Saturday, December 29, 2012

Children's health in Texas

Eight per cent of children in the U. S. have no health insurance coverage.  That compares to Texas with 14% of its children uninsured.

Here's some even more shocking news:  According to the good folks at Children's Medical Center, 5 North Texas counties have twice the national average with it comes to uninsured children.

Here's the harsh reality:

Fannin County (Bonham) 16.3% uninsured children

Collin County (McKinney, one of the wealthiest counties in the nation) 16.7% uninsured

Denton County (Denton)  17.4% uninsured

Grayson County (Sherman) 19.1% of children have no health coverage

Cooke County (Gainesville) almost 1/4 of children with no coverage at 23.9%

The character of a people must include some measure of just how much they value their children, all of their children. 

We can do better. 

Where's the leadership? 

Friday, December 28, 2012

Considerations for the walk. . .

Wisdom discovered in The Catholic Worker (Vol. LXXIX, No. 7, December 2012):

"It is not  important to succeed, but to do right." 
--C. S. Lewis

"He said not thou shalt not be troubled, thou shalt not be tempted, thou shalt not be distressed, but He said,Thou shalt not be overcome." --Julian of Norwich

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Death back of a church

Matt Peterson reports the inevitable in a story posted to the Dallas Morning News "Scoop Blog" on Wednesday morning.  A day after the inspirational report regarding 500 homeless persons spending the night at the new Omni Hotel and receiving first class treatment, one of our not-so-fortunate neighbors froze to death in an ally behind an East Dallas Church building located in my neighborhood. 
Here's Peterson's report: 
A homeless man was found “frozen behind a church” in Old East Dallas this morning, according to a police report.
The man, who was in his 60s, apparently died overnight and was found about 8 a.m. outside Emanuel Lutheran Church in the 4300 block of San Jacinto Street.
“We’re very, very saddened by the situation,” said Julio Cruz-Natal, the church’s pastor. He said the man may have been there to get a meal from the church’s food pantry, but he was not familiar to anyone there.
Authorities have yet to identify the victim, and his cause of death will be determined by the medical examiner’s office. There were no obvious signs of trauma.
But with overnight temperatures dropping into the 20s and wind chills in the single digits, it was a dangerous night to spend in the elements.
Cruz-Natal said the brutal cold overnight may have left the man with few alternatives.
“Most of the shelters were at capacity, and I wonder if that’s what happened last night,” he said.
Some may ask, "How does such a thing happen in Dallas, Texas?" 
I say, "Why the surprise?" 
Our community response to the issues associated with chronic homelessness, especially among the disabled and the young, remains inadequate at best. 
The emergency shelters were likely very crowded last night.  But shelters do not provide any real answer to the problem.  Housing is the best and only answer.  Permanent housing with robust, high-touch, high-care support services.  As a community we need to partner with the shelter providers to empty their beds as we place these very special neighbors into real housing. 
The time has come for "over-investment" to compensate for the head start this challenge has on us.  I hope, if you live in Dallas, you'll call, email and write your city council member and Mayor Mike Rawlings.  Let them know that you are ready to join the fight and that it is time to take the entire effort to the next level.  I intend to volunteer to my council representative, Pauline Medrano, that I'm ready to pay into a special fund to address this life and death issue.  Call it a levy of compassion, call it a tax, call it what you will.  The time has come to act and to act differently and much more aggressively. 
God have mercy on us.
This just in from The Dallas Morning News on my doorstep:  Authorities found the body of another Dallas neighbor, a woman who has been identfied, near the Dallas Convention Center.  It appears that this person also froze to death a short distance from the luxurious Omni Hotel.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Forgotten message of Christmas. . .take careful note

Mary Visits Elizabeth

39 In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, 40 where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42 and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 43 And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? 44 For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”

Mary’s Song of Praise

46 And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50 His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
52 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55 according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

56 And Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.

--Saint Luke's Gospel, Chapter 1

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Wealth of the Poor

At last, I'm proud to announce that my new book, Wealth of the Poor:  How Valuing Every Neighbor Restores Hope in Our Cities, is finally available. 

Well, almost widely available.

Let me explain. 

We missed the sales deadline to place the book widely in retail establishments and on-line.  So, what we have is a pre-release option on the book.

You can order it today directly from ACU Press by calling 877-816-4455 or by visiting their website at

Wider distribution will begin in May 2013, as you'll learn by going to Amazon!

Naturally, I hope the book sells to broaden the reach of the CitySquare story and its model for urban renewal. 

Let me know if you order one! 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The street crushes people.

The streets elevate sadness to amazing levels.

The streets of a city offer up a taste of hell.

Today, I sat on the corner in the howling wind.  The wind chill had to be in the 30s.

We drank coffee, ate cookies and talked about life.

I heard some unforgettable things.

"Man, I've picked up 'bout 4 pounds of cans in less than an hour.  I've got to get back to mama. Can I take her some of this coffee and some cookies?  She is crippled and has a hard time gettin' 'round."

"The wind's blowin' and it's so cold." 

"Pray for my brother, George.  He has two more years to do in the TDC" (Texas Department of Corrections).  "Pray for him that he'll be able to handle his trials and temptations and come out okay." 

"Where's the trash?" more than one homeless person asked as they tried to find a place to dispose of cups, cream containers, etc.

"People in those big buildings are under the pressure of billions of dollars.  We're under the pressure, no less difficult, of zero billions!" a wise man said with a laugh.

"How cold is it gonna get tonight?

Several times as folks walked away with hot coffee in hand, "Have a Merry Christmas!"

An old woman with a European accent, "May I have that box?  Do you have coffee for me?"

"I can make it fine so long as its only in the 30s or 40s, after that I have to go to a shelter."

"Things happened that put people out here; we weren't born out here. But once you're out here for a while, things change inside you and things change back there and it's hard to get back; and if you get back, so much has changed that you feel lost and you can't make it." 

A very young man carrying a large, black trash bag asked me, "Do you know where a person could buy a tent?"  

I'm not sure why, but I left the corner filled with sadness today.  Such good people, enjoyable souls, people I love to "hang with," out in the cold trying, as one man said, "to just make it from day to day."

As I left, I waved back to my friend, "Blue."  He returned my wave.  I hope to see him next week.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Last week, I received notice that a comment had been left on my YouTube site that responded to a video clip of the CitySquare Food Pantry that I posted over two years ago.

Here's what the comment said:

I was homeless in dallas for 20yrs an thanks too city square, they
helped me with a furnished apartment rent free. I was addicted
to drugs an alcohol and with the help of case workers an appa
 Im drug an alcohol free...............

 Feedback like this keeps us working hard!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Christmas, again

Thursday, I sat down on
The Porch
Where I meet up with real guys,
Men who've lost all of 
What they once had;  for a
Few that meant a lot, for 
Most there never was much to lose.
I'm learning the
Is all about loss--
Lost families,
Lost children,
Lost health,
Lost hope,
Dreams shot to hell and back over
Stupid stuff and some tragedies.

Thursday, I sat down on 
The Porch,
Billy's porch,
Where I met up with real guys, we drank
Coffee together; and
I expect we lied about our lives;
Not a few made 
Fun of money and efforts to help. 
Covered in pre-Christmas 
Depression could 
Hardly talk without a 
Tear trickling down, deep down in the
Christmas, again,
Out here. 

Friday, December 14, 2012


Children mowed down in their classroom.

Elementary school children.

And teachers at school doing their jobs to guide, educate, shape and encourage our precious national treasure.


The time has come, and it's long overdue, for serious action to control the distribution of weapons in our nation.

There should be no argument whatsoever about outlawing automatic assault weapons completely.

Over 40% of the weapons sold in the U. S. today are distributed from Internet websites that require no registration or qualification process.

Have we completely lost our minds?

Is this what the framers of our constitution meant by the Second Amendment?

No, it is not!  

Things have degenerated to the point that a plausible suggestion would be to legalize drugs and outlaw weapons. Such dual action would likely drive the level of violence down so far in this nation that we actually might find a better way to live and a safer place to raise our children.

There is no sensible argument remaining today for the purchase, marketing, manufacture or ownership of automatic assault weapons.


Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Poverty and the children of Dallas

This report appeared in DMagazine's FrontBurner release posted just yesterday.  I've just copied and pasted to share the entire story. Read directly from the original post here.

Dallas Kids Still Abnormally Poor, Census Shows

Data released by the U.S. Census Bureau this week show that Dallas County children, on whole, are poorer than not only most other Texas children, but most other children in America’s largest cities.
Close to 30 percent of children in Dallas County between the ages of five and 17 live in poverty, the numbers show, nearly a five percent increase since 2007. The below chart shows the poverty rates for those aged children, in Dallas-area counties:

Source: U.S. Census data
Jump for even more disturbing news, and a few bright spots.
Okay, first with the bright spots. Dallas isn’t the worst county in Texas for child poverty, and it’s not even close. The five counties with the highest child poverty rates in 2011 (I removed Loving County from the list, because it’s the least populous county in the U.S., with only 82 residents.):
Brooks County: 48.1 percent
Hidalgo County: 46.2 percent
Cameron County: 45.5 percent
Starr County: 44.7 percent
Zapata County, Zavala County: 44.3 percent
Those six counties either hug the border or sit one county away from the border. Bleak stuff. Before I get to the bleakest data – the ones that show how poorly Dallas stacks up against the rest of America’s biggest cities — here are the overall poverty rates for the Dallas area. Most counties have oscillated slightly in recent years; Dallas has shot right for the bottom of the bucket.

Source: U.S. Census data
Now onto the part of the show where we compare Dallas to its similar cities, the fine folks in the other most-populous cities. Seems kids are doing a whole lot better in them than in Dallas, for the most part. These are based on county numbers for 2011:
New York (Bronx County: 41 percent; New York County: 28.8 percent; Queens County: 22.2 percent; Kings County: 33.3 percent; Richmond County: 16 percent)
Philadelphia (Philadelphia County): 38.6 percent
Dallas (Dallas County): 28.3 percent
Houston (Harris County): 27.5 percent
Chicago (Cook County): 26 percent
Los Angeles (Los Angeles County): 25.1 percent
San Antonio (Bexar County): 24.2 percent
Phoenix (Maricopa County): 23.4 percent
San Diego (San Diego County): 18.4 percent
San Jose (Santa Clara County): 12.1 percent
C’mon people, we can’t be worse than Houston. You can explore every county in America, back to 1989, here.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Molly's blessing. . .

People often question, sometimes lecture, and express concern that the work we do at CitySquare is "not really about faith."  I suppose people think that because we make none of our services, activities or initiatives dependent upon our neighbors being involved in overtly religious activities.  Like all of our various activities, everything here is based on the complete freedom of our neighbors to choose what they desire to take advantage of. 

What people with these concerns don't understand is that faith lives on the streets and in the poorest ghettos in the inner city. . .and I do mean "lives." 

A few weeks ago, a very frail and troubled woman handed me a piece of paper that I've been carrying in my pocket ever since she passed it my way.  We'll call her "Molly" here. 

Molly deals with severe bi-polar disorder, and possibly schizophrenia.  She doesn't talk about faith much, but she knows I'm a minister.  Possibly she wrote the note because of her faith, or possibly because of mine, with the note being a gift she thought I would appreciate.  Either way, I consider the act very spiritual. 

Here's what Molly wrote:

Lord Jesus, bless my friend
the spirit of joy and happiness
to all who are in your care and
help the will of God's SON who
save all our lives
for only Love not hate

As I've said so often, the witness comes back more powerfully than it can be offered from here.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Consider community

As I post the following commentary from Nicholas Kristof, I catch myself bracing for the reaction from some of my regulars here!  I think some of you follow me to refill your frustration tank!  But what Kristof writes raises tough and important issues that as a society we must address.  Hopefully, we can find a way to do so with respect, substance and integrity.  The debates over the role of public institutions in addressing real-life, contemporary issues affecting communities, neighborhoods, corporations and individuals must be taken seriously. 

This is certainly, possibly doubly, true in the neighbors where we live and work.  From education to health care, from infrastructure to public safety, from housing to living wage employment we face big issues that call for new, bold and comprehensive solutions and responses. 

At the end of the day we just need to face the fact that "standby generators" just won't get us what we all need. 

Read Kristof's essay.  Tell me what you think.


A Failed Experiment

In upper-middle-class suburbs on the East Coast, the newest must-have isn’t a $7,500 Sub-Zero refrigerator. It’s a standby generator that automatically flips on backup power to an entire house when the electrical grid goes out.
In part, that’s a legacy of Hurricane Sandy. Such a system can cost well over $10,000, but many families are fed up with losing power again and again.
(A month ago, I would have written more snarkily about residential generators. But then we lost power for 12 days after Sandy — and that was our third extended power outage in four years. Now I’m feeling less snarky than jealous!)
More broadly, the lust for generators is a reflection of our antiquated electrical grid and failure to address climate change. The American Society of Civil Engineers gave our grid, prone to bottlenecks and blackouts, a grade of D+ in 2009.
So Generac, a Wisconsin company that dominates the generator market, says it is running three shifts to meet surging demand. About 3 percent of stand-alone homes worth more than $100,000 in the country now have standby generators installed.
“Demand for generators has been overwhelming, and we are increasing our production levels,” Art Aiello, a spokesman for Generac, told me.
That’s how things often work in America. Half-a-century of tax cuts focused on the wealthiest Americans leave us with third-rate public services, leading the wealthy to develop inefficient private workarounds.
It’s manifestly silly (and highly polluting) for every fine home to have a generator. It would make more sense to invest those resources in the electrical grid so that it wouldn’t fail in the first place.
But our political system is dysfunctional: in addressing income inequality, in confronting climate change and in maintaining national infrastructure.
The National Climatic Data Center has just reported that October was the 332nd month in a row of above-average global temperatures. As the environmental Web siteGrist reported, that means that nobody younger than 27 has lived for a single month with colder-than-average global temperatures, yet climate change wasn’t even much of an issue in the 2012 campaign. Likewise, the World Economic Forum ranks American infrastructure 25th in the world, down from 8th in 2003-4, yet infrastructure is barely mentioned by politicians.
So time and again, we see the decline of public services accompanied by the rise of private workarounds for the wealthy.
Is crime a problem? Well, rather than pay for better policing, move to a gated community with private security guards!
Are public schools failing? Well, superb private schools have spaces for a mere $40,000 per child per year.
Public libraries closing branches and cutting hours? Well, buy your own books and magazines!
Are public parks — even our awesome national parks, dubbed “America’s best idea” and the quintessential “public good” — suffering from budget cuts? Don’t whine. Just buy a weekend home in the country!
Public playgrounds and tennis courts decrepit? Never mind — just join a private tennis club!
I’m used to seeing this mind-set in developing countries like Chad or Pakistan, where the feudal rich make do behind high walls topped with shards of glass; increasingly, I see it in our country. The disregard for public goods was epitomized by Mitt Romney’s call to end financing of public broadcasting.
A wealthy friend of mine notes that we all pay for poverty in the end. The upfront way is to finance early childhood education for at-risk kids. The back-end way is to pay for prisons and private security guards. In cities with high economic inequality, such as New York and Los Angeles, more than 1 percent of all employees work as private security guards, according to census data.
This question of public goods hovers in the backdrop as we confront the “fiscal cliff” and seek to reach a deal based on a mix of higher revenues and reduced benefits. It’s true that we have a problem with rising entitlement spending, especially in health care. But I also wonder if we’ve reached the end of a failed half-century experiment in ever-lower tax rates for the wealthy.
Since the 1950s, the top federal income tax rate has fallen from 90 percent or more to 35 percent. Capital gains tax rates have been cut by more than half since the late 1970s. Financial tycoons now often pay a lower tax rate than their secretaries.
All this has coincided with the decline of some public services and the emergence of staggering levels of inequality (granted, other factors are also at work) such that the top 1 percent of Americans now have greater collective net worth than the entire bottom 90 percent.
Not even the hum of the most powerful private generator can disguise the failure of that long experiment.

Monday, December 10, 2012

CitySquare clinic scores big!

What follows is a direct, cut and paste email message that I received recently from Frances Martinez, Operations Manager for CitySquare's Community Health Services. 

Our clinic, located in South Dallas-Fair Park just off the intersection of Malcolm X and Grand Avenue, scored big in the latest Health Texas Provider Network (the Baylor Health Care System's physicians group) audit of our Adult Preventative Services. 

The translation is very simple, and most encouraging:  our clinic ranked second among all the HTPN clinics in the system!  This includes the clinic that I call my medical home out in the North Dallas suburbs! 

Great work, CitySquare health care team!  Great work! 

Our patients receive the best care possible, and evidently the best care available! 

Please see below, we are #2 in HTPN for the July-September Adult Preventative Services (APS) audit!!  Congratulations everyone!  It is definitely a team effort from scheduling WWEs, to requesting the tests, to putting in the orders, to scheduling the tests.  Please take a moment and give each other a high five!
Rank Practice Name
1 Signature Medicine
N 278
2 City Square Community Health Services
N 643

Frances Martinez
Operations Manager
CitySquare-Community Health Services
2835 Grand Ave.
Dallas, TX 75215

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Friday, December 07, 2012

Project Access lost. . .

CitySquare was one of the original partners in the formation of Project Access Dallas. We wrote the initial grant to fund the concept.  We provided a team of "health navigators" to serve the special needs of our patients.  After more than a decade leaders at the Dallas County Medical Society have decided to shut the project down.

Ironically, the change may result in even more services for the very poor in Dallas.  I hope so.  We will be working with our medical and hospital partners to continue to serve the poor and marginalized, hopefully on an even greater scale.  That's what we're looking to the hospitals to accomplish in our community, and especially on behalf of the poor and uninsured. 

Here's the story by Dallas Morning News reporter Sherry Jacobson that appeared in Wednesday morning's edition: 

Dallas County Medical Society to end program providing low-cost care for uninsured
by Sherry Jacobson
The 10-year-old effort, which employed 30 people, will end
as early as March, after more than 3,000 current patients have
found a “new medical home,” said Dr. Rick Snyder,
president of the medical society.
More than 2,200 local doctors, many of them specialists, had
voluntarily provided low-cost care to uninsured patients,
including surgery, chemotherapy and chronic-disease

To continue reading click here.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

DMA membership to be free!

Five good reasons to visit the soon-to-be-free Dallas Museum of Art
Dallas Morning News--Arts GUIDE

For those who now have a license to visit the Dallas Museum of Art for free — well, at least you will when the “free” policy begins Jan. 21 — here’s a snapshot of what we recommend about the DMA, which will also free membership via its new Friends and Partners program:

1) Every Thursday from 5 to 9 p.m., you can take in the DMA’s “Thursday Night Live”program. Tomorrow night, you can listen listen to the Carolyn Lee Jones Sextet as part of the DMA’s Thursday night jazz series.

2) Through March 13, you can see the work of Glasgow-based artist Karla Black, who recently created two sculptures for the DMA, her first such project in the United States. As the DMA says in its own description, “Transforming light, fragile, often impermanent materials into powerful sculptures of commanding scale and presence, Black creates abstract works that resolutely eschew metaphor while simultaneously beckoning a complex series of associations.”

3) Texas art. The DMA offers Texas Artist Databases, a list of titles and dates for exhibitions presented by the DMA since 1909, and the Otis Dozier Sketchbooks, a digital collection that includes “nearly 1,500 sketches. When complete, it will make available over 6,200 images that comprise a complete representation of 130 sketchbooks by Texas regionalist artist Otis Dozier (1905-1987).”

4) The DMA’s current hot show, “Posters of Paris: Toulouse-Lautrec and His Contemporaries,”wraps up the day before free admission and free memberships begin. Even so, it’s a can’t-miss. Beginning with the early designs of “Jules Chéret – the ‘father of the poster’ — the exhibition explores the earliest days of the affiche artistique [artistic poster] and its flowering in Paris, first under Chéret in the 1870s and 1880s, and then with a new generation of artists including Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec,Pierre Bonnard, and Edouard Vuillard, artists who brought the poster to new heights in the 1890s.” The DMA says the exhibition “examines the story of the French artistic poster in all its complexity.”

5) The DMA is a community resource, which is why director Maxwell Anderson’s push to go “free” is so brilliant, because it puts the museum within reach of the entire community. On a regular basis, it hosts Arts & Letters Live (which brings name authors to town), lectures, gallery talks, concerts, film, teen workshops and other family events. The DMA is home to 22,000 works of art, spanning 5,000 years, though not all are on view at any one time. Artists whose work is currently on view include Jackson Pollock and Claude Monet. Plus, the DMA is home to a highly acclaimed African art collection.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Crooked parts

I've seen the man before.

He is unforgettable.

He stands at one of the several intersections west of Central Expressway on Northwest Highway right in front of North Park shopping mall.

He holds up some version of a "please help me" sign.

His right foot distinguishes him.  It is turned almost 180 degrees backwards, so that it literally is headed in the wrong direction.  Observing him walk is painful, and, as I say, unforgettable.

Clearly, this man has not been able to find what he needs.

I have no idea why not.  I could speculate on any number of reasons.  But such an exercise would be pointless and arrogant.

This man epitomizes the need for simple compassion.  Not pity, just concern that acts.

In reality, this man symbolizes all of us.  Everyone has a "crooked part."  We all need intervention, concern, understanding and, well, a break.

Sitting in judgment seems so absurd, as I watch this man walk away.

Following after him to simply talk feels so right.