Saturday, July 31, 2010

9500 Liberty

What follows is adocumentary film that everyone who cares about rational immigration reform should watch. Check out 9500 Liberty:

Prince William County, Virginia becomes ground zero in America’s explosive battle over immigration policy when elected officials adopt a law requiring police officers to question anyone they have "probable cause" to suspect is an undocumented immigrant.

9500 Liberty reveals the startling vulnerability of a local government, targeted by national anti-immigration networks using the Internet to frighten and intimidate lawmakers and citizens. Alarmed by a climate of fear and racial division, residents form a resistance using YouTube videos and virtual townhalls, setting up a real-life showdown in the seat of county government.

The devastating social and economic impact of the “Immigration Resolution” is felt in the lives of real people in homes and in local businesses. But the ferocious fight to adopt and then reverse this policy unfolds inside government chambers, on the streets, and on the Internet. 9500 Liberty provides a front row seat to all three battlegrounds

Friday, July 30, 2010

Immigration discussion at a mega-church

Bill Hybels is a well-known name among Evangelicals. He founded the Willow Creek Community Church in suburban Chicago.

Just this week Hybels led a discussion of immigration and immigrants in his church.  The video at the end of this link is worth your time, especially if you consider yourself a person of faith. 
Check it out here.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Basic human and civil right


I know.

I'll take hits for this one. 

But we have a real problem in this city. 

A civil and human rights problem. 

Kim Horner's story that ran in The Dallas Morning News on Sunday reports on the efforts of the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance and the Dallas Housing Authority to inform and work with homeowners near apartments where homeless persons will be provided homes, permanent homes accompanied by supportive services and, even more important, basic friendship.

I think it is important to read the story, like all of Horner's work.  To do so, click here.

Let's get the facts straight.

Fact:  The men, women and children renting the apartments in different parts of the city (we've funded projects in North Dallas and Oak Cliff) have found the funds they need to obtain good places to live.  They now have a means to move from the street and shelters to permanent homes.  Big deal, very big deal, at least for them. 

Fact:  In most cases the homeless and their housing providers aren't asking the City of Dallas to do anything, as is the case with the projects reported on in Horner's story.  The only time city approval is needed is when tax credit deals or city funds factor in the equation.  As a  result, providers or residents are not required to obtain approval from the City Council.  Funds, non-city funds, are in hand for the specific purpose of providing stable, decent, safe housing for those who qualify, for those who need it most. 

Fact:  To deny such people housing due to neighborhood objections is a violation of federal law.  Most of the population in question are disabled.  Thankfully, we have laws that protect the disabled in this country.  Denying housing to these folks also violates the Fair Housing Act.  Denying housing to the qualified homeless invites, possibly guarantees, a federal law suit. 

I'm all for informing the neighborhoods affected, so long as the process doesn't imply to neighborhood groups that people who need housing will not be able to get it. 

I'm all for "educating" citizens about the effectiveness of Permanent Supportive Housing, and it is very, very effective.  The people being informed need to match the efforts of public leaders by investigating the approach themselves before they close their minds to the benefits. 

I'm all for communication and conversation. 

But, at the end of the day, the folks are going to be housed. 

Concessions to opposition just aren't possible in view of the federal guidelines--read "laws" here, civil and human rights statutes. 

So, talk all we want. 

At the end of the day, homeless persons are going to be housed. 

Thank God.

[I wrote the post above last Sunday evening.  In today's edition of The Dallas Morning News, Kim Horner reports that the Dallas Housing Authority will begin moving hmeless persons into the Cliff Manor development.  To read her story click here and here.]

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

America Now

Ann Curry's Dateline report on Sunday evening brought many tears to my eyes. 

You need to see it hereIt is very important work and it is real.

This is what we see every day.  It is what we've seen every day for the past 16 years.

I confess:  these experiences completely define my life and worldview.

Request: resist any temptation to judge.  Decide to simply settle into the reality. 

Then, decide to do something about it.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Charity usually misses the most in need of it

The essay below appeared in the July 20, 2010 edition of The Chronicle of Philanthropy.  After you've read it, let me know what you think.

The Gates-Buffett Giving Pledge Won’t Do Much Good Unless It Changes Philanthropy
By Pablo Eisenberg

Most of the nonprofit world seems to be agog over the news that Bill and Melinda Gates, along with their friend Warren Buffett, are joining together to ask fellow billionaires to sign a pledge to give at least one-half of their fortunes to charity.

That could lead to an enormous increase in the amount of money available to nonprofit organizations. Fortune magazine estimates that if the people on the Forbes 400 list of the wealthiest Americans all made the pledge, an additional $600-billion could flow to nonprofit groups—twice the amount Americans gave last year.

When will this money be distributed to charities? Mr. Buffett has said that he plans to give away 99 percent of his fortune while he is alive or at his death, and he has made clear in his gifts to the Gates Foundation that he wants the money to be distributed quickly rather than left to sit in the foundation’s coffers. But will other donors do the same, or will they put their money into foundations that give only a small percentage of their assets every year?

Who will provide the leadership to increase the quality of philanthropy, not just the amount of money given? So much of the giving wealthy donors and foundations now do is lackluster and does not involve risk taking or innovation. Nor does it seek to solve urgent public needs. Will the new pledges mean more of the same?

What steps will be taken to ensure public accountability? Will the funds that are steered into new or existing foundations follow the Gateses’ approach, namely grant-making institutions governed by a very few family members that, in a real sense, are not really publicly accountable? Do we want an explosion of these tax-exempt oligarchic entities with huge assets that can help set public priorities without public discussion or a political process? Would this be a healthy development for democracy? If not, what can be done to mitigate the potential undemocratic nature of these new mega-foundations?

Perhaps the most troubling issues posed by the Gates-Buffett crusade is its potential to intensify the inequities that exist both in the nonprofit world and in the rest of society.

Foundations, corporations, and other forms of institutional philanthropy tend to favor the nation’s most-privileged citizens and neglect the neediest people and organizations. An outsize share of the money from those institutions goes to established colleges, hospitals, and arts and cultural organizations. Only a small amount finds its way to organizations that serve vulnerable children, low-income people, minorities, women, the disabled, and other disadvantaged constituencies. A tiny portion of philanthropic money is channeled to groups that seek to influence public policies.

To read the entire article click here.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Foundation principle for community building

"So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets."
Matthew 7:12

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Taxes are necessary. . .

Gerald Britt, my dear friend and partner in the work of community renewal at Central Dallas Ministries, offered a courageous opinion published in The Dallas Morning News earlier this week. 

Click here to read.

Let me know what you think.

Of course, I think he is dead on with his point of view.  Quality of life matters in a city.

Friday, July 23, 2010

What to eat when funds are tight?

Here's more from NPR on poverty and hunger among U. S. families.

Alex Williamson, 8, doesn't look very hungry — in fact, he's a little chubby. But Alex, who lives in Carlisle, Pa., is one of 17 million children who live in U.S. households where getting enough food is a challenge.

The Obama administration has pledged to end childhood hunger in America by 2015. A key element of that challenge is to make sure the food hungry children eat is nutritious. They're lofty goals that will be difficult to achieve.

Alex's mom, Connie Williamson, says she tries to give her son healthy food but doesn't always succeed.

"When he gets up on his own, he'll go find what he wants," she says. "He'll get a hot dog bun, or get a piece of bread. He'll get an ice pop or something."

And that's exactly what he did early one morning, before his family headed out to the local food pantry. Alex ate a blue ice pop for breakfast.

To read the full report click here.

Or, to listen simply play here. 

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Hunger and American Families

Here's a moving story that aired earlier this week on NPR. It's "part one" of a series of reports on American hunger. You'll hear from U. S. Department of Agriculture Undersecretary Kevin Concannon, who traveled to Dallas earlier this summer to swear in our AmeriCorps and VISTA teams.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Small house: study in sustainability

Americans generally prefer large when it comes to their housing options. Our CityWalk @Akard project here in Downtown Dallas challenges some of those community assumptions and expectations with our very efficient studio apartments.

But here is a real stretch toward downsizing life in the pursuit of sustainability and economy, while at the same time maintaining a sense of excellence and beauty.

Would you live in such a house--96 square feet?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

CDM Thrift Store: Christmas in July!

If you live in Dallas, drop in on the Central Dallas Ministries' Thrift Store located at the corner of Live Oak and Washington just north of Downtown Dallas.  The store has been converted into a holiday wonderland of sorts! 

Monday, July 19, 2010

Texas kids: hungry and obese

Recent reports indicate that far too many Texas children battle the twin, and seemingly paradoxical challenges of hunger ("food insecurity") and obesity. 

How can this be? 

Here's a report news report from  Austin, Texas.

Garcia: Texas children sandwiched between hunger and obesity

Eileen Garcia, Local Contributor
Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Two recent reports relayed bad and seemingly paradoxical news for Texas children. According to the latest research, our Texas kids, more than almost any in the country, face threats from both hunger and obesity.

Nearly one out of four Texas children is "food insecure," meaning they might not know where their next meal will come from, says a July 1 report from Feeding America, which ranked Texas 49th in the country for providing reliable food access for children under 18. The same week, however, the Trust for America's Health announced Texas children suffer disproportionately from obesity. More than 20 percent of kids here are obese, and Texas had the seventh-highest child obesity ranking.

Underlying these statistics is a sad reality: Too many children get poorly nourished because their environment—at school, in the neighborhood and their community—proves inhospitable to healthy eating. Four factors help explain why.

To read on, click here.

We've got to focus and find ways to do better.  What do you think?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Help getting in the water. . .

Not long ago I received the following note from a friend I've known for a long time. He is a father. His oldest son is battling cancer of the brain.

I found his note moving. His awareness of others around him, even as he assists his own son in the fight of his life, is inspiring.

As I read his words and got in touch with his heart, it occured to me that health care reform is all about making sure everyone has what they need to "get in the pool."

John 5 tells about the healing at the pool of Bethesda. I know exactly what that must have looked like. When you sit in the lobby of the MD Anderson Brain and Spine Cancer Institute, you see men and women, boys and girls of all ages and races from all over the world professing every belief imaginable. They are being pushed in wheel chairs by family. They are being helped on canes and crutches by friends. They all have in common a deeply held belief that they can be healed if they can just get into the “pool”. How sad to have waited 38 years because he didn’t have someone to help him into the pool.

I now know some of what the Father in Luke 15 felt: “… we had to celebrate and be glad because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”

A good way to spend part of this day might involve my spending time remembering those who still need a hand toward the healing they desire so very much. 

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Hank Cochran dead at 74

On Thursday, American country folk culture lost a treasure. Garland Perry "Hank" Cochran died after a two-year struggle with pancreatic cancer.

A singer himself, Cochran was best known for his song writing genius. Ray Price, Eddy Arnold, George Strait, Burl Ives, Merle Haggard, Ronnie Milsap and Mickey Gilley, to name a few, recorded the songs that Cochran wrote.

I know it's my West Texas genes that instill a real appreciation of his work. We'll miss his songs.

In his memory I post a sample of his great work.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Homeless as a hero?

Popular wisdom among many here in Dallas would try to convince us that homeless persons are not worthy of our time, attention or resources to assist in helping them change the direction of their lives.  Such opinions reveal a basic lack of experience with extremely poor persons.  Mom's wisdom that I shouldn't judge a book by its cover comes to mind just here. 

Several months ago, homeless persons camped out around a property denied for the redevelopment of Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) that would have benefitted them called the police to report thieves breaking into the empty building.  The owner subsequently provided the whistle blowers with housing. 

In our Destination Home housing program that provides formerly homeless persons PSH in private market apartments, some of our tenants formed a crime watch strategy and called police on several occasions to report drug activity on the property among the folks who were renting when they got there, not formerly homeless persons. 

Recently, I've read more than one story about the positive, even heroic actions of homeless persons.  The latest appeared in The New York Post and reported on the brave intervention on behalf of a woman who was being attacked by an assailant with a knife.  Unfortunately, the brave act that rescued the woman cost the homeless man his life.  What's worse, many people passed by the injured hero as he bled to death on the sidewalk.  Here's the beginning of The Post's report with video captured on the night of the incident: 

Stabbed hero dies as more than 20 people stroll past him
April 24, 2010

A heroic homeless man, stabbed after saving a Queens woman from a knife-wielding attacker, lay dying in a pool of blood for more than an hour as nearly 25 people indifferently strolled past him, a shocking surveillance video obtained by The Post reveals.

Some of the passers-by paused to stare at Hugo Alfredo Tale-Yax last Sunday morning and others leaned down to look at his face.

He had jumped to the aid of a woman attacked on 144th Street at 88th Road in Jamaica at 5:40 a.m., was stabbed several times in the chest and collapsed as he chased his assailant.

In the wake of the bloodshed, a man came out of a nearby building and chillingly took a cellphone photo of the victim before leaving. And in several instances, pairs of people gawked at Tale-Yax without doing anything.

Later, another man stopped, leaned over and vigorously shook Tale-Yax’s body. After lifting the victim’s head and body to reveal a pool of blood, he also walked off.

Not until some 15 minutes after he was shaken by the pedestrian — more than an hour and 20 minutes after the victim collapsed — did firefighters finally arrive and discover that Tale-Yax, 31, had died.

To read the entire report click here.

Here's a classic case of a homeless person's contribution to the good of the community and the absolute failure of others who possessed more wealth, benefits and options than he. We'd do well to adopt a new view of our homeless neighbors. We may be disrespecting folks who might come to our rescue in the future.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

New definition of stupid

One Wednesday I met with the leaders of the Texas Department of Agriculture charged with delivery of all the food and nutrition programs designed to assist and lift low-income Texas families. 

Here' just one fact they dropped on me: 

In 2008, Dallas County left well over $479,000,000 (that's MILLION) on the table a a result of not enrolling everyone eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, the food stamp program).  But, get this:  the entire state left $3,637,063,215 unused--yes, that's BILLION!

Think with me people.

Forget the poor. 

That's right. 

Don't give them a second thought here.

Over four-hundred and seventy-nine MILLION dollars that could have been spent in local retail grocery stores.  You know, Kroger, Target, Tom Thumb, Safeway, Walmart and others.  Over $3.6 BILLION statewide lost to retail grocery sales!

The estimated local impact lost to our sluggish economy when you factor in the standard multiplier effect rises to over $750 million dollars!  Estimates are that the total lost economic impact statewide is $6.7 BILLION!

Given our current need for economic stimulation, why would the State of Texas or the City of Dallas settle for this lost revenue that could create many jobs?  Where in the world are the retail and wholesale grocers' trade groups? 

What you're looking at here is a new definition of stupid.   

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Immigration solutions--Part 2

So, what should be the major components of any effective, comprehensive immigration reform plan? 

Here's what I think.

1.  Establish a clear, efficient guest worker registration plan that would be administered at the border for those who seek entry into the U. S. for jobs, on the job for those already at work in the U. S. and in labor and/or community centers (including non-profit organizations and churches) in major population centers inside the U. S.  Such a plan would not extend amnesty, unless you consider the "pass" it provides employers who have hired undocumented workers already.  The plan would be a way to register workers and eliminate the need to cross the borders under the cover of night or in unsafe cargo vans and trucks.  In short, this or some variation of such a plan must be developed that allows the 12 million plus undocumented immigrants to receive the documentation they need to remain in the country and on the job.  Any future immigrants would be required to register upon entry to the country. 

2.  Secure the southern border by investing the funds necessary to do so.  With registration being the backbone of this new security system, a new culture of documentation would emerge that eliminates fear and secrecy.  Any workable security plan must involve cooperation with Mexico and other nations south of our borders to share real time criminal records and identity documents.  Any deficiency in technical infrastructure must be addressed as a part of the border security plan.  This approach works on our northern border.  There is no reason to think it would not work on our southern border.

3.  Differentiate basic border security related to the movement of honest labor from drug enforcement and national security concerns.  Declare war on drug cartels and government corruption south of the border rather than on innocent persons who seek only a better life for themselves through hard work.  Upgrade intelligence gathering and apply protocols designed to identify potential terrorists and other extremists, a process that should be made easier by the requirement that all workers register and by the almost certain cooperation of legitimate workers. 

4.  Establish a new working relationship with nations south of the border, especially Mexico, to stimulate those national economies in ways that are mutually beneficial.  Included in any plan should be incentives to U. S. corporations who decide to move jobs outside the U. S. to make those moves south to create more jobs inside those nations closest to the U. S.  Included in any plan for economic development in Mexico should be green collar jobs and industries. 

5.  Place current undocumented immigrants who desire U. S. citizenship to "go to the back of the line" behind those who've been playing by the rules back home in the nation of their origins.  However, there would be no requirement that these workers be forced to leave the U. S. or their current employment.

6.  Include passage of the DREAM Act that would provide documentation to young people who were brought to the U. S. while dependent children and who finish high school, maintain good moral character, and go on to seek a college degree or serve in the U. S. Armed Services.  Allowing these young people to remain in the U. S., to work and to contribute to our economy and to enter a path to citizenship, if they so choose, is best for everyone. 

7.  Reclaim the federal responsibility to enforce border process and security from the states who now feel desperate due to federal inaction. 

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Immigration solutions--Part 1

We engage thousands of people every year at Central Dallas Ministries who come to us seeking solutions, answers and hope in the face of the severe, persistent difficulties associated with poverty.  A large percentage of these neighbors are also undocumented immigrants from south of the U. S. border.  As a result, we understand something of the difficulties facing these individuals and families.  We also are very aware of the need for comprehensive immigration reform now

Possibly the place to begin is debunking a few myths surrounding immigrants and the debate over immigration policy and reform. 

Myth #1:  Undocumented immigrants don't pay taxes.  Not true. These immigrants pay sales taxes just like the rest of us.  They absorb the cost of property taxes that is included in their monthly rental payments to property owners who receive those tax statements.  Property owners pay property taxes.  Many undocumented immigrants pay into the Social Security system--annually an amount roughly equal to 10% of the program's reserve funds--a payment on which they will never be able to collect any benefit.  In fact, I'll collect on what they pay in as a by-product of their hard work.

Myth #2:  Undocumented immigrants cost the rest of us as we provide health care, public education and law enforcement for people who pay no taxes.  See Myth #1 above.  National studies indicate that the net economic impact of providing undocumented immigrants local, state and federal services is a wash or a little better for the rest of us. 

Myth #3:  Undocumented immigrants take jobs away from American citizens.  Study after study reveal that this is not true and that, in fact, the labor of undocumented immigrants helps create jobs that citizens are eager to fill.  Remove undocumented immigrants from a major city like Dallas, Texas and see how things work in terms of who fills certain job positions.  Consider as well the lost revenue spent by immigrants in local retail and service establishments in a city like Dallas. 

Myth #4:  Most undocumented immigrants involve themselves in criminal activity, especially crimes related to the "drug wars" along portions of our southern borders.  False.  The vast majority of undocumented immigrants are hard-working, law abiding residents who seek a better life for themselves and their families in the great promise of America. 

Myth #5:  Undocumented immigrants present a real national security threat to the U. S. in our post-9/11 world.  In fact, the threat to our national security along our southern borders is not the result of undocumented workers coming to the U. S.  Rather, the threat is due to the fact that there is no systematic, reasonable guest worker registration process in place that would allow national security interests to be addressed and better managed. 

Next:  a platform for comprehensive reform now.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Hunger and kids

From our beginnings, Central Dallas Ministries focused on the vital importance of food and nutrition to the well-being of our neighbors and our neighborhoods.  That commitment continues today through the work of our Resource Center (Community Food Pantry), our summer lunch after school meals program and our growing emphasis on community gardening.  We've recognized for a very long time the importance of adequate access to healthy food products in the lives of children.  What follows provides more evidence to support the need for this dimension of our work.

A link has been found between extreme childhood hunger and impaired brain function in the elderly.

MICHIGAN STATE (US)—Malnutrition early in life appears to diminish brain function in older adults, according to a new study that has implications for poor, developing nations.

Across the world, 178 million children younger than 5 are stunted or short in stature due to hunger, infection, or both, says Zhenmei Zhang, assistant professor of sociology at Michigan State University.

“It’s important for policymakers to know that investing in children really has long-term benefits, not only for those individuals but for society as a whole,” she says.

“For example, fighting childhood hunger can reduce future medical expenditures. It’s very expensive for families and society to take care of people who suffer from dementia or cognitive impairment.”

Researchers previously have focused on how childhood malnutrition affects physical health and mortality, with little attention devoted to the long-term, negative effects on brain development and function.

Zhang and colleagues from Portland State University and the University of Texas examined data of 15,444 elderly people who participated in the Chinese Longitudinal Healthy Longevity Survey, which is funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

The survey included a screening test for cognitive impairment, measurements of arms and lower legs (which indicate childhood malnutrition or infection) and a question on childhood hunger.

Details appear in the journal Social Science & Medicine.

According to the study, women who suffered from childhood hunger were 35 percent more likely to have cognitive impairment at age 65 or older, while men who suffered from childhood hunger had a 29 percent higher chance.

Understanding the effects of childhood malnutrition is especially important for developing countries such as China, where a large proportion of older adults lived in poverty when they were children.

“The older Chinese population examined in this study experienced childhood hunger on a scale unmatched in the United States,” Zhang explains.

“Many of China’s surviving older individuals suffered from severe hunger and devastating wars in their childhood. Before 1949, for example, life expectancy in China was 35 years.”


Sunday, July 11, 2010

Seeking the peace and prosperity of the city. . .

Jeremiah 29:7

. . .seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper."

[Photos by Jenny Fogel, CDM Staff]

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Homeless neighbor

Be sure and check this out!

Too many of us dismiss the poor. 

Too many of us sit in judgement of those we just don't understand or know. 


Friday, July 09, 2010

Kids who "age out"

Central Dallas Ministries works with youth who "age out" of Texas foster care programs at age 18. We refer to our program as TRAC--Transition Resource Action Center. Led by program director, Evy Kay Ritzen, our TRAC team staffs a one-stop shop for these special young people. Over 40% of the youth who age out deal with all sorts of problems such as housing, no high school diploma, employment, mental health issues to name a few. Our staff serves the 19-county CPS region and we staff a smaller office in Fort Worth.

Recently, CNN aired a report on a similar program working in California. It reminded me of TRAC and I thought I should pass it along. Your feedback is welcomed and appreciated.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

FDR's wisdom: a need to revisit

I've been reading the great new biography of Franklin D. Roosevelt by University of Texas professor, H. W. Brands, Traitor to His Class: The Privileged Life and Radical Presidency of Franklin Delano RooseveltThe similarities between the 1920s and the 2000s are uncanny and quite a bit unnerving. 

Brands put me on to reading Roosevelt's second inaugural address after his re-election in 1936. 

My dad was 16-years-old when the president offered up these words.  I can't help wondering if he heard the speech with his family gathered around the radio on a cold day in Stonewall County, Texas.  Roosevelt's ideas are important to read and remember.

I've taken the liberty to highlight (bold italic) portions of the speech that struck me as particularly significant. 

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Second Inaugural Address
Wednesday, January 20, 1937

WHEN four years ago we met to inaugurate a President, the Republic, single-minded in anxiety, stood in spirit here. We dedicated ourselves to the fulfillment of a vision—to speed the time when there would be for all the people that security and peace essential to the pursuit of happiness. We of the Republic pledged ourselves to drive from the temple of our ancient faith those who had profaned it; to end by action, tireless and unafraid, the stagnation and despair of that day. We did those first things first.

Our covenant with ourselves did not stop there. Instinctively we recognized a deeper need—the need to find through government the instrument of our united purpose to solve for the individual the ever-rising problems of a complex civilization. Repeated attempts at their solution without the aid of government had left us baffled and bewildered. For, without that aid, we had been unable to create those moral controls over the services of science which are necessary to make science a useful servant instead of a ruthless master of mankind. To do this we knew that we must find practical controls over blind economic forces and blindly selfish men.

We of the Republic sensed the truth that democratic government has innate capacity to protect its people against disasters once considered inevitable, to solve problems once considered unsolvable. We would not admit that we could not find a way to master economic epidemics just as, after centuries of fatalistic suffering, we had found a way to master epidemics of disease. We refused to leave the problems of our common welfare to be solved by the winds of chance and the hurricanes of disaster

In this we Americans were discovering no wholly new truth; we were writing a new chapter in our book of self-government.

This year marks the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the Constitutional Convention which made us a nation. At that Convention our forefathers found the way out of the chaos which followed the Revolutionary War; they created a strong government with powers of united action sufficient then and now to solve problems utterly beyond individual or local solution. A century and a half ago they established the Federal Government in order to promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty to the American people.

Today we invoke those same powers of government to achieve the same objectives.

Four years of new experience have not belied our historic instinct. They hold out the clear hope that government within communities, government within the separate States, and government of the United States can do the things the times require, without yielding its democracy. Our tasks in the last four years did not force democracy to take a holiday.

Nearly all of us recognize that as intricacies of human relationships increase, so power to govern them also must increase—power to stop evil; power to do good. The essential democracy of our Nation and the safety of our people depend not upon the absence of power, but upon lodging it with those whom the people can change or continue at stated intervals through an honest and free system of elections. The Constitution of 1787 did not make our democracy impotent. 

In fact, in these last four years, we have made the exercise of all power more democratic; for we have begun to bring private autocratic powers into their proper subordination to the public's government. The legend that they were invincible—above and beyond the processes of a democracy—has been shattered. They have been challenged and beaten. 

Our progress out of the depression is obvious. But that is not all that you and I mean by the new order of things. Our pledge was not merely to do a patchwork job with secondhand materials. By using the new materials of social justice we have undertaken to erect on the old foundations a more enduring structure for the better use of future generations. 

In that purpose we have been helped by achievements of mind and spirit. Old truths have been relearned; untruths have been unlearned. We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals; we know now that it is bad economics. Out of the collapse of a prosperity whose builders boasted their practicality has come the conviction that in the long run economic morality pays. We are beginning to wipe out the line that divides the practical from the ideal; and in so doing we are fashioning an instrument of unimagined power for the establishment of a morally better world.
This new understanding undermines the old admiration of worldly success as such. We are beginning to abandon our tolerance of the abuse of power by those who betray for profit the elementary decencies of life.

In this process evil things formerly accepted will not be so easily condoned. Hard-headedness will not so easily excuse hardheartedness. We are moving toward an era of good feeling. But we realize that there can be no era of good feeling save among men of good will.

For these reasons I am justified in believing that the greatest change we have witnessed has been the change in the moral climate of America. 

Among men of good will, science and democracy together offer an ever-richer life and ever-larger satisfaction to the individual. With this change in our moral climate and our rediscovered ability to improve our economic order, we have set our feet upon the road of enduring progress. 

Shall we pause now and turn our back upon the road that lies ahead? Shall we call this the promised land? Or, shall we continue on our way? For "each age is a dream that is dying, or one that is coming to birth."

Many voices are heard as we face a great decision. Comfort says, "Tarry a while." Opportunism says, "This is a good spot." Timidity asks, "How difficult is the road ahead?"

True, we have come far from the days of stagnation and despair. Vitality has been preserved. Courage and confidence have been restored. Mental and moral horizons have been extended.

But our present gains were won under the pressure of more than ordinary circumstances. Advance became imperative under the goad of fear and suffering. The times were on the side of progress.

To hold to progress today, however, is more difficult. Dulled conscience, irresponsibility, and ruthless self-interest already reappear. Such symptoms of prosperity may become portents of disaster! Prosperity already tests the persistence of our progressive purpose.

Let us ask again: Have we reached the goal of our vision of that fourth day of March 1933? Have we found our happy valley?

I see a great nation, upon a great continent, blessed with a great wealth of natural resources. Its hundred and thirty million people are at peace among themselves; they are making their country a good neighbor among the nations. I see a United States which can demonstrate that, under democratic methods of government, national wealth can be translated into a spreading volume of human comforts hitherto unknown, and the lowest standard of living can be raised far above the level of mere subsistence.

But here is the challenge to our democracy: In this nation I see tens of millions of its citizens—a substantial part of its whole population—who at this very moment are denied the greater part of what the very lowest standards of today call the necessities of life. 

I see millions of families trying to live on incomes so meager that the pall of family disaster hangs over them day by day.

I see millions whose daily lives in city and on farm continue under conditions labeled indecent by a so-called polite society half a century ago.

I see millions denied education, recreation, and the opportunity to better their lot and the lot of their children.

I see millions lacking the means to buy the products of farm and factory and by their poverty denying work and productiveness to many other millions.

I see one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished.

It is not in despair that I paint you that picture. I paint it for you in hope—because the Nation, seeing and understanding the injustice in it, proposes to paint it out. We are determined to make every American citizen the subject of his country's interest and concern; and we will never regard any faithful law-abiding group within our borders as superfluous. The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.

If I know aught of the spirit and purpose of our Nation, we will not listen to Comfort, Opportunism, and Timidity. We will carry on.

Overwhelmingly, we of the Republic are men and women of good will; men and women who have more than warm hearts of dedication; men and women who have cool heads and willing hands of practical purpose as well. They will insist that every agency of popular government use effective instruments to carry out their will.

Government is competent when all who compose it work as trustees for the whole people. It can make constant progress when it keeps abreast of all the facts. It can obtain justified support and legitimate criticism when the people receive true information of all that government does.

If I know aught of the will of our people, they will demand that these conditions of effective government shall be created and maintained. They will demand a nation uncorrupted by cancers of injustice and, therefore, strong among the nations in its example of the will to peace

Today we reconsecrate our country to long-cherished ideals in a suddenly changed civilization. In every land there are always at work forces that drive men apart and forces that draw men together. In our personal ambitions we are individualists. But in our seeking for economic and political progress as a nation, we all go up, or else we all go down, as one people.

To maintain a democracy of effort requires a vast amount of patience in dealing with differing methods, a vast amount of humility. But out of the confusion of many voices rises an understanding of dominant public need. Then political leadership can voice common ideals, and aid in their realization.

In taking again the oath of office as President of the United States, I assume the solemn obligation of leading the American people forward along the road over which they have chosen to advance.

While this duty rests upon me I shall do my utmost to speak their purpose and to do their will, seeking Divine guidance to help us each and every one to give light to them that sit in darkness and to guide our feet into the way of peace.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010


Central Dallas Ministries now sponsors two editions of Urban Engagement Book Club each month at noon.  On each first Thursday we gather at Highland Park United Methodist Church (located on the edge of the SMU campus) and, then, on each third Thursday we convene at 1st United Methodist Church located in Downtown Dallas.  Randy Mayeux provides brilliant, creative synopses of the books we've selected.  Each location presents a different book each month. 

Here's what Randy wrote about the book we look into last week, Push:

As I have written often, I live in multiple worlds. Today for the Urban Engagement Book Club, sponsored by Central Dallas Ministries, I presented my synopsis of Push by Sapphire.

It was the toughest book to read – maybe the toughest I’ve ever read!

To read Randy's entire comment click here.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Toy Story 3

Lessons learned while watching Toy Story 3 with two of my grandsons:

1)  Recognize that what you do today creates memories, important, valuable, precious memories for much later and for everyone involved, including toys!

2)  Fantasy and play are incredibly important to a life.  Worry about a life without fantasy.

3)  As you move forward into a future, don't be afraid to look back.

4)  Pass along what you really treasure to those coming after you.

5)  Take nothing for granted in life.

6)  When it appears that you're headed into a deep, fiery, hell-like hole; when all hope seems lost, reach out to those nearest to you--in short, hold hands tightly with your community.

7)  Don't be surprised if you are "saved" by people not at all like you.  In fact, be looking for rescue by those may consider aliens.  Consider befriending them before you need them.

8)  Don't miss this movie.  Here's just a taste of it.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Working with youth who "age out" of foster care

Central Dallas Ministries operates the Transition Resource Action Center that serves as a virtual one-stop shop for youth who at 18-years-old "age out" of the state's foster care programs.  The youth with whom we work present a host of needs, including completion of high school, planning for college and/or employment, housing, health care, and new connections to supportive communities. 

Recently, Evy Kay Ritzen, our program director for TRAC, sent the following announcement to her team about an important project that is now underway.  Thought readers here would be interested.  Helping our team gather needed household items would be a great project for a company, an office group, a Sunday School Class/church or a civic/service organization.

Help us celebrate another kind of INDEPENDENCE!

Join TRAC in celebrating the transition from care to independent living for North Texas foster youth. TRAC would like to honor all of the youth who have left or are leaving care since January. TRAC needs to connect with these young adults and knows that these young men and women have many needs to equip their new living space as they move into their new living arrangements. We need your help to get them connected and their WISH LISTS to TRAC in the next few weeks.

TRAC is working with volunteers and community organizations to collect items on the WISH LISTS and will host several Independence Days in late July and early August to distribute the household items and school supplies. We even have matress sets from Sleep Experts!!

In order to get this process moving, TRAC needs to identify all youth who are leaving care or have left care between January-September 2010. Attached to this e-mail, you will see our “Independence Day Wish List.” Please use this form to refer emancipating youth to TRAC. Discuss the list with any youth who meet this critera and get the WISH LIST back to TRAC as soon as you can. To plan adequately, we ask they we get them back by Monday, July 13th. You can email them to Amanda Vining

( , TRAC’s summer Exxon Mobile intern who will be coordinating Independence Day, or fax the completed form to TRAC (214-370-9305).

TRAC Staff will then be in touch with the youth and coordinate the Independence Day date and location that is the best fit for each youth.

Thank you for contributing to the success of our youth!

Here is the list of suggested items for donation:

Cleaning/Laundry Supplies:
Roller Mop
Broom with Dustpan
Bathroom cleaner
Glass Cleaner
Dishwashing Liquid
Trash Can
Garbage Bags
Laundry Basket
Laundry Detergent
Dryer Sheets
Paper towels

Drinking Glasses

Kitchen Items
Sauce Pan
Baking Sheet
Cutting Board
Mixing Bowl
Can opener
Measuring Cups
Kitchen Utensils
Sharp Knife
Dish Towel
Hot Pad
Aluminum Foil
Cling Wrap
Ziploc Bags

Sheet Set
Mattress Pad
Twin Mattress Set

Bathroom Supplies
Hand Towel
Shower Curtain Liner
Shower Curtain Rings
Bath Rug
Toilet Paper
Shower Caddy

Clock Radio
Tool Kit
First Aid Kit
Sewing Kit
Ironing Board

Occasionally TRAC receives additional donations that could be of value to our young people moving into their first apartment. Please make note of additional items that could be a blessing to our youth at this time in their transition:
Dining Table and Chairs
Coffee Machine

To participate in this move toward independence call us at 214 370-9300. Or, call us toll free at 866-466-8722.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

The Secret Powers of Time

What follows came my way from my friend, Frank Lott. Watch it and tell me what you think about it.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Providing housing cheaper in most cities

The evidence is mounting. 

In city after city where the research is complete, we now know that providing homeless persons permanent supportive housing is no more expensive, and in most cities it is less expensive to the public, than allowing people to remain on the streets. 

The National Alliance to End Homelessness provides examples of this research.  Here's the explanation of one batch of research posted on the organization's website: 

The Homelessness Research Institute used the results of several studies (cited below) of expenditure reductions through permanent supportive housing to create an interactive stacked bar chart that illustrates the relative costs of permanent supportive housing and homelessness (prior to supportive housing) in four cities (Portland, ME; New York, NY; Portland, OR, and Denver, CO) and one state (Rhode Island). The chart illustrates the fact that the cost of permanent supportive housing is offset in most instances by reductions in emergency shelter costs and health care (physical and behavioral) costs.

To view the revealing data click here

Providing housing is not only the right thing to do, it is smart public policy as well. 

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Take a long look at Permanent Supportive Housing

Recently, Dallas Morning News columnist, Steve Blow "investigated" Central Dallas Ministries' (and Central Dallas Community Development Corporation) housing development at 511 N. Akard in Downtown Dallas.  His column hits the streets in this morning's edition of the paper.

Of course, I love what he found, what he reports and what our neighbors, both inside and outside the building, have to say. 

The recent controversy over the Cliff Manor housing plans put forward by the Dallas Housing Authority for their building in North Oak Cliff seems small and foolish in view of our on-the-ground experience with formerly homeless persons who live with the same sorts of challenges. 

I wish the Oak Cliff folks would come over and check out what we're doing here.  We've made an effort to reach out to the folks concerned about redevelopment along Fort Worth Avenue, but they informed us that they weren't interested in a "sales job" and that they knew all about Permanent Supportive Housing.  Hopefully, a more open approach will eventually surface over there. 

Here's what Steve Blow had to say. . .

Downtown condos could allay Oak Cliff residents' fears about 'formerly homeless' living in Cliff Manor

04:43 PM CDT on Wednesday, June 30, 2010

One afternoon last week, I found a shady bench across the street from 511 N. Akard St. in Downtown Dallas. And I sat awhile, watching the activity there.

You know what I saw?


Oh, there was a little bit of coming and going from the building. But none of it was the least bit out of the ordinary.

And I suspect the view outside Cliff Manor will be very much the same, assuming that apartment building also becomes a home for the formerly homeless.

We have certain images in our heads when the word "homeless" is mentioned. None of them are pretty.

But that building I watched – CityWalk@Akard – is working hard to give us some new mental images to go with the phrase "formerly homeless."

"Quiet," "orderly," "inviting" – those are some of the words to describe what I found when I visited inside CityWalk the next day.

CityWalk is a project of Central Dallas Ministries. The 200-unit apartment building opened in April. It has 50 apartments set aside for the formerly homeless. The other 150 are for low-income tenants.

It's a home, but it's also a demonstration project.

To read the entire essay and to access links to recent, related stories click here.