Thursday, February 28, 2013

CitySquare AmeriCorps recruiting summer members!

Celebrating the New Year means preparing for another big summer of service! CitySquare’s N2 Texas Corps will engage over 250 AmeriCorps members in nearly 100,000 hours of service this summer alone but we need your help to fill these positions and spread the word about our summer program!

The N2 Texas Corps is actively recruiting for over 250 summer positions in Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio! Positions are available in the following programs:
Food on the Move – Members serve 40 hours a week June 5 – August 23, 2013 to provide daily meals and play to youth in low-income apartment communities (positions available in Dallas, Irving and Houston). Preference is given to bilingual (Spanish/English) applicants and applicants 21 and over.

      Education – Members serve with a community partner site 30-40 hours a week starting June 5 (end date varies by site) to provide daily educational enrichment and structured activity to at-risk youth (positions available in Dallas and San Antonio).

The application is attached and available online at

How to refer someone to our program:
     1. Forward this email with the attached application to anyone who might be interested.
2.  Simply direct your friends, peers, neighbors, family, etc to the CitySquare website at
3.   Direct potential applicants to us via email at

How to help us spread the word:
1.   Pass this on via email to friends, family, peers, church groups, civic groups, PTA, neighborhood associations, any group you have access to via email.
2.   Invite us to speak at a relevant networking event, organizational meeting, college class, etc.
3.   Word of mouth – share this opportunity with your friends and family over dinner, at church, and other social gatherings!
4.   Post a Flyer – I’ve attached a pull-tab flyer you can print out and post at your site, church, or any other community boards you have access to.
5.   Social Media – blog, tweet, or facebook us, you name it! – spread the word about this opportunity through your social networks!

Again, the application is attached but it is available online!  Additional information is available on the application cover page and our website but feel free to contact me with additional questions and/or ideas to help us spread the word! 

In service,

Jennifer A. Rajkumar
Associate Director
N2 Texas Corps

409 N. Haskell Ave.
Dallas, TX 75246

P: 214 828 1085 ext 122
F: 214 828 6392

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Take the challenge!

Consider taking the "I Was A Stranger Challenge" today!  The effort began last fall, but it continues and our efforts are needed.

Begin by viewing the video below.

To find out about the "challenge" click here.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The essence and purpose of community

Waiting to Be Revealed

 We do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that deep inside us is someone valuable, worth listening to, worthy of our trust, sacred to our touch. Once we believe in ourselves we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight or any experience that reveals the human spirit.

e.e. cummings
Source:  inward/outward

Monday, February 25, 2013

Mayor's worthwhile campaign: Please Join Today!

Feel free to adapt this information into a message or letter to your friends and associates.  Unfortunately, I'll be out-of-town on March 23, but I intend to promote the event as much as possible.  Join me in this worthwhile effort!


Putting an End to Domestic Violence in Dallas

Last month, Mayor Mike Rawlings felt compelled to speak out against the senseless, horrific acts of domestic violence taking place in our city. Overwhelmingly, 85% of these violent acts involve a man attacking a wife, girlfriend or partner.  

In the span of one year – from 2011 to 2012 – the number of Dallas murders related to domestic violence doubled. Already this year, four women have needlessly lost their lives due to domestic violence. This isn’t only a Dallas problem or even just a North Texas problem. It’s a worldwide epidemic. But in order for significant change to occur, we must address this issue locally.

Mayor Rawlings is calling for 10,000 men to join him at 10 a.m. March 23, 2013 at the Men Against Abuse Rally at Dallas City Hall Plaza, 1500 Marilla Street. I am taking a stand and joining Mayor Rawlings in this effort. We want the world to know – enough is enough! It’s time to end domestic violence in Dallas.
I am sending you this letter to ask you to 1) participate in the rally, 2) contact 20 other men encouraging them to participate, and 3) pledge the following:
  • I will never commit an act of violence against women.
  • I will hold abusive men accountable for their heinous actions and help them seek counseling.
  • I will speak out against domestic violence and promote domestic violence awareness.
  • I will teach my daughters, nieces and granddaughters that they never have to accept violence in a relationship, and teach my sons, nephews and grandsons that violence is an unacceptable way to express anger or displeasure.
To be clear, this event doesn’t exclude women. In fact, Mayor Rawlings worked closely with women and experts at women’s shelters on this effort. But we have to speak to men because we are a significant part of the problem.

Please join us at the rally and encourage your friends, relatives, coworkers, and employees to attend. Also, visit our website at  In the days and weeks ahead I will be sending you more information about the rally.

If you are part of an organization that provides solutions to ending violence and would like more information about how to be involved with the event, please call Paige Flink of the Family Place at 214.559.2170.
And please join us at the rally. Together, we can end domestic violence.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Basis for powerful community renewal. . .

 I wonder what would happen if
I treated everyone like I was in love
with them, whether I like them or not
and whether they respond or not and no matter
what they say or do to me and even if I see
things in them which are ugly twisted petty
cruel vain deceitful indifferent, just accept
all that and turn my attention to some small
weak tender hidden part and keep my eyes on
that until it shines like a beam of light
like a bonfire I can warm my hands by and trust
it to burn away all the waste which is not
never was my business to meddle with.

Derek Tasker
Pilgrimage, An Exploration Into God, by Ivor Smith-Cameron

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Ups and Downs

No doubt, ups and downs intersect life for everyone.

This past week, rather typical in many respects,  brought with it a feeling not unlike a roller coaster ride!

Monday a.m.:  As I attempt to navigate through the traffic jam at Haskell and Gaston into the drive through lane at Starbucks, I notice a car trying to make a left turn across on-coming traffic into the same lane I seek.  I held up my entry and waved the car in ahead of me.  We exchanged waves and I followed into the order lane.  When I reached the window to pay for my coffee, the attendant says to me, "No charge.  She paid for your coffee! Thanks for stopping in!"  Nice surprise and payback, certainly not expected.  But the kindness made me want to buy someone else a cup of coffee!

Monday p.m.:  My friend, Ms. Nonis Alexander has left me 4 messages in a frantic attempt to get in touch with me by phone.  Ms. Alexander, a long time food pantry volunteer and adopted "mother" to most of us, checks in with me on a regular basis, but this is unusual.  She is unrelenting in getting me to call her back, which I do.

"Larry, I been talking to a woman at the pantry who says you been giving people money who are drug dealers," she begins.  "I know you never see bad in people, but [and here she mentions a specific person who she believes in s drug dealer] is not a good guy.  I don't want you to end up missing because of your being around people like that!"  I reassure her that I haven't been giving drug dealers money and that I am aware of the concern we should have about the person she mentioned.  Still, I'm blown away by how determined she is to "get my back."

Tuesday noon:  I have a great meeting with leadership from The Hills church in Tarrant County.  They express real interest in providing funding for one of the Cottages that we plan to build in a  development for some of the hardest to house homeless persons in Dallas County.  We have a good laugh about how much Dallas needs Fort Worth!

Tuesday p.m.:  I participate in a conference call with representatives from the firm handling the New Markets Tax Credit allocation for the Opportunity Center.  Very positive call with the appearance that our application proposal will be well received.  The result will be almost $3MM for our project.

Wednesday a.m.:  I pick up a voice mail message from the pastor of a Dallas church that has decided not to fund the construction of one of the Cottages in our planned housing development for the hardest of the hard core homeless.

Wednesday p.m.:  I pick up another voice mail message, this one from a United Way staff person informing me that our United Way grant proposal for Community Health Services would not be approved for a site visit.  Not the news I was looking for!

So the journey flows.  At times we're on the mountain top. At times our faces are pressed into the hard pathway on the valley floor!

Our best efforts require staying power.

It's about that simple.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Turns out the "wealth gap" hurts us all

JANUARY 19, 2013, 6:47 PM

Inequality Is Holding Back the Recovery

The re-election of President Obama was like a Rorschach test, subject to many interpretations. In this election, each side debated issues that deeply worry me: the long malaise into which the economy seems to be settling, and the growing divide between the 1 percent and the rest - an inequality not only of outcomes but also of opportunity. To me, these problems are two sides of the same coin: with inequality at its highest level since before the Depression, a robust recovery will be difficult in the short term, and the American dream - a good life in exchange for hard work - is slowly dying.
Politicians typically talk about rising inequality and the sluggish recovery as separate phenomena, when they are in fact intertwined. Inequality stifles, restrains and holds back our growth. When even the free-market-oriented magazine The Economist argues - as it did in a special feature in October - that the magnitude and nature of the country's inequality represent a serious threat to America, we should know that something has gone horribly wrong. And yet, after four decades of widening inequality and the greatest economic downturn since the Depression, we haven't done anything about it.
There are four major reasons inequality is squelching our recovery.

To read the entire essay click here.

Joseph E. Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate in economics, a professor at Columbia and a former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers and chief economist for the World Bank, is the author of "The Price of Inequality."

Monday, February 18, 2013

Guns and cities

I can't speak for people who reside in rural areas of our nation. 

However, I can speak from an urban context.

 The ready availability of guns, including semi-automatic weapons designed for military and law enforcement actions, destroys our confidence and sense of safety. Tragically, the presence of these weapons all too often destroys families and permanently disrupts lives.

These realities explain why the President's words during his state of the union speech last Tuesday night meant so much to me.

 How about you?


Sunday, February 17, 2013

Lenten Prayer of Cesar Chavez

Show me the suffering of the most miserable
So I will know my people’s plight
Free me to pray for others;
For you are present in every person
Help me to take responsibility for my own life;
So that I can be free at last.
Give me honesty and patience;
So that I can work with other workers.
Bring forth song and celebration;
So that the Spirit will be alive among us.
Let the Spirit flourish and grow;
So that we will never tire of the struggle.
Let us remember those who have died for justice;
For they have given us life.
Help us love even those who hate us;
So we can change the world.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

What's essential

"The essential thing 'in heaven and earth' is that there should be a long obedience in the same direction; there thereby results, and has always resulted in the long run, something which has made life worth living."

Friedrich Nietzsche

Friday, February 15, 2013


Visiting "the Corner" becomes addictive.

I've asked myself why that is the case.

Today, I believe I found my answer:  raw, human need and desperation coupled with complete honesty, appreciation and love.

The number of men and women with whom I visited today overwhelmed me.

I noticed a common theme again in their requests of me:

"Where can I find work?"  

"Where can I find a place to live?"  

"May I have a bag of chips?" 

"May I have a bottle of water?"

Two other almost universal observations:

Everyone took pride in their attire.  One man apologized incessantly about how dirty his clothes were.  And, he was careful to explain why.  I mean, on the street and concerned for one's appearance. All of us want to do the best we can, don't we?

Everyone was glad to see me.  

"Man, where you been?" was a common question, as I've been out of place the last two weeks.

"Man, the new place is lookin' good!  When will it open?" people observed the Opportunity Center across the street.

I returned to my office for a meeting and a conference call wrung out with the emotion of the people, the people who call me to cut through the stupid, ill-informed barriers to a better way of responding to such overwhelming human need.

The touch, the words, the embraces, the smiles, the fist bumps of the people set me to dreaming about our next steps.

We need a business plan to start a company that employs these friends of mine.  There is a wealth of ability, energy and resting capacity on this corner that needs to be unleashed in honest labor.

Stay tuned.

The world can change. 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine's Day thought. . .

 Agape love is the power to love the unlovable. It is the power to love people we do not like. Jesus commands us to love our enemies in order to be like God. We are not told to love in order to win our enemies or to get results, but that we may be children of God, who sends the rain on the just and the unjust, who looks after both the good and the evil. The predominant characteristic of this agape love is that, no matter what a person is like, God seeks nothing but his or her highest good.
N. Gordon Cosby
Source: Unknown

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


Judge Rules School Finance System Unconstitutional, Case Heads to Texas Supreme Court

by  Published on 

Just before breaking for lunch today, Travis County District Judge John Dietz joked that it was appropriate the last day of the school finance trial fell so close to Groundhog Day. Like him, many of the lawyers making their closing arguments today had been through this before in at least one of the six previous school finance cases against the state since 1984.
This afternoon, Dietz issued his ruling—again, a repeat of many school finance rulings issued from the Travis County Courthouse—that Texas’ system for funding its schools is inadequate, unfair and creates a de facto statewide property tax. As a broad coalition of school districts spent 44 days arguing in court, each of those means the finance system violates the Texas Constitution.
And now, just as in those six previous cases—known colloquially and at really wild parties as Edgewood I-IV and West Orange-Cove I and II—it’s up to the Texas Supreme Court to make the final call. If the Supreme Court agrees with Dietz, it’ll be up to the Legislature to “fix” the system to their satisfaction, a whole ‘nother messy procedure that could mean special legislative sessions and new trials to see if the new system passes muster with the courts. (Hence the previous cases’ Rocky-esque names.)
The latest case, likely to be remembered as Fort Bend ISD v. Texas Education Agency (or, God forbid, Fort Bend I), brought together more than 600 districts representing three-quarters of the students in the state—the largest school finance case Texas has ever seen.
This case isn’t just the biggest one Texas has ever seen, but the most complex as well, thanks to a pair of groups that joined the case with arguments that hadn’t been raised in school finance trials before. The Texas Charter School Association and TREE (Texans for Real Efficiency and Equity in Education, if you’re long-winded about it) argued for more charter schools, more money for charter schools, and a guarantee that schools spend their money wisely. Today Dietz ruled against both groups, saying the issues they raised are best left to the Legislature.
Dietz was more sympathetic to the central argument raised by school districts in varying forms: that lawmakers had raised standards for Texas schools—specifically by rolling out the new, tougher STAAR test—just when they were cutting funding from public education.
“We either want increased standards, and are willing to pay the price, or we don’t,” Dietz said today.

Read entire report here.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Listening for the "P" word tonight

A word about poverty in State of the Union

By Jonathan Capehart , Updated: 

Everyone who is anyone with a pet cause or project has been angling for weeks to get a word, a phrase or even a full paragraph or two from President Obama in tomorrow night’s State of the Union address. If the reports hold up, he’ll focus on jobs and the economy. After more than four years of financial hardship, Obama can’t talk about this often enough.
Specifically, I’m looking for the president to use the word “poverty” or “poor.” Because of the relentless focus on the middle class — those in it and those who aspire to join the club — poverty and the poor often go ignored or unremarked. That’s not to say that those issues are not important to Obama. Quite the contrary, as any honest assessment of his record that goes deeper than the headline-grabbing actions would show. Still, use of the words “poverty” and “poor,” especially its impact on children and in this particular address, would be the thunderclap of attention needed to kick start a renewed effort to do something about it.
Last week, I told you about a coalition of 16 advocacy groups calling on Congress to establish a new National Commission on Children. Save the Children has amassed almost 100,000 signatures inan online petition calling for one. Folks call for the creation of commissions all the time. Then they wait for the nod. And if the nod comes, they convene experts, write a report and hope that one of their recommendations leaps from obscurity to become enacted policy. But this time might be different.
For starters, these folks have cash to finance the endeavor. The Center for the Next Generation alone has raised more than $1 million for a proposed national commission on children. Also, these groups envision a new model for the commission: one that has the three P’s as its focus: public engagement, private-sector involvement and personal responsibility; and one that calls on all stakeholders to be a part of the solution, rather than wait for one prescribed by Washington.
The idea holds great promise. All that’s needed is for Obama to say the word and to go as boldly as the advocates want.

The violence must stop!

Anyone who lives in an urban neighborhood should be concerned about the sheer numbers of firearms and weapons that are present on the streets, in the traffic jams, the homes, the business and on countless persons we meet daily.

Clearly, we need a multi-faceted approach to deal with the violence that ruins so many lives every day.

 Gun control regulation will not be the total answer, but it must be part of any answer we come up with, and we need answers now.

 Let me know what you think of the video below.

 I hope you'll get involved in the effort to make our communities safer and more livable.


Monday, February 11, 2013


A heavy and cruel hand has been laid upon us. As a people, we feel ourselves to be not only deeply injured, but grossly misunderstood. Our white countrymen do not know us. They are strangers to our character, ignorant of our capacity, oblivious to our history and progress, and are misinformed as to the principles and ideas that control and guide us, as a people. The great mass of American citizens estimates us as being a characterless and purposeless people; and hence we hold up our heads, if at all, against the withering influences of a nation’s scorn and contempt.

Frederick Douglas, in a statement on behalf of delegates to the National Colored Convention held in Rochester, New York, in July 1853

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Social Creed

[What follows is a statement of the "Social Creed" of the United Methodist Church.  I find it inspirational.  Reactions? LJ]

We believe in God, Creator of the world; and in Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of creation. We believe in the Holy Spirit, through whom we acknowledge God’s gifts, and we repent of our sin in misusing these gifts to idolatrous ends.

We affirm the natural world as God’s handiwork and dedicate ourselves to its preservation, enhancement, and faithful use by humankind.

We joyfully receive for ourselves and others the blessings of community, sexuality, marriage, and the family.

We commit ourselves to the rights of men, women, children, youth, young adults, the aging, and people with disabilities; to improvement of the quality of life; and to the rights and dignity of all persons.

We believe in the right and duty of persons to work for the glory of God and the good of themselves and others and in the protection of their welfare in so doing; in the rights to property as a trust from God, collective bargaining, and responsible consumption; and in the elimination of economic and social distress.

We dedicate ourselves to peace throughout the world, to the rule of justice and law among nations, and to individual freedom for all people of the world.

We believe in the present and final triumph of God’s Word in human affairs and gladly accept our commission to manifest the life of the gospel in the world. Amen.

A Companion Litany to Our Social Creed
God in the Spirit revealed in Jesus Christ,
calls us by grace
        to be renewed in the image of our Creator,
        that we may be one
        in divine love for the world.

Today is the day
God cares for the integrity of creation,
        wills the healing and wholeness of all life,
        weeps at the plunder of earth’s goodness.
And so shall we.

Today is the day
God embraces all hues of humanity,
         delights in diversity and difference,
         favors solidarity transforming strangers into friends.
And so shall we. 

 Today is the day
God cries with the masses of starving people,
        despises growing disparity between rich and poor,
        demands justice for workers in the marketplace.
And so shall we.

Today is the day
God deplores violence in our homes and streets,
         rebukes the world’s warring madness,
         humbles the powerful and lifts up the lowly.
And so shall we.

Today is the day

God calls for nations and peoples to live in peace,

         celebrates where justice and mercy embrace,
         exults when the wolf grazes with the lamb.
And so shall we.

Today is the day
God brings good news to the poor,
        proclaims release to the captives,
        gives sight to the blind, and
        sets the oppressed free.

And so shall we. 

From The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church - 2008. Copyright 2008 by The United Methodist Publishing House.

Friday, February 08, 2013

Immigration Reform: An Overview from Mother Jones

What's Happening With Immigration Reform, Explained

From the Gang of Eight to "the back of the line," here's a quick primer on the latest congressional battle.

In the wake of a presidential campaign that saw Mitt Romney popularize the term "self-deportation" and President Obama clobber his rival among Latino and Asian American voters, Obama and the Senate's bipartisan Gang of Eight have announced the broad strokes of their respective immigration reform plans, which aim to deal with the approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States. We put together this primer to help you follow the debate now brewing.

What is "comprehensive immigration reform"? For years, this expression has been code for an immigration compromise. It would include tougher border enforcement (more Border Patrol agents, fencing, etc.), while also proposing a path to citizenship for the undocumented immigrants already here. Guest worker programs are often the third prong, in theory providing a legal way for foreign workers to fill temporary jobs in the US.

As my colleague Adam Serwer pointed out, Obama's plan makes no mention of a guest worker program, while the proposal put forward by the Gang of Eight—Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.)—calls for a "humane and effective system" for "immigrant workers to enter the country and find employment without seeking the aid of human traffickers or drug cartels."

Wait, didn't we already have immigration reform in the mid-'80s? Well, yes. There were more than 3 million undocumented immigrants in the United States when Congress passed the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA), which sought to strike a balance among employer sanctions, border enforcement, and legalization. Its failures—the sanctions were largely toothless, and the legalization program was opaque and inefficient—in many ways have colored the reform debate to this day. (See: the amnesty crowd.)

According to Donald M. Kerwin (PDF) of the Migration Policy Institute, a DC-based nonprofit, even though "millions of persons with approved petitions…languished for years in unauthorized status" due to a lumbering federal bureaucracy, IRCA lowered the undocumented population of the United States by 1.8 million to 3 million people. The rise of that population in the 1990s and early aughts, Kerwin wrote, "can also be attributed in part to the failure of US legal immigration policies—which IRCA left almost entirely intact—to meet US labor market needs during these years. It also can be attributed to inconsistent enforcement of the employer verification laws and to flaws in the employer verification regime that make it difficult to detect when unauthorized workers present the legitimate documents of others."

And didn't we try again in 2007? Great memory! George W. Bush pushed hard for immigration reform during his second term, but the bill never got past the Senate. This New York Times roundup captures both sides pretty well: Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), a staunch reform opponent, claimed that supporters wanted to pass the bill "before Rush Limbaugh could tell the American people what was in it." Meanwhile, a defeated Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) lamented, "The situation is going to get worse and worse and worse."

What do both sides agree on this time around? There's no way any deal gets done without more border enforcement (see below), so that's a starting point. Additionally, lawmakers have added Romney's plan to "staple a green card" to the diplomas of immigrants receiving advanced degrees in science, math, engineering, and technology at American universities. And the DREAM Act, first introduced more than a decade ago, finally seems to have bipartisan support. (The act offers a path to legal status for young people whose parents brought them here illegally as children.)

What are the stickiest points? Under the Senate's plan, immigrants won't be able to seek legal residency until border security has been achieved. (There's still confusion over the role and power of the proposed Southwestern border commission, which would include border hawks like Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer.) Also, guest worker programs have traditionally been opposed by labor unions. On top of that, Obama's push to grant gay and lesbian couples the same immigration rights as heterosexual couples has already been met with opposition from Republicans; at a January 30 event, McCain said: "Which is more important: LGBT or border security? I'll tell you what my priorities are. If you're going to load it up with social issues, that is the best way to derail it, in my view."

Just to clarify: Don't we already spend tons to secure the border? Sure do. Customs and Border Protection had a budget of $11.7 billion last year, $3.5 billion of that for the Border Patrol. As the Washington Post reporter (and Mother Jones alum!) Suzy Khimm pointed out yesterday, the United States has surpassed the border security requirements from the failed 2007 reform plan. Nowadays, we have 21,444 agents working the border, some 8,500 more than in 2007. Notably, 2011 saw the fewest Border Patrol apprehensions since 1971 (340,252)—at a whopping cost to taxpayers of $10,431 per apprehension—four times as much as in 2007.

Thursday, February 07, 2013


 I've seen it deeply, indelibly etched on the faces of literally thousands of our neighbors as they sit in the waiting area of our food pantry on Haskell Avenue in inner city East Dallas.

You can't miss it if you stop long enough to take it in.


Deep sadness.

Even beneath the smiles of courtesy and politeness, the deep facial lines, chiseled by a long, long bout with continual disappointment and the limitations imposed by chronic, unrelenting poverty, remain.

Inescapable sadness.

Sadness that spills over into the lives of children early on.

Sadness that imposes limits, curtails expectations, and that all too often pools up at depths sufficient to swamp an otherwise promising life.

Sadness creates cesspools of hopelessness and resignation.

The variety of sadness I've observed again and again in the inner city demands a life-patience beyond my capacity to comprehend.  

Most of my middle class and upper class friends have no clue.  More significantly, we go to great lengths to dispel any notion of sadness.

Sadness discomforts us.

We avoid it at costs.

We even attempt to "shew it away" whenever we see it!

This ignorance arises from a basic inexperience in waiting for anything, especially the necessities of life:  food, clothing, shelter, transportation, education, employment, safety, health care, recreation, entertainment, celebration, civic life and organization, public engagement, to name a few.

Most of us wait for very little.

The patient response of the poor to the overwhelming sadness of so much of life lived in poverty contributes to the maintenance of social stability.

While we should be grateful, most of us remain unknowing.

Poverty creates a foreboding culture defined largely by deep, thick sadness.

Good news to the poor always involves driving the sadness out of life--a mission that can be accomplished only in a community that embraces sadness.  To deliver hope a community must live out of a commitment to understanding, honest self-evaluation, and radical dependence on those who know this sadness best, those who live it out every day.

I wonder if we're up to it?

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Edd's reflection on 2013 homeless census. . .

[I'm privileged to work with some of the finest people in the world every day.  None finer than Edd Eason.  

Edd and I go back a long, long way.  We were in college together 44 years ago!  Edd and I served the same church in Richardson for 14 years.  We've been blessed to have Edd here at CitySquare over many years.  Whatever Edd puts his hand to turns out to benefit everyone around him.  

He sent me the following reflection on the annual "point in time census" of our homeless neighbors that took place in late January here in Dallas.  LJ]

There were about 8 -10 of us last night at the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance (MDHA) homeless census. All of the CitySquare Homeless Outreach Team, plus Steven Arias and I from Project Access Dallas.

Very interesting activity.

I spent about 4 hours at The Bridge interviewing homeless people. 

I’d recommend everyone at CitySquare do this at some point in their career. 

It’s best thing I've ever done to “put a face on homelessness.” It’s one thing to face homelessness individually out in our neighborhoods.  It’s quite another to face up with homeless folks one after another for 4 straight hours.

At the end of each interview volunteers ask, “What are the five most important things you need right now?” 

Overwhelmingly, the number one answer is “a home.”

I visited with a man who had been homeless off and on for 27 years. 

Recently, he had been moved to one of the transitional units at The Bridge. He told me he had been sober for 10 months and was beginning to lose the cravings for alcohol for the first time in his life. 

I showed him a list of 20 + things to choose from - things like money, transportation, substance abuse treatment, medical/dental care, etc. For his list of 5 things his number one response was “a place of my own.”

Most folks assume that a man who had lived in emergency shelters for 27 years would have adjusted to that reality and would have given up on having “a place of his own.” 

Just goes to show that changing the trajectory of people's lives sometimes is as simple, and as challenging, as continuing to provide opportunity and support until a person is ready to make changes.


Monday, February 04, 2013

Attacking the failure of our prison policies

Recently, my good friend and former CitySquare team member, Jeremy Gregg spoke at the TEDXSMU 2012 Conference on the moral challenge of prison policy in the United States and in Texas.  Jeremy works with the very effective Prison Entrepreneurial Program.

Powerful words from a visionary leader in our community.

Check it out!

Friday, February 01, 2013

Money and dreams

[What follows is the text of part of a letter that Dr. Janet Morrison sent to the Sowell Scholarship Selection Committee as the group decided on this semester's award recipients.  I found it moving and so indicative of what chldren from low-income families face as they attempt to better their lives. We need to work harder to protect funding for students who are ready and willing to work hard on their education.  LJ]

Hello everyone~

I'm a little behind on getting scholarship info out to you this semester. As most of you know, I am now working with the Vickery Meadow Youth Development Foundation. I am the director of their Eagle Scholars college readiness program where 150 students are enrolled in the program. E

Each year teachers at Tasby middle school choose 30 out-going 6th graders to be in the Eagle Scholars. We stick with those 30 kids year after year until they graduate. This is our first year of high school seniors.

I have been meeting with individual families and have met with about 15 so far. It amazes me that anyone could ever claim that poor people don't value education. I wish everyone could see the emotion as parents and their children tear up when they talk about their biggest fear is that they will not be able to fulfill their dreams.

When I ask why they wouldn't be able to, it is always because of money.

Last night I watched a 7th grader tear up over this same concern. I don't think she had ever expressed that concern and stress to her mom. I could tell it shocked and greatly concerned the mom that her daughter was already so concerned about their money situation. Her mom immediately tried to console her and tell her that they would ask friends and family for favors and would find a way to make sure she could go to college and fulfill her dream.

I can almost guarantee you that the applicants for the fall will be much greater in number since I now have contact with many more seniors who will be looking for assistance. Since the Eagle Scholars stick with the program over 5 years, they are absolutely amazing and dedicated students with their only fault being that they are poor and can't afford college. I'm glad we have this scholarship that I will be able to tell them about.

Another important piece of information...Nazareth [the scholarship applicant] is asking for $3,000 this time. She is doing great at UT and has now declared Biology and pre-med as her major. She has switched a couple of times from Education to Engineering to (now) Biology. Her dad has requested that this be her last declaration.

Knowing Nazareth, I know she is determined and responsible. She has looked into the program to make sure she can still graduate on time (which she will). She said the students received a letter from UT stating that due to government cuts the amount of financial aid they are able to receive has been cut. She was very concerned about this. She has the maximum amount of Stafford loans but does not want to take out Parent Plus loans because she does not want to burden her parents with the potential debt if she cannot get a job in this economy. Instead, she has been working relentlessly with the UT Financial Aid department to find as many other grants as possible. Because of her hard work and persistence...I would recommend that she receives the complete $3,000...but I am open to any suggestions from the committee.

Thanks so much for being a part of this important act of helping kids fulfill their dreams.