton. This is not surprising, given their age. More telling is their perception that such a view might come from the political left or right. It reveals just how commonplace the link of family-race-poverty is in the American mindset.

      But there is a little trickery going on: Replace "black" with "Negro" and change the date to 1965. The correct author is Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan. He wrote these words as part of a policy brief to help President Lyndon Johnson understand the distressed social conditions in urban ghettos. "The Negro Family: The Case for National Action" leaked to the press and created a firestorm of controversy with its contention that a "tangle of pathology" engulfed black America.
      The so-called "Moynihan Report" brought about a new language for understanding race and poverty: Now-familiar terms like pathology, blame the victim, and culture of poverty entered American thought as people debated whether Moynihan was courageously pointing out the causes of social ills or simply finger-pointing. Moynihan forced a nation to ask, "Is the culture of poor blacks at the core of their problems?"

      [read more here]



      Wednesday, March 18, 2009

      Tuesday, March 17, 2009


      Texas Senate Bill 950 put forward by Senator Royce West in this session of the Texas Legislature expands funding for affordable housing development in our state. During this time of economic crisis, this bill will help struggling Texans obtain a safe, decent, affordable place to live. It will also stimulate the economy by creating home construction jobs and encouraging other public and private investment in affordable housing.

      Here's the brilliant part: The bill establishes a flat $10 "document recording fee" on real estate documents that will generate an estimated $40 million per year for housing programs that serve low-income Texas families. These funds will go into the Housing Trust Fund (currently funded at just $5 million annually) and establish a stable and reliable source of funding for the development of affordable homes.

      Here's the urgent part: SB 950 will be heard in the Senate Intergovernmental Relations Committee TOMORROW - Wednesday, March 18th at 9:30 am or upon final adjournment of the Senate in Room E1.028.

      Here's the action part: If you are in or around the Capitol Wednesday morning or afternoon, please put a card in support of SB 950. If you or your organization is located in a committee member’s district (Senate Intergovernmental Relations Committee, please call that member encourage their support of SB 950 NOW!

      Committee members include: Vice Chair, Senator Robert Nichols (512-463-0103, representing (Conroe Nacogdoches, Anderson, Angelina, Cherokee, Hardin, Henderson, Jasper, Montgomery, Newton, Polk, Sabine, San Augustine, San Jacinto, Shelby, Smith, Tyler)

      Senator Mario Gallegos, Jr. (512-463-0106, Houston--Harris County)

      Senator Dan Patrick (512-463-0107, Houston, Katy, Tomball, Humble--Harris County)

      Senator Jeff Wentworth (512-463-0125, San Antonio, Kyle, Dripping Springs, Austin--Bexar, Comal, Guadalupe, Hays, Kendall, Travis Counties)

      When you call, here's what to say:

      · Introduce yourself and your organization
      · If true, highlight that your organization serves the Senator’s constituents or, if true, highlight the fact that you are one of the Senator's constiuents.
      · State that SB 950 will be heard in Senate IGR on Wednesday the 18th
      · Encourage the Senator’s support of SB 950 and urge them to vote in favor of the the bill in committee
      · Thank the staffer to whom you talk for their time and for passing this message along to the Senator

      Please act now!

      For more details on this important legislation, contact me at ljames@CentralDallasMinistries.org or visit http://www.tdhca.state.tx.us/housing-center/docs/08-SLIHP.pdf for more information.

      Thank you, Senator West!

      Irish blessin' on ya

      "May the blessing of light be on you, light without and light within. May the blessed sunshine shine on you and warm you and warm your heart till it glows like a great peat fire, so that the stranger may come and warm himself at it, and also a friend."

      --Traditional Irish Blessing

      Seeking fairness in the face of the extremist critics of the poor

      In the midst of the nation's economic crisis, complete with its trillion dollar bailout plans of various types, comes the news that American International Group (AIG)--recent recipient of over $170 billion in federal bailout funds--will go ahead with plans to pay a group of top executives $100 million in "retention" pay.

      Now get this: The group of AIG executives in line for these bonus payments work in the very division or group that is responsible for most of the company's financial woes, failures that now threaten the entire economy.

      I've tried to be reasonable on this latest revelation from AIG.

      I've read the reports in The Dallas Morning News and The New York Times. I've listened to the arguments from company leaders that AIG may open itself to legal battles if it doesn't go ahead and pay previously agreed upon incentives and bonuses. I've even tried to imagine how this particular group of executives could be considered "essential" to helping AIG through the "work out" process for failed and extremely complicated investment instruments known as "derivatives." These were the very same employees who created the problem in the first place!

      I've tried, but I'm far, far from convinced. In my worldview these employees should be thanking their lucky stars that they still have a job of any kind. Bonuses? Surely they jest!

      But much more significant for me, and continually swirling in the background noise of the current national atmosphere, are the voices of those who for decades now have been harshly, unfairly, ignorantly and mercilessly critical of the poor in this nation who have turned to us as a nation for a "hand up" out of the continual and very real "Depression" that has ravaged their families during these same decades.

      The urban poor seek and have sought only an equal opportunity--not wealth, not a fortune, not wild, unjustified bonus pay for terrible work product. No, just access to adequate, nutritional food. An opportunity to receive the work training necessary to earn a livable wage. An open door for their children to get a good education that might lead them to university work. Decent health care. Housing that is affordable and fit for human habitation. Fairness in criminal courts and a voice before the civil bench. The list reads like a commentary on the ordinary stuff of American life. No luxury, just fair, decent and hopeful.

      I've listened to extreme critics of the poor speak of these fellow Americans with harshness, judgment, hatred, ridicule, and disdain. Often the criticism has been couched in racist terms and categories.

      Reality for the poor is so terribly different than these ill-informed critics imagine.

      The sort of fraud, mismanagement and disgrace that we've observed on Wall Street since last fall simply does not occur among the poor and those in our government groups who attempt to assist them.

      Have you ever tried to fill out an application for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Department of Agriculture's Food Stamp program? Not an easy task.

      Or, how about a Medicaid or Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) application? Possibly gone through the process to receive Supplemental Security Income to help make it through life with some disabling medical condition?

      Ever try to get a unit of public housing? How about a housing choice voucher for your family? The waiting lists drag applicants out for years and years!

      Or, maybe you've worked through a Pell Grant doucment as you tried to help your child get into college and past all of the financial documentation that must be supplied even when you have so little money for which to account!

      I've said it before, but it needs to be said again: if Wall Street were regulated like the programs designed to assist and lift the poor, the nation would not be facing the current financial meltdown. The poor in this country face needless and undue complications and clearly "engineered" difficulty to gain the basics for life from the public sector.

      The scope and scale of any fraud that occurs in the world of social services and poverty programming pales in comparison to the cost and size of the institutionalized fraud that has been going on in the for-profit sector for decades. Now, we pay the tab for the criminal, unethical and immoral acts of the nation's new generation robber barons.

      No, enough already of the hateful and unjust criticism of the poor who simply seek a better shot at a better life. No more of the unsubstantiated accusations of "fraud" and theft by the poor who "rip off the system."

      No more!

      The time has come to open our eyes to the real fraud, the actual abuse. As is usually the case, the actual "rip off" occurs thanks to the shenanigans orchestrated by the powerful, the well-to-do, the greedy, the wise-guys, the well-connected and the rich.

      No surprises here. Just time for a reminder.

      The headlines today turn our attention to the real problems we face. Their source will not be discovered among the poor, I can assure you of that. So, just save your breath if you're tempted to blame them.

      It's time we woke up. It's time we spoke up and stood up for those who struggle with poverty, and not for those who've caused so much of it. It is far past time for us to engage in the work of seeking a better life for our neighbors at the bottom of this economy.

      "Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy." Proverbs 31:9


      Monday, March 16, 2009

      Matt Martinez, Jr. dies: Sad day for Dallas and all of Texas

      Anyone familiar with East Dallas, knew Matt Martinez, Jr., owner of Matt's Rancho Martinez. You can read the interesting and amazing story of Matt's life below from Sunday's edition of The Dallas Morning News.

      Matt's is a regular gathering place for our family and for numbers of our friends and associates. Going to Matt's is sort of like going to a really wonderful "family" place. When Matt was in the house, he'd come by and visit witih you, tell a story or two and thank you for coming in.

      Matt provided a favorite "watering hole" for a number of the gunslingers with whom I often find myself hanging out.

      I'll never forget the night we closed on 511 N. Akard. We met a crew from the Central Dallas CDC to celebrate at Matt's--where else? We've planned just about every aspect of our Community Health Services around a table at Matt's.

      He will be missed so much.

      Rest in peace, Matt. You delivered joy, relaxing space, great food and laughter to lots and lots of us. We're all grateful.


      Tex-Mex restaurateur Matt Martinez Jr. dies at 63
      12:18 AM CDT on Sunday, March 15, 2009
      By ERIC AASEN and JOE SIMNACHER / The Dallas Morning News

      Matt Martinez Jr., the colorful and charismatic restaurateur who injected his own culinary flair into his family's Tex-Mex legacy, died Friday night of complications from cancer. He was 63.
      In Dallas, Mr. Martinez was best known for his Matt's Rancho Martinez, a popular Lakewood eatery.

      [Read more here.]

      Conversations about community renewal

      Today we enjoyed a serious, groundbreaking conversation involving representatives from an international Fortune 500 corporation and members of our community who understand the real challenges of poverty and urban life in the inner city.

      Both parties appear to be serious about the possibilities for change and renewal.

      I wish you could have been in on the almost two-hour session.

      I left so "pumped" that I had to debrief here.

      Love to hear your reactions.

      I'll keep you posted about the progress that could mean real, sustainable change in one of the tougher parts of our city, as well as across urban America since the corporation is viewing our project here as a "pilo" to be rolled out to over 20 other major urban centers.

      Sunday, March 15, 2009

      The Bible and the Birth Certificate

      Here's a local, Dallas blog written by Karen Shafer, an activist on behalf of the homeless here.

      Goes along with my earlier post today. . .big time! Take a look.


      In the shoes of another

      My friend and community advocate, Michael Davis (Dallas Progress) sent me information about Mark Horvath, a top TV executive in Hollywood who lost all he owned.

      Out of work and with a home going into foreclosure, Horvath quickly became homeless. With no income or a roof over his head, Horvath still had to do something. So he started Invisiblepeople.tv, a personal first account video blog designed to give homelessness a face and voice.

      Like to get into someone else's real life shoes?

      Here's your chance.

      Check it out.

      Rough, hard, true reality.


      Saturday, March 14, 2009

      The Blue Sweater

      Check out this interview with the author of The Blue Sweater: Bridging the Gap between Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World and founder/CEO of the Acumen Fund, Jacqueline Novogratz.

      Amazing story about the sweater!

      Amazing ideas about changing the world!

      Acumen Fund, a non-profit global venture fund that uses entrepreneurial approaches to solve the problems of global poverty, makes critical capital investments designed to change things for the better among the poorest people on planet Earth.

      Fascinating stuff!

      Lessons here for urban investors and human and community developers.


      Friday, March 13, 2009

      Tough Times

      The harshness of the economic meltdown crushes new families.

      More of us are closer to the edge than we want to admit.

      Take a look here.

      Or, read this report.


      Thursday, March 12, 2009

      Reiger and the CDC

      Several years ago, a local business man and church member, John Grady gave a multi-family apartment to the Central Dallas Community Development Corporation. Frankly, the building needed a lot of work!

      Well, that work has been just about completed. Thanks to Johnice Woods' unbelievable tenacity in working with the City of Dallas the building has been transformed. Using City HOME funds, the project received a grant of $370,000. Each of the 16 units in the building has been completely renovated, much to the delight of the tenants, all of whom elected to remain in the building. In addition, an old structure behind the building has been demolished and the parking lot has been repaved. The side lot is being cleared and transformed into a playground for the building's and the neighborhood's children.

      Take a moment to watch the video. I think you'll be encouraged!

      Need continues to swell. . .

      The numbers are in.

      The news is not good.

      The number of people seeking assistance in our Haskell Avenue Resource Center continues to climb when compared to the same period last year.

      The number of individuals served (that is different people) grew by 16% during the first two months of 2009, as compared to January-February 2008. The number of different family units served rose by 24%.

      During the first two months of this year, we saw the number of individuals interviewed increase by 10% and the number of families touched rise by 21%.

      More people coming to us more often for assistance.

      The unemployment numbers released on last Friday don't help. Well over 600,000 Americans lost their jobs last month.

      The needs will only increase.


      Wednesday, March 11, 2009

      Our Core Values

      Central Dallas Ministries operates from a very strong "value platform."

      Our approach to defining our core operational values has been evolutionary since the beginning in 1988.

      Check out where we are today!


      Tuesday, March 10, 2009

      Nonsense: Lost retail dollars in the midst of our economic crisis

      Getting purchasing power into the hands of the residents of Dallas County sounds like a fairly good thing to do these days. It sure seems that way to me.

      This fact led me to check in on my friends at the Texas Health and Human Services Commission to gather some financial data on the state's adminisitration of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) here in Dallas County. (Brief aside: it is interesting that the State of Texas doesn't use the program's correct name in reporting its own numbers in administering the benefit to Texans--evidently in Texas we call it "Food Stamps").

      Here's what I found.

      For March 2009. Dallas County reported out 105,691 SNAP households representing 258,122 individuals. The average benefit per month turned out to be $277. Assuming that the program will function at about this level for the year, Dallas County participants will receive $351,316,884 to spend on groceries at local grocery markets across the county.

      Officials estimate that only 67% of eligible Texans receive the SNAP benefit to which they are entitled. If you apply this estimate to Dallas County (an extremely conservative approach to this research question), it means that 157,748 households are eligible for the benefit, but 52,056 households are not taking advantage of the opportunity.

      Put in retail buying power terms, Dallas County will miss out on $173,036,674 that could flow through our depressed economy at a time when every dollar counts.

      The manner in which the Texas Health and Human Services Commission administers the SNAP initiative should be brought under review by the Texas Legislature.

      Leave the poor aside for a moment.

      Thanks right!

      Forget the poor children (all 153,510 of them who were served in March 2009).

      Forget the senior citizens (all 16,543 of them served this month).

      Just think of the loss to area food retail and wholesale stores this month and over the course of the year!

      Afterall, $173,036,674 is not "chump change." Just ask the manager at your grocery store next time you are there.

      How foolish can we be?

      (To check out the data, go here.)

      Credit where credit is due: thanks to my friends in Austin at the Center for Public Policy Priorities and to Senior Policy Analyst, Celia Hagert in particular for this post.


      Monday, March 09, 2009

      Check It Out: 14th Annual Urban Ministries Prayer Breakfast!

      If you live in Texas or anywhere near it, you should plan on attending this year's annual urban ministries prayer breakfast!

      Have a look right here!

      Make your plans today:

      . . .buy a table

      . . .commit to be a sponsor

      . . .order indivdiual tickets

      . . .tell your friends and associates!


      Sunday, March 08, 2009

      There's a Wideness in God's Mercy

      We sang this hymn during the memorial service for my good friend Bob Glaze back on February 6. I saved the service bulletin and have thought of these lyrics often since then. Certainly, Bob lived these sentiments.

      There's a Wideness in God's Mercy

      There's a wideness in God's mercy,
      Like the wideness of the sea;
      There's a kindness in His justice,
      Which is more than liberty.

      There is welcome for the sinner,
      And more graces for the good;
      There is mercy with the Savior;
      There is healing in His blood.

      But we make His love too narrow
      By false limits of our own;
      And we magnify His strictness
      With a zeal He will not own.

      For the love of God is broader
      Than the measure of our mind;
      And the heart of the Eternal
      Is most wonderfully kind.

      If our love were but more simple,
      We should take Him at His word;
      And our lives would be more loving
      In the likeness of our Lord.

      [Lyrics: Frederick William Faber]

      Saturday, March 07, 2009

      Conversations about my poorest friends--1

      For a long time I've wished there were a way to carry on a conversation with those who visit this site on a regular basis.

      Thanks to video technology, we can now get half-way there!

      This is my first foray into video blogging. We'll see how it goes!

      There is little effort here to be anything but informal, as would be the case if you visited me in my office where this was shot.

      I'd love your reactions!


      Friday, March 06, 2009

      Heart, it's all about heart. . .

      My friend, Mike Cope posted this link on his blog recently.

      I've sent it all over "the world of Central Dallas Ministries."

      Around here, we talk often about how we treat the people who come toward us and into our lives.

      It really is very simple.

      It's just all about heart.

      Take a look and tell my your reactions.


      Thursday, March 05, 2009

      Dallas Dinner Table 2009

      Dallas Dinner Table is non-profit group devoted to developing specific settings during which people from all across our community can come together, share a meal and engage in honest conversations about race.

      Lots of people talk about talking about race and racial issues. Dallas Dinner Table actually talks about race!
      And, guess what?

      You are invited to participate in the 2009 Dallas Dinner Table Event

      When: Thursday March 19th at 6:00 p.m.

      Where: Venues throughout the Dallas - Ft. Worth Metroplex.

      We hope you will join us.

      Registration is open until March 12th at http://www.dallasdinnertable.com/.

      For those interested in volunteering as facilitators, please check the facilitator box on the registration form.

      Sign up now!



      Funny, isn’t it, how authentic strength is so often discovered after times of brokenness and weakness?

      I’ve seen this dynamic at work here at Central Dallas Ministries again and again over the last fifteen years.

      At times, the principle can be observed organizationally. We’ve come through many challenging times as we’ve faced the harsh realities associated with extreme poverty, lack of opportunity, systemic injustice and insufficient resources to do what was most needed at the time. In every case, we’ve come out “on the other side” a stronger, more informed and fully determined team of people dedicated to the importance of community development and connecting people to people across all sorts of barriers and dividing lines that sap strength from us all.

      Then, on many other occasions, I’ve observed amazing strength emerging from weakness in the lives of individuals who’ve come into the world of CDM.

      Today, I’m thinking of Lloyd.

      When he first came to the Food Pantry, Lloyd was just out of prison. A big, strong, street-wise, cynical and scheming fellow, Lloyd asked us for food and accepted our invitation to volunteer to help the community. He later confessed to me that his real intentions were to “scope us out and steal us blind.” He intended to steal food out the back door, sell it on the street and feed his hungry drug habit.

      On that first day, Lloyd worked in the warehouse stacking food and unloading our large delivery truck. At the end of that first day, Lloyd experienced a feeling he had not enjoyed in a long, long time.

      He told me, “I felt like I had done something worthwhile, like my day made a difference. I still hadn’t given up my plan to steal the food, but I felt something very new.”

      Adding to Lloyd’s confusion, Marva Epperson, director of the food handling process at the time, approached him at the end of the day and invited him to come back the next day.

      “Larry, do you know how long it had been since I had been ‘invited back” anywhere! Most people would run when they saw me coming!” he told me months later.

      Before long, Lloyd was helping with just about every task, including organizing the warehouse, driving the delivery truck—he’d worked as a truck driver before going to prison—and even attending the Central Dallas Church.

      Lloyd ended up being released from probation and its supervision earlier than anyone in memory here in Dallas County.

      He maintains his sobriety today. He was united with his family, landed a permanent job driving a truck again, became a leader in the church and continues to live in his hard-won, new-found, authentic strength.

      Lloyd provides an example of a tough, broken man who found his way to strength in community.

      This is our work.


      Wednesday, March 04, 2009

      Haven't we always known this?

      Haven't we really always known this?

      Maybe we're simply "too smart" for our own good and that of our kids.

      Several years ago, I coached a co-ed baseball team of 4th and 5th graders in the Texas Rangers' Rookie League. We played about 20 games during June each year. These kids had never played baseball.

      As we started the season, they hardly knew each other. By the time we finished each of two seasons, the players had become fast friends, took up for each other and all seemed in better condition.

      If I had my way, I'd still be coaching in that league. We had to stop because early season workouts conflicted with TAKS test preparation at the players' school. Another win for standardized testing and a huge loss to the children, their health and, I would argue, their academic capacity.

      What do you say?


      Tuesday, March 03, 2009

      Check out latest CDM Online Magazine!

      For an updated look into our world at Central Dallas Ministries, go here.

      Love to hear your feedback!

      When you're done with this issue, why not pass it along to someone else?



      John's gotta blog!

      John Greenan, my good friend and partner here at Central Dallas, opened a new weblog not long ago.

      I expect that those of you who know John will rush to the site because you know something of his quick wit, native intelligence and great communication skills.

      Everyone else, take it from me, you'll want to read his words. He posts something just about daily.

      John helped found our public interest law firm, the Legal Action Works Center, in 1999. By 2002, he had created the Central Dallas Community Development Corporation to assist us in the production of high-quality, affordable housing here in inner city Dallas. He serves as the Executive Director.

      John loves canoeing, basketball, cooking (great skills here!), literature (masters degree from the University of Iowa in comparative lit), chess, opera (did you realize that in 2007 22 million people attended NFL football games and 20 million attended operas?) and designing and figuring out terribly complex real estate deals.

      We are most fortunate to have him on the team. Check out his blog here.


      Monday, March 02, 2009

      DMagazine Cover Story: Dallas DA Craig Watkins

      Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins turns up on the cover of this month's issue of D Magazine.

      Mr. Watkins will serve as our keynote speaker at Central Dallas Ministries' 14th Annual Urban Ministries Prayer Breakfast on Tuesday, April 21 at the Hilton Anatole Hotel. Start time is set for 7:15 a.m.

      It will be a great morning of inspiration, challenge and conversation concerning justice and faith.

      Read the article about Mr. Watkins here.

      For information about the prayer breakfast contact Lisa Goolsby at lgoolsby@CentralDallasMinistries.org.
      Plan now to join us!


      Wonder if this would work in Dallas?

      Here's a novel idea: get to know homeless people, in this case, homeless veterans.

      Work with them.

      Engage them as friends with real potential.

      Find a way to provide high-quality housing in a good, mixed-income neighborhood and get them inside and off the streets.

      Reaction has been mixed to this plan. Just "listen in". . .

      "Downtown residents, business owners and developers have pushed for the city to aggressively attack homelessness. They say the homeless panhandling and hanging out in Lucas Park prevents the downtown neighborhood from becoming fully realized.

      "But some of those same people say that putting such a high number of homeless veterans into one building is putting at risk one of the city's biggest success stories."

      Read all about it here.


      Sounds familiar.

      Wonder if it would work in Dallas?

      Of course, Dallas is so unique, and it sure isn't St. Louis!

      Oh, well. There I go again.


      Sunday, March 01, 2009

      On being real

      I've said it before on this page: I love reading Rick Reilly. For years, I read Reilly's back page essay in every issue of Sports Illustrated.

      Now that Reilly is at ESPN, I read the back page of ESPN The Magazine.

      Take a few moments to read Reilly on John Elway, All-Pro quarterback for the Denver Broncos.

      Ellway comes across in the incident Reilly describes as much more than a role model.

      Elway steps up to encourage a kid, but in the process he reveals just how real he is as a person.

      Great story about a great guy.

      Lenten Meditation: A story for Dallas and its urban scene 2009

      "The Rich Man and Lazarus" (formatted for modern residents of urban neighborhoods)

      There once was a rich man, expensively dressed in the latest fashions, wasting his days in conspicuous consumption.

      A poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores (likely due to his runaway diabetes and no health care options), had been dumped on his doorstep, outside the walls and fencing that surrounded his estate.

      Homeless Lazarus worked through his days with a single focus: all he lived for was to get a meal from scraps off the rich man's table. Just the crumbs, sir, just the crumbs.

      Lazarus' "best friends"--the only ones to even look his way--were the dogs who came and licked his sores.

      Then he died, this poor man, and was taken up by the angels to the lap of Abraham, to, as we say, "a better place."

      The rich man, sharing the destiny of all humankind, also died and was buried. However, he woke up in hell and in torment. When he looked up, he was completely amazed to see Abraham in the distance with, of all people, Lazarus in his lap!

      "Uh, oh," he thought!

      He called out, "Father Abraham, mercy! Have mercy! Send Lazarus to dip his finger in water to cool my tongue. Just a small thing, just a little help here, sort of like the pocket change I denied Lazarus so often. I'm in agony in this fire."

      "But Abraham said, 'Child, remember that in your lifetime you got the good things and Lazarus the bad things, and you didn't care enough to even look his way. It's not like that over on this side. Here and now he's consoled and you're tormented. Besides, in all these matters there is a huge chasm set between us so that no one can go from us to you even if he wanted to, nor can anyone cross over from you to us. It's just too late, Child.'

      The rich man said, "Oh, no, don't tell me that! What was I thinking? Then let me ask you, Father--just a little favor, sort of like a hot meal or a drink of water or a place to live, like I so often denied Lazarus: Send him to the house of my father where I have five brothers, so he can tell them the score and warn them so they won't end up here in this place of torment."

      Abraham answered, "They have Moses and the Prophets to tell them the score. Let them listen to them. I mean, after all, they are in church every Sunday!"

      "I know, Father Abraham," he said, "but they're not listening and, honestly, in church lots of time is spent talking about everything but Lazarus and the values that would have rescued him while he lived on this side. But, I know that if someone came back to them from the dead, they would change their ways."

      Abraham replied, "If they and their religious leaders won't listen to Moses and the Prophets--to say nothing of the songs they've been given--they're not going to be convinced by someone who rises from the dead."

      St. Luke 16:19-31