Sunday, June 30, 2013

Blessed by grandchildren!

Gracie sings!

Henry enjoys a fresh haircut (though his dad may be in a bit of trouble!).

What a blessing, and I have two other grandsons, Wyatt and Owen, who'll be featured in coming days!

Just humor me.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Attack poverty for real!

Here's a note I picked up from "Attack Poverty."  It is right on!

Want to help the poor? 

Abandon old donor-recipient model.

Embrace partnership model that values God-given creative capacity in everyone!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Publishers Weekly Review. . .

[The following review appeared recently in Publishers Weekly.]

The Wealth of the Poor: How Valuing Every Neighbor Restores Hope in Our Cities
Larry M. James
Abilene Christian University Press
$24.99 trade paper (288p)
ISBN 978-0-89112-380-4
When most people think of Dallas, they don't think poverty. This captivating memoir by first-time author James, a Church of Christ minister before heading up CitySquare (formerly Central Dallas Ministries) reveals what the Big D's 28 percent inner-city poverty rate looks like at home. James and CitySquare approach economically poor neighborhoods by first identifying their critical assets—social capital, survival skills, indigenous knowledge, and capacity for change—in a process James calls "re-neighboring." Skillfully blending social entrepreneurism, an adroit acquaintance with urban planning policies, and a profound love for his neighbors, James and CitySquare are not only lifting individuals out of poverty, but economically revitalizing neighborhoods by incubating for-profit microenterprises, including landscaping, a used-car lot, and even solar power. Readers move seamlessly through James' hard-won lessons, biblical insights, and engaging community profiles to a deeper theological point about hope and the gospel. While some of James' examples may not translate well beyond Dallas, his fresh engagement with the practicalities of "loving one's neighbor" in an era of austerity will inspire readers everywhere. (May)
Reviewed on: 06/17/2013

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

A place to call "home". . .

Over the past 30 days CitySquare and the Central Dallas Community Development Corporation have managed to coordinate an effort that resulted in putting in place the financing necessary to construct 50 single family cottages that will provide permanent supportive housing for 50 of the "most expensive" homeless persons to Dallas County.  We refer to the project as "The Cottages at Hickory Crossing."

By "most expensive" I mean those persons who are currently homeless and who consume the most county services from the public health care system, the mental health system and the criminal justice system.  We know the top 250 most expensive homeless persons by name.  The average annual cost to Dallas County (costs to the City and to non-profit organizations are not included in this cost analysis) to support one of these people on the streets of our community comes in north of $40,000 each!  Once built, the Cottages development will provide high-quality, permanent housing with robust psychiatric services and high-touch concierge care for well under $15,000 annually!

The fact is providing permanent housing for our homeless neighbors is not only morally right, it makes sound business sense.  Talk about a better return on investment!

Recently, our partners from Abilene Christian University snapped the photo above of a gentleman stretched out on the property where the Cottages will be built.  He is reading a book.  Soon he may have a home, a roof over his head and a better place in which to study.

Progress, in more ways than one, I'd say!

Sunday, June 23, 2013


Spiritual Progress

Do not entertain the notion that you ought to advance in your prayer. If you do, you will only find you have put on the brake instead of the acceleration. All real progress in spiritual things comes gently, imperceptibly, and is the work of God. Our crude efforts spoil it. Know yourself for the childish, limited and dependent soul you are. Remember that the only growth which matters happens without our knowledge and that trying to stretch ourselves is both dangerous and silly. Think of the Infinite Goodness, never of your own state.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Man down

I'm boiling.

Yesterday out at "the Corner" I witnessed another example of the daily plight of the powerless who live on our very unforgiving streets.

As I sat in my car taking a phone call that lasted several minutes, an ambulance pulled up at the service station next door.  I noticed the ambulance, but could see no one to whom the crew was attending. By the time I finished my phone call, the ambulance was gone, but I noticed that the patient remained.

A very ill Hispanic gentleman sat leaned up against the outside wall of the service station building next door to the old house where I sit on Thursday afternoons.  He appeared to be semi-conscious and unresponsive.  His friend and protector, Joe, informed me that he had just been discharged from the hospital, but was clearly in trouble.  The ambulance had refused to transport him back to the hospital for reasons I couldn't understand.

I called 911 and requested that an ambulance return.

In a few moments, the ambulance with the same crew returned.

I insisted that they pick him up and take him back to the hospital.  The man was diabetic and now lying down flat on his back on the concrete pavement.

The crew went to work, placed the man on a stretcher and loaded him into the ambulance and drove away.

As they left, my homeless friends were relieved and hurt.

Why hadn't the ambulance crew responded to their pleas on behalf of their friend?

Why did I get the needed action and not them?

Why had the man been discharged from the hospital?

Was his fate all about money?

Was he "uninsured," not even receiving Medicaid? 

Was he undocumented and thus, fair game for being left to die on our streets? 

The situation left us with so many unanswered questions.

God help us!

Are we to conclude that there actually are expendable people today in our community?

Is power concentrated in almost exclusively in the hands and voices of people like me, but not my friends who are simply poor even though experts on the subject of poverty?

I need answers.

I'm steamed.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

CitySquare health clinic listed among the best in Dallas!

[Great news for CitySquare Our Community Health Services clinic received recognition in the very significant award described below!  Bottom line: we dedicate ourselves to providing our low-income neighbors the very best care possible! As a result, our clinic is listed along with the very best market-rate health clinics in the DFW Metroplex!]

80 Texas Physician Practices Recognized for Improving Care through Health Information Technology

Texas Physician Practice Quality Improvement Award honors physician practices using technology to provide exceptional preventive health care 


CONTACT: Emilie Fennell Director, Communications and External Relations 512-334-1649 1-800-725-9216 Katie Gaide Public Relations Specialist TMF Health Quality Institute 512-334-1709 Austin, TX – April 22, 2013 – TMF®

Health Quality Institute, Texas Medical Association and Texas Osteopathic Medical Association announced today that 80 physician practices statewide received the first Texas Physician Practice Quality Improvement Award for effectively using health information technology to improve care for patients through reliable delivery of preventive health services.

The three organizations collaborated to develop the award in 2012 to recognize high performing practices committed to improving clinical measures including cholesterol screening, tobacco cessation counseling and cancer screenings, among others. Using health information technology to drive high-quality preventive services has been designated a priority for U.S. health care by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

Click here to read the entire report and to see the list of award winners!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


The Civil Rights Act passed the U. S. Senate on this day in 1964.

I love this photograph of two of the key leaders who played huge roles in seeing it through for the good of everyone in the nation.  Dr. King and President Johnson got a lot done!


Today is Juneteenth!

Celebrations began over the weekend and will certainly continue today here in Dallas, across Texas and, now, around the world!

It was on June 19, 1865, that General Gordan Granger and 2,000 federal soldiers arrived at Galveston Island as part of the plan to take possession of the state of Texas, previously under the control of the Confederate, rebel government.

Upon his arrival, Granger announced his enforcement of the Emancipation Proclamation issued by President Lincoln almost three years earlier on September 22, 1862. Unknown to the slave population of Galveston, Lincoln's executive order went into effect on January 1, 1863.

Standing on the balcony of Galveston’s Ashton Villa, Granger read the federal directive, “General Order No. 3”:

"The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere."

Former slaves rejoiced in the streets of Galveston. The next yearJuneteenth celebrations began across Texas. All over the state freed African Americans pooled their funds to purchase land to accommodate the annual celebrations. Today the celebrations continue as a community tribute to the arrival of both the news of freedom and the actual beginnings of liberation.

But, freedom was hardly won in 1865. Even the language of the "General Order" bespeaks the continuation of limitations and hedges against complete liberation for African Americans in the United States. One hundred years later black Americans were still struggling for that liberation in the American Civil Rights Movement.

Today the celebrations continue. These times of rejoicing, memory and pride are invaluable not only for the African American community, but for all of us who cherish freedom, liberty and human equality.

The struggle, the sacrifice and the joy of African Americans provides a continuing vision for and appreciation of the best in our national life and memory.
Remember freedom today. Find your own way to join the celebration

Friday, June 14, 2013

Workforce training at CitySquare

CitySquare’s WorkPaths is now enrolling for our 3 training programs. WorkPaths equips low-income adults with hard and soft skills through intensive CitySquare’s WorkPaths is now enrolling for our 3 training programs (please see attached flier for more detail) WorkPaths equips low-income adults with hard and soft skills through intensive pre-employment training programs designed to increase functional skill levels—enhancing employment ability to continue with additional training or education toward a living-wage job offering a career path and benefits.  All classes are at no out of pocket expense and DART transportation assistance is provided.

WorkPaths offers 3 training paths:

•Build4Success – 12-week program in commercial construction and environmental remediation made possible by partnership with OAI, Inc. Build4Success includes fundamentals in electrical, plumbing, welding, blueprint reading, and basic carpentry, as well as “workplace” life/soft skills such as positive communication in the workplace and how to be a great employee. OSHA 30, HAZWOWPER 40, Lead, Mold, Asbestos Worker Training and First Aid/CPR/AED are also part of coursework.

•Path2Success - a 10-week computer and business fundamentals program, is designed to equip participants with computer competencies in Microsoft Office's Word, Excel, Power Point, Outlook and Explorer. The training is made possible in part by a grant from Microsoft and in partnership with Bill J. Priest/El Centro College.

After graduation, WorkPaths’ staff members continue to work with program graduates to resolve outstanding "life" issues hindering individuals from getting and keeping a good job. WorkPaths’ staff interfaces with employers of program graduates to monitor their progress and works with the employer to address any issues that may arise. Post graduate training continues through CareerPaths, a post-graduate program employing job matching, until successful employment is achieved in order to continue to strengthen employability skills.

•Drive2Success - 9 month long program designed to train individuals in different aspects of the auto body industry. If you are accepted into the program you will take classes such as Basic Metal Repair, Basic Refinishing, Color Analysis and Paint Matching. There are also classes in Collision Repair Welding, Damage Repair and a host of other classes designed to help you become an auto body professional.

Please feel free to call our offices at 214-823-4409.  Please forward to your email contacts and other service providers who could benefit from what we are now offering!!! 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Great progress!

[CitySquare works with thousands of different people every year.  One area we're working to improve has to do with sharing compelling narratives regarding the progress of neighbors we know and with whom we work to construct a better, stronger community. What follows is just such a personal story of progress!  The reporter is Krystal Lotspeich, a member of our Neighbor Support Services team.   What follows are some of her notes about Tiffany.]

Tiffany was first introduced and referred to CitySquare by a neighbor in her apartment complex.  She first came to CitySquare to receive food assistance and she later requested to receive case management services.  

At intake Tiffany needed financial assistance, education/job training, employment, transportation, housing, clothing and a bed for her son.  She was on a fixed income-with barely enough money to get by and often struggled to meet her basic needs and had little to no support system.

Intensive Case Management involved working on setting and completing goals, assisting with updating resume, and providing hygiene and toiletries.  We found her a bed for her 9-year-old son from the Thrift Store, as well as clothing, and additional community resources. Referrals were made to community resources such as The Mayor's Back to School Fair which provided Tiffany with school supplies. Tiffany was able to get a current and valid ID from the Wilkinson Center.  Tiffany was also able to obtain financial assistance with her rent through community resources that were given to her.

Today, Tiffany is no longer financially stressed, has a strong support system, is stably housed and focused on her education.  

The first time I met with her the first thing she said was that she wanted a case manager to help her with setting and achieving goals.   Tiffany’s fixed income of $698, from her son’s SSI, made it difficult to meet her basic needs.  She was paying $600 for a one-bedroom apartment for her and her son, who at the time did not have his own bed.  

After rent was paid, she barely had enough to get by.  Tiffany had bigger dreams and goals but was often too overwhelmed with just trying to make it day-by-day that she didn’t even know where to begin or how to achieve success with all the barriers she faced.  

Through consistent and continuous intensive case management we were able to break down her goals, identify her barriers and empower her to work towards change, achieve success and accomplish her goals- one goal at a time.  She is resourceful, a great problem solver and a go getter.  She is determined and optimistic, resilient and ready for change.  In addition, she has found a positive support system through her church. 

Tiffany has a goal of continuing her education so she can find better employment.  She now has an updated customized resume.  She enrolled in the Lawyers Assistance school of Dallas in Aug. 2012 and graduated in February this year.  She plans on furthering her education and will start working on her associates degree in August 2013.  She dreams of getting her Bachelors in Sociology.  

She has moved into a safer and more affordable apartment.  Tiffany’s son is now receiving counseling services and she is looking into receiving mental health services as well.  She is stably housed, no longer financially stressed and is really able to focus on her dreams.  Tiffany still meets with her case manager in person and over the phone so she can continue to work on goals and provide updates on her success.  

UPDATE:  I received an email from Tiffany recently stating that she is now employed as a Legal Assistant at The Almasri Marzwanian Law Group in north Dallas.  She reports that for once in her life she is “happy and stress free.”  She further said “Who would have ever thought I would go from the Food Pantry to Corporate America in nine months.”  She says that CitySquare was a MAJOR part of this positive change in her life and she is happy to tell her story.   

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Just in from our AmeriCorps team in Houston. . .

[This report just in from Dr. Keven Vicknair, Director of our AmeriCorps team at CitySquare.  CitySquare directs almost 300 AmeriCorps members who work in Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and Austin this summer at children's programs and delivering summer lunches to thousands of low-income kids.  I find this report both amazing and yet, not at all atypical for some of the neighborhoods where we live and work.]

AmeriCorps members are gathered right now, eating lunch and talking about their day with one another.

As I walked through, I heard two members tell a story of their experience putting out door hangers at one of their stops.

The manager had told them not to talk to anyone on site. As the team of two young people made their way through the complex, they came across a group of young men blocking the path and talking about shooting someone the night before.

The team had to make a choice to turn back to go the long way around the property or to casually pass.

They choose to casually pass and the group stopped talking, let them pass, and then resumed their discussion of the person they shot the previous evening.

So... as you go about your day, please know you will at least not have to experience anything like the fear these two 20 years old members did today as they tried to make sure kids have a decent meal for lunch.


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Immigration Roundtable meeting

Prayer Roundtable on Immigration
Saturday, June 15, 2013

Your insight is needed in order to make a difference in this historic moment.

We are closer to reforming our broken immigration system than we have been for many years. However, the outcome is far from sure. 

On June 15th, from 11:30am-1:00pm, World Vision and the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, as members of the national Evangelical Immigration Table, will convene pastors and other faith leaders for a time of prayer and dialogue with local legislators about the possibility of attaining an effective and human immigration system which reflects the biblical values of justice and compassion.

Location: Springcreek Church
Address: 2660 Belt Line Road, Garland, Texas 75044
When: Saturday, June 15, 2013
Time: 11:30am-1:00pm (Lunch included)

The national Evangelical Immigration Table is the broadest and most powerful bipartisan coalition of faith leaders in support of immigration reform ( ).

In addition, as preparation for the dialogue, we are offering a special education/training session on the history of immigration policy, the current pending legislation and a Biblically-based public policy advocacy model from 6:30pm-9:30pm on Friday June 14th (also at Springcreek Community Church).

We look forward to your participation! 

Please RSVP to

In Christ,

Rev. Keith Stewart
Rev. Gus Reyes 
Froswa Booker-Drew

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Reflections on "As Goes Janesville"

[I prepared the following paper for The Christian Scholars' Conference convened at David Lipscomb University, Nashville, TN, June 5-8, 2013.  This particular panel (including a representative from the United Auto Workers, GM, academics and the film maker himself) discussed Brad Lichtenstein's film, "As Goes Janesville."]

As Goes Janesville”—Reflections on the erosion of the American Middle Class

            Brad Lichtenstein’s powerful film, “As Goes Janesville,” displays the most recent results of an American economic policy now over 30 years old and continuing to evolve with devastating effect on our shrinking middle class.  By focusing on a group of select and representative persons, the film teases out the attitudes, struggles, losses, uprootedness, philosophies and policy agenda of those spotlighted. 

After 85 years of operations, at the close of the last Bush Administration and in the throes of the economic meltdown of 2008, the closing of the Janesville General Motors plant signaled a major shift in middle class options and opportunities previously afforded by employment in jobs that paid living wages.  Eleven thousand jobs were lost to a city of about 63,000 persons. 

The impact of the film emerges from the personal stories of laboring people and their families on the one hand, and business and political leaders on the other who see in the community and economic implosion “an opportunity” to reign in out-of-control labor costs, while attracting new companies and new jobs.  Ironically, but predictably, the group charged with "re-inventing" a local economy does not include representatives from the local workforce. 

The role of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and the citizens’ recall movement sparked by his policies and attitude toward organized public employees, especially teachers, plays an important part in the story line.  The juxtaposition of the opposing sides, interests and voices seem to confirm the opinion of one of the unemployed who concludes that “we are two different countries now.” 

The route to sustainable recovery in a city like Janesville is not self-evident and the journey promises to be difficult, and one filled with danger and surprise.  It does seem very clear that three decades shaped by the promotion and pursuit of “supply side” economic theory, with its attendant “trickle down” tax policy, in the face of an rapidly expanding underclass and the rise of an under-educated, younger workforce presents a rather daunting list of social and economic challenges. 

Driven by an investor culture in which more people than ever before find themselves financially entangled in the stock market via 401 k and mutual fund accounts, the primacy of “bottom line” corporate considerations tends to devour the expectations of working people.  The weakening influence and outright decline of organized labor and collective bargaining drive both membership and wages down below acceptable levels.  Hard-nosed labor negotiations between management and workers usually end with labor in a compromised or weakened position.  Out-sourcing and off-shoring jobs to serve the ever-present bottom line work against American workers. 

Tax policy, offered up with the promise of attracting new companies and new employment opportunities, has not worked well in Janesville.  According to the film, Governor Walker’s claim that “Wisconsin is open for business” has remained just that, a claim with few substantive results, except possibly a more favorable tax policy benefiting existing corporate interests in the beleaguered state.  The latest job creation numbers rank Wisconsin 47th in the nation.   

So, what may we conclude or suggest in view of the message of this provocative film? 

First, the loci of public and private investment need to shift.  Rather than continuing in our current default position when it comes to where we choose to invest capital, i. e. failing financial institutions and investment banks; the time has arrived where we might reasonably expect a larger ROI by investing in our people and their inherent wealth potential. 

For example, home foreclosures in the aftermath of the plant closing in Janesville reached into the thousands.  More aggressive investment in those homeowners, rather than in their bankers, seems indicated to this observer.  Rather than pouring capital in at the top, it needs to be worked into the soil of the local community.  Rather than cutting funding for public education, pre-school to higher education, as well as trades training and skill set retooling; our leaders should find creative ways to invest in our people, our greatest asset as a nation. 

Second, the nation needs to revitalize a public movement to recover and expand the middle class.  Already I am redundant, but the point here is to reimagine the purpose of collective efficacy and political functionality.  Tax policy must change.  At even the mention of progressive tax reform critics begin to decry the folly, read “horror” just here, of the “redistribution of wealth,” as if the recent, historic redistribution of wealth upward should not call for a countervailing point of view complete with its own version of horror! 

Existing tax loop holes, including off-shore, tax shelters and asset relocation strategies, must be closed and the newly captured funds re-directed to strategic initiatives to benefit middle income Americans, including our social and material infrastructure. 

For instance, funding community-based, public health initiatives that deliver better national wellness outcomes will open more options for employment in the allied health care industry for even unskilled workers while enabling the nation to consume a smaller percentage of GNP on illness care.  This is just one area in which useful and productive synergies could be achieved. 

Public school facilities should be re-purposed after hours for adult education and small business incubation.  Extension courses from local community colleges could be brought nearer consumers by locating in public school buildings after normal hours.  College and skills re-training classes should be matched with a new college/education loan and grant program to assist students in their efforts to re-tool for the current and coming American economy.  Grants for education should be devised, especially for hardest hit areas of economic decline. 

Companies employing unemployed or underemployed workers should be rewarded with larger hiring stipends or royalties. These rewards should be lengthened over 3-5 years to encourage employee stability and increased tenure.   

Local public works projects, such as the S. M. Wright Freeway redesign project, should include requirements to train and hire unemployed persons from the neighborhoods and communities benefiting from such projects, as is the case with this urban renewal effort in Dallas, Texas.

Third, financial incentives need to be deepened as part of a national recovery campaign that rewards producers and consumers of American goods.  American companies need to be assisted in their desire to locate production facilities in places like Janesville.  Giving American companies a leg up in targeted “hot spots” or national enterprise zones for economic investment and innovation should become a part of our recovery strategy. 

In the same manner that large agri-business companies are hedged in every farm bill by federally funded insurance programs against crop loss, so should struggling communities be hedged against the departure of companies.  Or, just as research and development funds are provided to large Pharm companies, so R/D funding should be made available to communities and small entrepreneurs.  Further, small business creation should be assisted, nurtured and funded more adequately and with more creativity. 

Finally, our nation’s safety net programs, designed to assist low moderate and very low-income folks avoid a complete collapse into poverty, must be strengthened.  Utilizing the capacity of current and emerging technologies, persons at the bottom of the nation’s socio-economic continuum should be able to receive an integrated, coordinated map out of poverty and into the possibilities of self-sufficiency, adequate education and full employment.  An honest assessment of the impact of these invested funds on local, state and national economies should be developed and appreciated.  In short, every dollar invested at or near the bottom of the economy is a dollar that is spent quickly and results in an important “churn” in the local economy. 

The complexity and the pain of our current situation require new solutions and the reworking of older, tired, worn remedies and responses.  Sadly, scalable solutions continue to elude us and may be nearly impossible to catch hold of given the public policy and political divide at work in Wisconsin, and not just in Wisconsin, but across the nation. 

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Farm Bill: cut the hungry, pad the well fed. . .

Mark Bittman's essay appearing recently in The New York Times demonstrates how about everything is increasingly "wired" to crush the weakest and lift even higher the strongest among us.

Cutting the Supplemental Nutrition Access Program (SNAP or more commonly Food Stamps) will hurt low-income working families, as well as the nation's food banks and organizations like CitySquare who work hard to assist in supplying the food and nutrition needs of our communities.

The other side of the farm bill relates to how it supports the interests of big agriculture at great cost to taxpayers, consumers and the environment.

Consider what Bittman says:

Welfare for the Wealthy

The critically important Farm Bill [1] is impenetrably arcane, yet as it worms its way through Congress, Americans who care about justice, health or the environment can parse enough of it to become outraged.
The legislation costs around $100 billion annually, determining policies on matters that are strikingly diverse. Because it affects foreign trade and aid, agricultural and nutritional research, and much more, it has global implications.
The Farm Bill finances food stamps (officially SNAP, or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) and the subsidies that allow industrial ag and monoculture — the “spray and pray” style of farming — to maintain their grip on the food “system.”
The bill is ostensibly revisited, refashioned and renewed every five years, but this round, scheduled to be re-enacted last year, has been in discussion since 2010, and a final bill is not in sight. Based on the current course of Congress it seems there will be an extension this fall, as there was in 2012. Extensions allow funding changes for individual “titles,” as programs are sometimes called; last year’s extensions didn’t do much damage, but this year’s threaten the well-being of tens of millions of Americans.
Read the entire piece here.  

Monday, June 03, 2013

Cash First!

Randy Mayeux sent an interesting essay from my way recently.  In it Matthew Yglesias argues that  the best way to really assist the world's poor is to provide direct cash transfers to them.

I find Yglesias' analysis fascinating and, in may ways, counter intuitive to much thinking in the nation today.

In much the same way that "housing first" provides a super-charged solution to homelessness, the idea of "cash first" offers up life, incentive and initiative for recipients.  Take a look at the article here.