Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Community Hunger Day

Can I get another "witness"?

Take a moment to check the link right here.

Reactions invited and needed.

Urban Connection--Detroit???

At present Central Dallas Ministries is engaged in urban, community development in three Texas cites--Dallas, San Antonio and Austin. In the cities outside Dallas we brand our organizations Urban Connection.

A few years ago, I quipped to my partners at CDM that we needed to consider establishing Urban Connection--Detroit.

Of course, they thought me crazy, but such is not an unusual reaction to many of my ideas!

Now, I pick up the September 28, 2009 edition of Sports Illustrated and the cover story hits me in the face: "The Righteous Franchise: Detroit--Tigertown."

Here's a taste of Lee Jenkins' report:

They overlap before home games on Thursday afternoons, the thousands rushing into Comerica Park and the hundreds filing into Central United Methodist Church one block over on East Adams. The crowd streaming into the yard is drawn by a baseball team in first place, a pennant race on full blast, one final taste of summer. The group headed to the church is drawn by a free lunch. In the auditorium on the second floor of the church, the folks sit on metal folding chairs at wooden tables, wolfing down sloppy joes and talking about their neighbors, the Detroit Tigers. "You see the Twins blow that lead last night?" asks Willis Snead, who lives in a trailer park nearby. "That was great for us."

"I really think we're going to win it all this year," says Robert Montgomery, who sells beer at Tigers games. "But after that I'm moving somewhere with more jobs."

A man wearing a Tigers hat and a bushy white beard, who goes by Papa Smurf, sits on an upstairs windowsill of Central United, gazing at the human traffic jam on Woodward Avenue. "Look at them!" he howls. "They're coming in droves!" It is a cloudless Thursday afternoon in early September; the Tigers have taken the first two games of their series with the Indians; and Papa Smurf cannot contain himself. He rushes outside, charges up to a pack of alarmed fans and hollers, "Are you ready for a sweep?" They holler back that they are. Papa Smurf raises his arms in delight. "Detroit is like two different cities," says Papa Smurf, who lives in a downtown apartment now and volunteers at the church after six years of being homeless. "But this team -- and this ballpark -- is a bright light for all of us."
Read the full story here.

What an organization.

What a city.

Anyone besides me game for Detroit?


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Wanted: Grocery Stores for S. Dallas

Speaking of food and access to nutritious grocery options, be sure and read this Op-Ed piece published last week in The Dallas Morning News.

The author?

Rev. Gerald Britt, my partner here at Central Dallas Ministries.

Good word on the DREAM Act

Take a moment to read the latest from Dallas Morning News columnist, William McKenzie on the DREAM Act.

Just makes sense. If you agree, contact your senators today and urge them to sign on to the bill.


1,000,000 pounds!

During September, Central Dallas Ministries passed the 1 MILLION pound mark of groceries distributed to our low-income neighbors.

1 MILLION pounds!

Through June 30, 2009, our food distribution channel had distributed more food than during all of 2008.

A combination of factors explains the rather startling growth.

First, we entered into a new collaboration with Crossroads Community Services (CCS), a ministry of the First United Methodist Church Dallas. We've adopted the robust nutritional guidelines employed by CCS, as well as their "pounds delivered criteria" and their data tracking system.

Second, CDM serves more individuals than any other food distribution site in Dallas. So far in 2009, we have served well over 5,000 more unduplicated individuals than was the case over the same period in 2008.

So, there is the explanation back of the amazing numbers: More people served with more and higher quality food delivered.

Distributing food is essential, especially in tough economic times like these. Savings achieved by families who use our food pantry means dollars freed up from tight, limited budgets to pay for housing, clothing, health care, transportation and child care.

On October 22 CDM will present, host and roll out our web-based "Second Annual Community Hunger Day."

You can help!

To find out how click here!

I know we can count on you.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Parent Academies at CDM

An exciting new initiative is now underway inside the Roseland Homes community. Operation Family Fresh Start "bundles" various Central Dallas Ministries resources and, in partnership with the community and its families, focuses everyone on improving and advancing the lives of all.

Health, employment, education, parenting, nutrition, recreation, leadership development, community connections, crime prevention--all of these concerns come together on the platform we're referring to as Operation Family Fresh Start.

An important component of our new effort is the Roseland Parent Academy. Participants meet on the third Thursday of every month from 6-8 p.m. Our first session (very well attended) rolled out on September 17.

Topics for the academy provide a hint at the quality and character of this aspect of the new effort:

Navigating the DISD System: Rights and Responsibilities of Parents

Homework has changed! Figuring out the "New Math" and

Other Strategies to Help Your Child with School Work

Nutrition for a Healthy Future

Understanding and Preventing Diabetes

Asthma and Other Breathing Problems

A Fresh Start: Informational Services to Individuals Re-entering the Workforce

The Job Talk: Steps to Take to Get Back into the Workforce

"At-ten-Hut!" Trade Offs: Building Success Even if You Didn't Go to College

Financial Literacy: Getting Your House in Order

Positive Steps Toward Home Ownership

Change: The Sky is the Limit

No doubt in my mind, we'll have some exciting outcomes to report this time next year.

Saturday, September 26, 2009


To hear a thoughtful sermon by Dr. John Fiedler on the benefits of civil argument and the downside of the uncivil variety, click here and then select "What Are We Arguing About?"

Once you are there you can fast forward to 30:14 to the start of the message.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Race in America

In view of the current "conversation" regarding race and racism in the United States, I found Melissa Harris-Lacewell's essay, Can We? A Brief History of American Racism, published on The Nation website (September 16, 2009) worth a read:

Congress passed the Alien and Sedition Acts in 1798. These four acts of Congress were meant to protect the new nation from French immigrants. They reflected a broad paranoia that French newcomers would poison American minds and weaken the new American government.

By 1802 President Thomas Jefferson led the repeal of most of these acts because they overstepped federal authority and instituted unjust restrictions.

In 1845 the Know Nothing movement in the United States formed a national political party based in nativist sentiment. This "Native American Party" rested on populist fears of Irish immigration. The Irish, they argued, were streaming into the United States. The Know Nothings argued that these Irish were unwelcome labor competition, and that these new immigrants were bringing with them foreign values, specifically Catholicism, which were a threat to American values.

By 1860 this party was extinguished.

In 1882 President Arthur signed into federal law the Chinese Exclusion Act. Chinese immigrant labor was the infrastructure backbone of the 19th century California Gold Rush, but by the 1880s a significant economic downturn increased competition and turned up animosity. Fueled by scarcity-stoked fear, nativists pushed an anti-immigration agenda, culminating in the 1882 Act that excluded Chinese workers from entering the United States.

In 1943 this act was repealed.

In the 1880s Reconstruction ended in the U.S. South. States of the former Confederacy began to enact legislation that stripped black citizens of the right to vote, ejected black office holders from their posts, and forcibly segregated public accommodations and public transportation. Architects of these Jim Crow Laws justified the exclusion of black Americans from the public sphere as a protection of the values and culture of Southern life.

To read the entire, instructive post click here.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Cover everyone or worry about donations???

Here's a really great essay by E. J. Dionne, Jr., "Uncharitable Charities" from today's edition of The Washington Post.



Sugar tax for improved national health outcomes?

Sidebar poll from The New England Journal of Medicine:

Do you favor taxing sugar-sweetened beverages as a way of helping to finance health care reform and improving public health?

No (26.0%, 493 Votes)

Yes (74.0%, 1,419 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,912 (as of 9/17/09)

Your vote???

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Steve Martin and CDM

Spread the word!

Steve Martin is coming to Dallas in support of Central Dallas Ministries!

Tuesday evening, 8:00 p.m. on October 27 at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center.

Buy your tickets today here.

Please help us sell out the hall by telling your friends!

You can make a difference today. . .

Today is DREAM Act Day!

Watch this helpful and informative video to meet some of the students who will be affected.

Click here to learn more about the legislation.

Then. . .

Contact your senators and your representative in Washington, DC today to express your support for this legislation that would provide students brought to the U. S. by their parents at a very early age the documentation they need to remain here to continue their education or serve in the U. S. Armed Forces.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Looking for a community gardener

A number of community groups, churches and neighborhood associations with whom we work appear interested in community gardening.

The combination of concerns to develop access to healthy foods, strengthen community connections, teach children about nutrition and the environment and find ways to develop new markets for goods and services drive this growing urban interest.

I've been thinking. Why not hire a full-time urban horticulturist--an urban farmer whose only job it would be to engage interested groups, organize local neighborhood efforts and coordinate the production of great, thriving community gardens?

What do you think?

Anyone you know who might be interested in such a job?

Let me know if you know someone like this.

I'm serious.

The "public option"

Last week I spoke with a young woman who works for a large non-profit company in Dallas.

She graduated from the University of Missouri and earned a masters degree from the University of Texas at Dallas.

Her current job is a seasonal, part-time position.

She is looking for a full-time job.

But today, she does not have the benefit of health insurance.

She cannot afford it.

I thought of her when I received the link to this piece on the so-called "public option."

Watch it and tell me what you think?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Progress = Wet concrete!

Here's what I saw at CityWalk @Akard this morning!

Getting near the finish line!

What doctors think. . .

The website for The New England Journal of Medicine (September 14, 2009) reported on a national survey of the attitudes and opinions of physicians when it comes to a plan to provide health coverage for all Americans.

The article, "Doctors on Coverage — Physicians’ Views on a New Public Insurance Option and Medicare Expansion" reports important findings, or so it seems to me.

Here's a taste of the content:

In the past few months, a key point of contention in the health care reform debate has been whether a public health insurance option should be included in the final legislation. Although polls have shown that 52 to 69% of Americans support such an option,1 the views of physicians are unclear. Physicians are critical stakeholders in health care reform and have been influential in shaping health policy throughout the history of organized medicine in the United States.2

The voices of physicians in the current debate have emanated almost exclusively from national physicians’ groups and societies. Like any special-interest group, these organizations claim to represent their members (and often nonmembers as well). The result is a well-established understanding of the interests of physicians’ societies but little, if any, understanding of views among physicians in general. Faced with this absence of empirical data, we conducted a national survey of physicians to inform federal policymakers about physicians’ views of proposed expansions of health care coverage. . . .

Overall, a majority of physicians (62.9%) supported public and private options. . . . Only 27.3% supported offering private options only. Respondents — across all demographic subgroups, specialties, practice locations, and practice types — showed majority support (>57.4%) for the inclusion of a public option. . . Primary care providers were the most likely to support a public option (65.2%); among the other specialty groups, the “other” physicians — those in fields that generally have less regular direct contact with patients, such as radiology, anesthesiology, and nuclear medicine — were the least likely to support a public option, though 57.4% did so. Physicians in every census region showed majority support for a public option, with percentages in favor ranging from 58.9% in the South to 69.7% in the Northeast. Practice owners were less likely than nonowners to support a public option (59.7% vs. 67.1%, P<0.001),>

To read the entire report, with charts and graphs, click here.

Interesting stuff, huh?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Very important "Points" coming from Dallas Morning News on Sunday

Just received this email communication from the editorial-journalistic team leading the ongoing research and reporting on the "north-south gap" that exists in Dallas:

We’ve been careful not to overwhelm you with emails about the online component of The Dallas Morning News editorial department’s “Bridging the North-South Gap” project, but some special things are happening this weekend that deserve your attention.

A few months ago, we launched the Gap Blog to provide an online discussion forum for Dallas policymakers, business leaders and interested residents to engage in a robust debate about the issues confronting southern Dallas. We continue to have a constructive back-and-forth about racial relations, gentrification, stray dogs, code enforcement, minority contracting, law enforcement and a broad range of other topics. If you haven’t checked out the Gap Blog (, you’re missing out on an important resource on southern Dallas.

Speaking of resources, this weekend marks the launch of our latest “Bridging the North-South Gap” project, and it is jam-packed with information, statistics and online features that will add to your knowledge base on southern Dallas.

On Sunday, in the print newspaper, an expanded Points section will contain thought-provoking essays, detailed graphics and maps full of measurements showing how specific neighborhoods in southern Dallas compare to the northern half of our city. We look at property values, educational attainment, poverty and income, employment, health and crime, among many other measurements.

Online at, we’ll offer interactive maps that you can customize to get a better idea of where the challenges lie. Want to know how many houses have peeling paint in our West Dallas Gateway neighborhood? What’s the vacant land in Grand South Dallas? Or maybe where stray dogs are sighted in The Heart of Oak Cliff? These maps will help you visualize the challenges that southern Dallas residents face.

Also online, we’ll have virtual “helicopter tours” of greater southern Dallas and each of our five base neighborhoods. These videos allow you to tour an expanse of territory the size of Atlanta, hover over interesting landmarks, and get an overhead sense of how the southern Dallas puzzle fits together.

An additional online feature is a full database and access to detailed “windshield maps” prepared by the University of Texas at Dallas’ Institute for Urban Policy Research. You’ll be able to download everything so you can access the maps and compare statistics from the comfort of your own computer.

The Dallas Morning News wants to push this discussion forward with an eye toward making real progress toward bridging the north-south gap. We hope you’ll check out this Sunday’s Points section, get involved in our Gap Blog discussion and join forces with us in making our city whole.

Thanks for your continued interest,

The “Bridging Dallas’ North-South Gap” team

Sharon Grigsby
Tod Robberson
Colleen McCain Nelson
Bill McKenzie
Jim Mitchell

The Dallas Morning News
Blogging daily at

Be sure and check out the section in Sunday's paper--print copy and/or online!

Join the action next Wednesday to support the DREAM Act

Here's your chance to take a stand alongside some great students who deserve to be allowed to remain in the United States.

Support the Development, Relief and Edcuation for Alien Minors Act (DREAM Act) by joining us at Dallas City Hall in the Flag Room on the 6th Floor next Wednesday, September 23 at noon.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Help us promote our annual celebration!

This year's version of "A Night to Remember" features the incomparable Steve Martin and The Steep Canyon Rangers will appear in the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center on Tuesday, October 27 at 8:00 p.m.

The show will feature Martin and crew on the banjo.

Spread the word for us!

Buy your tickets now right here!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

"God Bless America"

Grandpa Elliott sings a message that I hear in one way or another almost every day as we work with and among very special Americans who live in inner city Dallas, Texas. Lots to think about here in a day when hatred seems on the upswing.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Gold Glove at CDM!

No matter how long I am involved here, the linkages and experiences occurring in a community like ours continue to amaze me.

Not long ago, we discovered that Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers All-Star infielder, Charlie Neal was Brenda Powers' father!

Brenda serves as the Community Liaison at the J. W. Ray Learning Center, the Dallas public elementary school located just across the street from the Roseland Homes housing development where we've been working since 1996.

For over a decade we've enjoyed a close working relationship with the school, thanks largely to Brenda's efforts.

Charlie Neal won the National League's Gold Glove Award for his play with the Dodgers as their second baseman in 1959, the team's second season on the west coast. The Dodgers defeated the Chicago White Sox in the World Series that year. Neal hit two home runs in Game Two!

Neal played with Jackie Robinson.

A few weeks ago, Brenda brought her father's trophy by the office for us to see.

What a thrill!

Keith Ackerman, our resident baseball aficionado took a look at the unique award and offered to "spiff" it up a bit. Brenda readily agreed and Keith set off to restore the 50-year-old treasure to its pristine condition.

He had the ball re-glazed. He repaired the leather stringing system on the glove. He restored the finish on the trophy's base.

When Brenda came to pick up the fully restored trophy, she was overcome with joy and memory about her father, one of the most influential people in her life.

The entire experience was beyond great!

Hey, I touched Charlie Neal's Gold Glove!


Monday, September 14, 2009

JUSTICE REVIVAL Block Party: Mark your calendar: Saturday, Sept 19

Received this note from Justice Revival Dallas leadership team. Hope you will come. The location is just around the corner from CityWalk @Akard, our new housing development Downtown at 511 N. Akard!

Saturday, September 19:

Justice Revival Block Party Worship and Prayer Gathering
2–4PM Downtown Dallas next to First Baptist Church (1707 San Jacinto St.).

Featuring free food and local musicians, including Jeff Johnson and the Awaken Band.

Download the Block Party promotional postcard or PDF here

Help Dallas' homeless by bringing a new or used backpack with any of the following:

hand-written scripture

reusable water bottle

men's clothes

new socks/underwear

washcloth, chap stick

hair & body wash





Indra Nooyi

We've come to know and appreciate PepsiCo and its CEO, Indra Nooyi. Her vision, her values and the team she leads inspire us.

Her vision for sustainable business models that can benefit and "lift" low-income residents of inner city communities is unique. I'm convinced business must play a new role in any sustainable approach to overcoming poverty.

We're working together on some exciting ideas.

More to come.

Enjoy this window into her vision and business philosophy. May her tribe increase!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Country blues. . .possibly the best country song ever!

As I've said often before, I love country music. It's just where I came from!

This could be the best country, blues song ever!


Friday, September 11, 2009

Job opportunity with Justice Revival and CDM

A message from Justice Revival Dallas:

We're very excited that we're able to hire someone who will ensure that the Justice Revival Dallas (November 10-12, 2009) misison will be carried out post-revival.

Position Title: Justice Revival Director

Supervisor: Larry James, CEO of Central Dallas Ministries

Salary: Moderate, based on experience, with benefits package

The Dallas Justice Revival is seeking to hire a Justice Revival Director starting in the fall of 2009 thru the fall of 2010.

TO APPLY: Please send a cover letter, resume, salary requirements, and three professional references to or to Dallas Justice Revival Search, Foundation for Community Empowerment, 2001 Ross Ave, Suite 3350, Dallas, TX 75201.

Deadline for applications is September 25, 2009 or until position is filled.

The Justice Revival Dallas Leadership Team is strongly committed to equal opportunity. Women and persons of color are highly encouraged to apply.

Please visit to view this item or to change your email preferences.


Justice Revival--Dallas

Justice for the poor discovered in relationships

The Hebrew prophets seem especially hard on those who deliberately exploit and abuse the poor and vulnerable through selfish greed or corruption of the law. The God of the Bible is not merely a God of charity but a God of justice who holds kings, rulers, judges, and employers accountable for how they treat widows, orphans, and workers over matters of land, labor, and capital. All this is rooted in the call to right relationships, which is at the heart of the biblical notion of justice itself. So reestablishing a right relationship to the poor is the beginning of ending poverty. (p. 105).

Jim Wallis

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Our latest E-magazine

Check out Central Dallas Ministries' latest e-magazine here.

Reactions welcome!


Osteen and foreclosure. . .

Check this out from an interview with Barbara Ehrenreich, whose new book, Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America, promises to be a must-read (set for release in mid-October 2009).

Here's a sample from the interview:

During the Great Depression, a mind-over-matter book called Think and Grow Rich, by Napoleon Hill, was a best seller, which was odd since it seemed obvious that there were other factors than one’s own desires at work in shaping the world. Today, prosperity preachers like Joel Osteen are just going on as always. These guys preach that God wants you to have everything, and if you don’t, it’s because you are thinking small—it’s not even that you’re not praying hard enough. A few weeks ago, I Googled “Osteen” and “foreclosure”; it didn’t yield anything.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Thinking of the school children

President Obama's speech to the school children of America yesterday and all of the controversy leading up to it remain on my mind this morning.

I'm remembering President Kennedy's speech during which he laid out the commitment to land men on the moon before the end of the 1960s. I recall the impact that declaration had on schools and on little boys like me. We all became interested in astronomy and the planets and science.

And, I remember watching public events like the inauguration and other major addresses on classroom televisions.

I'm also thinking of the children in my neighborhood who heard the President speak yesterday. I know many found inspiration in his words. My school aged grandchildren were ill yesterday and stayed home from school, but they watched the speech with their mother, she saw to that!

I'm wondering what the kids thought and felt when they heard the negative speech and news reports about their President and his desire to speak to them? I wonder what the children of color thought as they watched him and then considered all of the blow back against him?

We spend our days doing everything we can to encourage these children. Frankly, it upsets me when others behave in a manner that cuts into the impact of anything that might encourage them.

I'll let it go now. But, nothing is more important than the future of the children. The President seems to understand that. At least, that's what I heard from what he said yesterday.

Justice Revival coming to Dallas--November 10-12, 2009

Take a look at this video description of the Columbus, Ohio version of the Justice Revival.

Mark it down: the Justice Revival comes to Dallas November 10-12, 2009!

Check out the event website at:

Monday, September 07, 2009

Read President Obama's speech to America's students here

Everyone can read the remarks President Obama plans to make to America's students tomorrow right here.

The President will be at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Virginia when he speaks.

Sorry, but the reaction against this speech, this idea and this President was ill-advised and downright silly.

We'll use it to motivate the children with whom we work to stay in school, work hard and see the hope that can be created as we stick together.


Labor Day 2009: Not all labor fair

Most of us may not be aware that growing numbers of American workers face real challenges at work around a very central issue: fair compensation for actual work performed. Not all American companies follow ethical compensation practices.

The facts reported in a recent edition of The New York Times seems a fitting "meditation" on this national Labor Day. Honoring working people is a practice we need a lot more of. Possibly the best way to honor folks who work is to join them in insisting that they receive fair and promised wages for work accomplished.

Read the report and tell me what you think:

Low-Wage Workers Are Often Cheated, Study Says
Published: September 1, 2009

Low-wage workers are routinely denied proper overtime pay and are often paid less than the minimum wage, according to a new study based on a survey of workers in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.

The study, the most comprehensive examination of wage-law violations in a decade, also found that 68 percent of the workers interviewed had experienced at least one pay-related violation in the previous work week.

“We were all surprised by the high prevalence rate,” said Ruth Milkman, one of the study’s authors and a sociology professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the City University of New York. The study, to be released on Wednesday, was financed by the Ford, Joyce, Haynes and Russell Sage Foundations.

In surveying 4,387 workers in various low-wage industries, including apparel manufacturing, child care and discount retailing, the researchers found that the typical worker had lost $51 the previous week through wage violations, out of average weekly earnings of $339. That translates into a 15 percent loss in pay.

The researchers said one of the most surprising findings was how successful low-wage employers were in pressuring workers not to file for workers’ compensation. Only 8 percent of those who suffered serious injuries on the job filed for compensation to pay for medical care and missed days at work stemming from those injuries.

Read the entire report here.

We should be doing better than this.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Gerald Britt's post on the President and our school children

By all means, take the time to read Rev. Gerald Britt's post found right here.

Worth your time. As usual, in my opinion, he hits the proverbial nail right on the head!

Want your reactions.

A song about a very wealthy woman. . .

I love country music!

What a song!

What a message!

Friday, September 04, 2009

What's really going on here?

A big part of what we do at Central Dallas Ministries involves children, families and educational achievement.

For the past fifteen years we've supported, developed, nurtured and promoted numerous opportunities for children to improve their educational experiences. We done everything possible to encourage children to value education, to stay in school, to work hard and to achieve. After school programs, summer learning experiences, homework labs, SAT prep courses, college tours, learning camps, technology seminars, work options rooted in education--all have played a part in our efforts to keep children and youth engaged in the pursuit of education.

At CDM we believe that a job that pays a livable wage is the key to overcoming poverty and the urban decay that destroys our neighborhoods.

Therefore, we promote educational opportunities in as many ways as are possible because we also know education is the key to landing the kind of employment that can sustain a life and a family.

We care about education.

We care about children.

Next week, President Obama plans an address to American students about the importance of education and of staying in school through graduation and beyond.

What a great idea!

We love it!

We also recognize and applaud the fact that it has become a national tradition over the past three decades.

President Reagan delivered such an address to our students.

President George H. W. Bush continued the positive practice.

Who among us will ever forget that President George W. Bush was reading to elementary school students on that fateful morning of September 11?

Now comes President Obama. . .our President.

He wants to continue to reinforce the national expectation for our children. He brings a very unique perspective to the task. As a person who had every reason not to achieve, I expect that his own experience with education, its benefits and its importance should be a big encouragement to our students here in Dallas and across the state.

But, a number of people don't agree. They are protesting to area and state school districts to ban the President's speech from our schools.

What's worse, school boards and school leaders are paying attention to the objections. In many schools, listening to the speech will be "optional" for students. In other districts the speech will not be aired to students.

Unbelievable. Simply unbelievable.

What's really going on here?

The Ghost of Tom Joad

We know these people. . .people like the Joads.

Born as much of John Steinbeck's understanding as of his imagination

Enjoy the Boss's music and hear the message.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Imagining poverty in Dallas. . .

Working on a committee with Untied Way of Metropolitan Dallas, I picked up these facts of life in wealthy Dallas County:

11% of our households live on less than $10,000 annually

7% of our households live on between $10,001 and $14,999

16% live on annual income of 15,000 to $24,999

14% live on annual household income of $25,000 to $34,999

17% live on annual income of $35,000 to $49,999

15% live on between $50,000 to $74,999

7% live on between %75,000 to $99,999

6 % live on annual household income of between $100,000 and $149,999

3% live on annual income of $150,000 to $199,999

4% live on annual income of more than $200,000

Total residents of Dallas County, Texas as of July 2008: 2,412,827

Number of housing units in 2007: 938,053

Number of households 2000: 807,621

Consider the following definitions of livable wage earnings for Dallas, Plano and Irving, Texas without employer sponsored health insurance:

One adult/no children: $24,057

Two adults/ no children: $34,110

Single parent, one child: $38,644

Single parent, two children: $45,032

Single parent, three children: $59,671

Two parents, one child: $50,138

Two parents, two children: $54,259

Two parents, three children: $70,628

What are the most surprising findings that you notice in these numbers?

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

German: Permanent Supportive Housing--clearly the way to go

This from the "This Week's Federal Player" column in The Washington Post that spotlights the work of Michael German, regional coordinator of the Atlanta Interagency Council on Homelessness and national captain of the regional coordinators' group:

"The key is not building more shelters, but more housing, even just small apartments or rooms, and hooking people up with available state and federal services such as Medicaid, Social Security, food stamps, veterans benefits or veterans health care," German said. Plus, he said building and maintaining a shelter "is actually more expensive than building or buying places for homeless people to live."

German visited Central Dallas Ministries and our Destination Home permanent supportive housing program earlier this year.

Read the entire report here.
Dallas needs to get with the program.


Message found on a paperweight in my dad's desk:

All people dream: But not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity. But the dreamers of the day are dangerous people, for they may act their dream with open eyes to make it possible.
T. E. Lawrence

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Tiresome work. . .

People call me frequently to ask about employment in the non-profit sector. Or, they want advice on how to begin a non-profit organization. Some call with particular interest in going to work for or starting another group to address the needs of "the poor."

While I do my best to be polite, and while I almost never turn down a call from or an appointment with persons with such interests and concerns, I often want to ask these folks if they've considered therapy!

I'll admit it: I'm a bit tired today.

Don't get me wrong. I'm nowhere near being ready to stop, to quit or to give up. They'll have to drag me off out of the ring by my feet, cause I'll never call it quits.

I'm just tired.

I won't be quitting anytime soon because the last 15 years have helped me understand my fatigue. Let me attempt an explanation of sorts. Maybe you'll relate.

Everyone starts with charity. We want to relieve the immediate and intolerable suffering of people who are hungry, homeless, rejected, marginalized, left out or behind, failing, jailed, addicted, lost, ill, or in some other fashion cut off from life today.

Never mind tomorrow. Action is called for today, and often now.

We can think about the challenges of tomorrow during the middle of the night, but we must never turn away from today and its presenting pain.

Charity focuses narrowly on today. It concerns itself with the needs and complaints and fears of right now. And, it seeks to deliver direct relief, one person at a time to do its work.

Charity can wear you out.

Not only does it direct attention to the immediate and persistent suffering of today, it forces those engaged in relief to work hard to bring help, but it also demands that those who do so also devote considerable time and effort to enlisting the assistance of outsiders who must be urged, cajoled and motivated to provide funding for the enterprises of compassion. Like the work performed in the relief of suffering, the gifts must come today as well.

Recently, a good friend pointed out the hard, but obvious, truth that every non-profit must almost completely recapitalize itself every year in order to carry on its work. Take it from me, that is a tall order.

No matter how we might wish it were otherwise, charity endures. It is essential and it grows tiresome the longer you stay at it. This is true because charity seldom if ever reaches the scale demanded to achieve the systems change needed to keep folks from falling into conditions calling for charity's relief. As suffering continues, charitable gifts must be subscribed, solicited and recognized with a view to the ongoing need for more and continued donations.

Those who work among "the poor" long enough and with enough "success" sooner or later recognize the need to influence and adjust the systemic forces that contribute to the creation of poverty and to the conditions that keep people living with less than they really require.

Such recognition leads to an entirely different, new and even more challenging body of work. To change the system of things requires lots of hours, study, relationship formation and building, negotiation, influencing and becoming generally "political" in a non-partisan and practical way.

Somewhere in between traditional charity work and the work of systems influence and reform, you run into hybrid opportunities through which non-profits working with "the poor" can access new sources of funding from the public sector. These funds are not typically designed to create systemic changes, but they do allow organizations to grow to a new scale that produces more impact with more sustainable stability and that touches more people.

Here the non-profit leader and organization must remain clear-headed, lest he or she think that the new funding and the increased scale ensures the necessary change to turn back the forces that keep people in poverty. The funding is nice, and brings with it a new sort of influence, but the organization that grows content enough to "stay put" in this phase or state needs to reconsider its values and its strategy.

To cut deeply at the heart of the system that produces so many millions of "poor people" policy work must be done continually.

In my view, this policy reform will require new public approaches from government at all levels from local to federal. In addition, the way business functions must also be included in any viable approach to working for systemic change on behalf of the growing masses of "poor people."

In short, government and business must learn to function differently as joint investors in the reform and renewal of the economic life of those at the bottom of our society. Such new partnerships and investments will be based on the recognition that lifting the poorest among us will benefit us all, and in surprising ways. For most impact such new partnerships must be crafted at the local, regional, state and national levels.

Then, there is the community itself. My neighbors who live with me in inner city Dallas must remain the most important characters of all in the play in which we are all actors. They have the leading roles. The script must unfold around them and their lines. We must hear, recognize, analyze and honor the heroic parts they play, understanding at every turn they have been left out of the production for far too long by most producers and not a few directors!

Working with a community, truly honoring community people who also understand deep poverty through their personal experience takes time, effort, patience, humility and a different sort of appreciation, understanding and wisdom that is not naturally part of our national value system. In my view, this is our most important, most rewarding and most demanding work of all.

Effective non-profit leaders interested in affecting the change we need will spend themselves in all of these areas and concern themselves with all of these matters.

The result can be weariness and fatigue.

Today, I am tired.

Ironically, when I experience the next breakthrough, it will be after lots and lots of very tiring work in these varied arenas. But, in the breakthrough I will find the renewal that keeps me going for another round.

Every breakthrough, by definition, means that low-income neighbors of mine or groups of such neighbors all across the city and beyond will find it easier to do better for themselves and for their families, if they are blessed to have families.

So, if you want to talk about any of this, consider calling a counselor first before you call me.

If you insist on talking to me, I'll be ready to visit. . .next week, after Labor Day.