Friday, April 26, 2013

Radical reinvestment needed in South Dallas Fair Park

Got to say that I'm waiting for the day I can watch a presentation like the one below that envisions radical investment in South Dallas Fair Park.

 Maybe I won't live that long, but there is no reason the quality of the presentation and the vision of the final product for the benefit of people and community couldn't match this one that sets out a major reinvestment plan for the old Valley View Center in, where else, North Dallas.

Why couldn't something like this happen in Fair Park, our city's most neglected treasure?


Thursday, April 25, 2013

More good news from CitySquare Community Health Services!

Recently, I received the message below from Leigh Allen, our practice administrator at CitySquare's Community Health Services.  The good news continues to pour in on the quality of the services we offer our neighbors who are also our patients.  We strive to create a user-friendly medical home for everyone who comes through our doors.  It turns out that the "family atmosphere" we offer is an important part of the healing work we do.  Enjoy!


I wanted to share this wonderful email announcement of the TMF Physician Quality ImprovementAwards.  

All the providers in . . . the CitySquare clinic were recognized!  

We were able to achieve this award because of the hard work that previously went in to obtaining our Level 3 Patient Centered Medical Homes recognition.  

I am proud of [our] CitySquare team.  They deserve to be recognized and we will celebrate at the clinic level with a lunch or “dessert” day. 

Carpe Diem!

Leigh Allen, Practice Administrator
CitySquare – Community Health Services

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Regressive tax systems crush the poor. . .

Check out a slice of this provocative essay:

Practically the only tax that could rise was the one that hurt the poor the most: the sales tax. And rise it did, throughout the Deep South in the late 19th century, then spreading into the Carolinas, Georgia, Florida and the rest of the region in the 1960s and 1970s. Even liberal politicians weren’t able to buck the tide — just ask Bill Clinton, who as governor of Arkansas urgently sought new revenue to improve his state’s ailing schools and found the sales tax was the only politically viable option.

If this were just a history lesson, we could set it aside. It isn’t. In the last 30 years, these trends have only gotten worse. Southern states have steadily increased the tax burden on their poorest citizens by shifting the support of the public sector to sales taxes and fees for public services. After California voters passed Proposition 13, which capped property-tax increases, in 1978, Western states began to move in a similar direction. Sales taxes on clothing and school supplies and fees for bus fare and car registration take up, of course, a far bigger slice of a poor household’s budget than they do from the rich.

To get an important historical perspective on tax policy at the state level, as well as essential understanding as to just how our tax system hurts the weakest among us in Dallas, click here and read the entire report.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Dr. King's fight for economic justice--Taylor Branch and James Cone

Taylor Branch's books about the American Civil Rights Movement are classics.

 I was fortunate enough to sit in the classroom during seminary with James Cone.

 Both men command our attention, especially today.

 Watch and then react.

Monday, April 22, 2013

We are Boston. . .

Hunger spreading in USA

I've been a huge fan of Bill Moyers for years.  I recently read the following interview regarding the challenges associated with hunger in America today.  

Going to Bed Hungry

The United States is the world’s wealthiest nation, yet we still have families and children who don’t have enough to eat. We caught up with Joel Berg of NYC’s Coalition Against Hunger to learn what it means to be food insecure and what we can do to ensure that no child goes to bed hungry.
Theresa Riley: What does it mean to be “food insecure”? How many American children now live in “food insecure” households?
Joel Berg
Joel Berg: Food insecure means families don’t have enough money to regularly obtain all the food they need. It means they are rationing food and skipping meals. It means parents are going without food to feed their children. It means kids are missing breakfasts. And, ironically, because healthy food is usually more expensive than junk food, and because healthier options often don’t even exist in low-income neighborhoods, it means that food insecurity and obesity are flip sides of the same malnutrition coin, so food insecurity may actually increase a family’s chance of facing obesity and diabetes. Fifty million Americans, including nearly 17 million children, now live in food insecure homes.
Read the entire interview here

Friday, April 19, 2013

God on immigrants--2

The Torah

"As for the assembly, there shall be for both you and the resident alien a single statute, a perpetual statute throughout your generations; you and the alien shall be alike before the Lord You and the alien who resides with you shall have the same law and the same ordinance." Numbers 15:15-16

"I charged your judges at that time: 'Give the members of your community a fair hearing, and judge rightly between one person and another, whether citizen or resident alien.'"  Deuteronomy 1:16

". . . who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing. You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt."  Deuteronomy 10:18-19

"You shall not withhold the wages of poor and needy laborers, whether other Israelites or aliens who reside in your land in one of your towns."  Deuteronomy 24:14

"You shall not deprive a resident alien or an orphan of justice; you shall not take a widow’s garment in pledge. Remember that you were a slave in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you from there; therefore I command you to do this." Deuteronomy 24:17-18

“Cursed be anyone who deprives the alien, the orphan, and the widow of justice.” All the people shall say, “Amen!”  Deuteronomy 27:19

Thursday, April 18, 2013

God on immigrants--1

From The Torah

 ". . .there shall be one law for the native and for the alien who resides among you."  Exodus 12:49 (Leviticus 24:22)

"You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt." Exodus 22:21

"You shall not oppress a resident alien; you know the heart of an alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt." Exodus 23:9

"When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest.  You shall not strip your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen grapes of you vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the alien:  I am the Lord your God." Leviticus 19:9-10 (23:22)

"When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God." Leviticus 19:33-34

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Opportunity Center nearing end of "phase 1"

The exterior components of our new community center for "opportunity discovery" are nearing completion.  Phase 2 will see the building finished out for occupancy.  Just wanted to let you see the latest photos!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Still not too late to join CitySquare and Mayor Cory Booker!

Check out this great report on our 18th annual community prayer breakfast set for this Thursday, April 18!  

CitySquare’s 18th Annual Community Prayer Breakfast, entitled “For the Good of the City” will take place on Thursday, April 18th at Dallas Market Center.

Read details here!


Monday, April 15, 2013

Detroit without much comment. . .

Last week I visited Detroit.

 To be more specific, southwest Detroit's inner city neighborhoods.

The photos posted here came out of my phone.

Key impressions:
  • vacant land, everywhere
  • devastated housing stock
  • dirt, grime, trash, graffiti
  • despair
I wept.

I'll have more to say soon.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Church and Culture

So, where is radical faith today, especially in light of the call of Jesus to live counter to culture with unrelenting care for poor, the left out, the left behind and the marginalized?  Does the church reflect more of the popular culture of media, society and consumerism than it does a vision of the "out there" notion of the kingdom of God?  Check this out from Marcus Carlson's blog.
The church today resembles culture more and more, and unfortunately, instead of changing the world, the church has been changed by the world. This is backwards, and while we must minister to the culture we live in, the church is losing its identity.
Here are five of the ways I believe the church has been changed by the world:
The church has become overly corporate.
The church has become too corporate. In fact, most churches in the United States today look and act a lot more like a business than they do the body of Christ. Certainly the corporate world can teach the church much about systems, processes, policies and how to handle finances; however, the church has not used discernment as to which corporate values should be applied to the life of the church and how those values should be applied. We treat our ministries and programs as products, look at our congregation and community members as customers, and seek to please rather than to lead.
To read the entire essay click here. 

Friday, April 12, 2013

30 of the very best business books

My friend, Randy Mayeux leads our Urban Engagement Book Club twice each month.  The club sponsored by CitySquare focuses on books dealing with poverty, social justice and community development, and is a part of our overall public policy work.

In Randy's other world he leads the First Friday Book Synopsis that deals with the latest and greatest business books.

This year marks the 15th anniversary of this gold mine of business writing treasure.

To make the occasion, Randy selected the 30 best business books from the many he has presented.  It is more than worth a look!

You can see Randy's list and learn more about the First Friday Book Synopsis here.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Seeking "the common good"

Jim Wallis describes an environment that is antithetical to the realization of justice and community.

 Watch the video.

Buy his new book!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

50 Million of us are poor by definition!

The number of Americans living in poverty has spiked to levels not seen since the mid-1960s, classing 20 per cent of the country’s children as poor.

It comes at a time when government spending cuts of $85 billion have kicked in after feuding Democrats and Republicans failed to agree on a better plan for addressing the national deficit.

The cuts will directly affect 50 million Americans living below the poverty income line and reduce their chances of finding work and a better life.

To read the entire report click here.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Funding homeless people?

A friend of mine sent me the video that follows.  

Watch the video, read the commentary and then check in below for my reactions.

To give money to the homeless or to not give money to the homeless? It's an age-old quandary that an Oregon nonprofit may have solved.
Sanctity of Hope, a Portland organization, has invented a new currency for homeless people. Donors buy tokens from the nonprofit, dole them out to people living on the streets and they can then be exchanged at stores for food and other goods they might need, according to KATU.
This innovative system allows do-gooders the opportunity to give to the homeless, without worrying how they will spend the cash, and it also pushes panhandlers to spend their money wisely.
It's a model that would let donors breathe easy, especially considering stories we've seen lately about some less-than-honest panhandlers.
The people of Lexington, Ky., for example, were horrified last month when they learned that Gary Thompson, a beggar who had been getting around in a wheelchair and speaking with a slurred speech, was neither homeless, nor disabled, LEX18 reported. The story became even more disturbing when Thompson revealed to reporters that he earns about $100,000 a year.
Sanctity of Hope's token system could potentially reduce such scams.
We choose to donate money based on the level of perceived need, Derek Thompson wrote in the Atlantic in 2011. Beggars known this, so there is an incentive on their part to exaggerate their need, by either lying about their circumstances or letting their appearance visibly deteriorate rather than seek help.

So, short of a "token" system like this one in Portland, what is one to do when a person on the street asks for money?  (BTW--I don't think many Dallas merchants would want to entertain more of the homeless in their places of business.  I hope I am wrong, but my experience tells me that I'm probably not.)

Here are my random observations:

1)  The question is really hard to answer in just one way.  Not every homeless person is the same, nor are their circumstances.  And, it takes time to learn, to discover the reality the person asking for help is facing.  

2)  If I have a relationship with a person, if I know the person, if we have some "history," I am more inclined to help out.  Or, for the same reasons, I may be less inclined.  The person I know, like Penny for example, may be really needing a few bucks for food, a bus pass or toiletries.  If so, I'll help out.  But, for a guy like Buck, I know he's headed for another night of drunken stupor.  Why invest in that?  Who does that help?  But in either case I have some basis for deciding what's best.  That all takes time.

3) I often surprise homeless persons by initiating the conversation myself.  To approach a homeless person and begin a conversation changes the dynamics of the entire interchange.  It's as if the surprise factor drives all of "the game" out of the encounter.  Honesty can pave the way for some really helpful decisions and discussions. 

4)  Honestly, sometimes my emotions dictate my decision.  That's probably not a good thing, but it is true and real.  The fact is I often don't know what to do.  

5) Above all, I try to pay attention to my heart and to how these encounters affect my inner life.  I find it hard spiritually to turn away from another person.  That means I need to do something with every request.  The worst thing for me is to ignore the person who asks.  I've done it, but it never feels right.  So in almost every case, I have to give the person who asks me my attention, as well as my honest answer.  

What are your ideas?

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Franciscan blessing

A  new friend of mine, Ron Johns, Jr., sent this wonderful benediction my way not long ago.  I find it inspiring, as well as formative.

Franciscan Benediction

May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half truths, and superficial relationships so that you may live deep within your heart.

May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom, and peace.

May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and to turn their pain into joy.

And may God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

April 4, 1968

It was one of those moments that I will never forget.  I recall exactly where I was and what I was doing when the news reports crackled into the radio of my 1957 Buick.

My good buddy, Eddie Wilson and I were putting school board campaign signs out in yards where they had been requested.  I can't remember the name of the candidate my father was supporting, but we were working for him.  

I was 18-years-old, a senior in high school about ready to go off to college.  

The news bulletin:  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gunned down and dead in Memphis, Tennessee where he was supporting striking sanitation workers.  

Dr. King. . .dead.  

April 4, 1968.

I am remembering today.

Crushing injustice!

This in from The New York Times, Sunday, March 17, 2013 by Paul Butler, "Gideon's Muted Trumpet."
A poor person has a much greater chance of being incarcerated now than when Gideon was decided, 50 years ago today. This is not because of increased criminality — violent crime has plunged from its peak in the early 1990s — but because of prosecutorial policies that essentially target the poor and relegate their lawyers to negotiating guilty pleas, rather than mounting a defense.
After Gideon, things got better for poor defendants in the short term. Thousands who had not had lawyers at trial were released from jail. Many states and localities created public defenders’ offices. But political and legal developments soon eroded those achievements.
Read the entire report here. 

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

This is an awesome idea! Contact your representatives in Austin now!

Health Homes / Health Teams Update

State Representative Sylvester Turner (D-Houston) has filed a companion “Health Homes / Health Teams” rider as an amendment to the House version of Senate Bill 1 (the state budget). As with the Senate rider (Article II rider 68) Turner’s amendment permits the use of Medicaid funds in for providing “patient-centered care” to homeless persons with chronic medical and mental health conditions.

The rider authorizes the State Medicaid Director (under the Texas Health and Human Services Commission) to seek an amendment to the state Medicaid plan from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).  If approved, the amendment will allow providers of patient-centered care (“Health Teams”) to deliver integrated health services (medical, behavioral and supportive) as a part of the Texas Medicaid program. The Health Homes option is a special provision (Section §1945 of the Social Security Act) which allows states to develop customized programs of integrated health service to deal with needs of targeted populations.  This option does not require the state to expand Medicaid.

This approach to care is an evidenced-based, best practice which is rapidly being adopted throughout the country.  Since the “Health Homes Option” first became available on January 1, 2011, eleven other states have requested approval of similar plan amendments.  Under this Medicaid strategy, patient-centered health care for the homeless:

Reduces the burden of uncompensated care on hospitals and local hospital districts. . .

Improves the performance of permanent supportive housing in stabilizing residents with serious and persistent mental illness, especially those diverted from incarceration. . .

Restores capacity to emergency medical and psychiatric health systems. . .

Improves the coordination of health services to extremely vulnerable populations. . .

 Provides efficiencies in care delivery and data production. . .

Is the best known means of providing consistent, whole-person care, and

Reduces the cost to the State for these services.

The Federal Medical Assistance Percentages (FMAP) for this optional program is only 10 cents on the dollar.  For every dollar billed to Medicaid for these services, the state will save three dollars against services now provided under the standard state FMAP.