Friday, February 28, 2014

Quick note. . .how YOU can help!

From: Keith Ackerman Sent: Friday, February 28, 2014 9:37 AM To: 2CitySquare Management Subject: Need of reading glasses for our Homeless Neighbors Folks, As Larry and I were out at the Corner yesterday across from The OC, we discovered that there is a huge need for reading glasses. We were surprised by the feedback we got about how many folks truly need them. As a result, we are trying to gather up some reading glasses to distribute, so if any of you have access to any, please send them our direction. They will go to great people who will be truly appreciative. Thanks, Keith Keith A. Ackerman, LMSW Chief Operations Officer CitySquare 511 N. Akard Street Ste. 302 Dallas, TX 75201 P: 214 823 8710 F: 214 824 5355

My People

My friend and teammate here at CitySquare, Keilah Jacques shared this poem with us recently.  Profound.

For My People
By Margaret Walker
Margaret Walker, “For My People” from This is My Century: New and Collected Poems. Copyright © 1989 by Margaret Walker.  Reprinted by permission of  University of Georgia Press.

For my people everywhere singing their slave songs
     repeatedly: their dirges and their ditties and their blues
     and jubilees, praying their prayers nightly to an
     unknown god, bending their knees humbly to an
     unseen power;

For my people lending their strength to the years, to the
    gone years and the now years and the maybe years,
    washing ironing cooking scrubbing sewing  mending
    hoeing plowing digging planting pruning patching
    dragging along never gaining never reaping never
    knowing and never understanding;

For my playmates in the clay and dust and sand of Alabama
    backyards playing baptizing and preaching and doctor
    and jail and soldier and school and mama and cooking
    and playhouse and concert and store and hair and
    Miss Choomby and company;

For the cramped bewildered years we went to school to learn
    to know the reasons why and the answers to and the
    people who and the places where and the days when, in
    memory of the bitter hours when we discovered we
    were black and poor and small and different and nobody
    cared and nobody wondered and nobody understood;

For the boys and girls who grew in spite of these things to
    be man and woman, to laugh and dance and sing and
    play and drink their wine and religion and success, to
    marry their playmates and bear children and then die
    of consumption and anemia and lynching;

For my people thronging 47th Street in Chicago and Lenox
    Avenue in New York and Rampart Street in New
    Orleans, lost disinherited dispossessed and happy
    people filling the cabarets and taverns and other
    people’s pockets and needing bread and shoes and milk and
    land and money and something—something all our own;

For my people walking blindly spreading joy, losing time
     being lazy, sleeping when hungry, shouting when
     burdened, drinking when hopeless, tied, and shackled
     and tangled among ourselves by the unseen creatures
     who tower over us omnisciently and laugh;

For my people blundering and groping and floundering in
     the dark of churches and schools and clubs
     and societies, associations and councils and committees and
     conventions, distressed and disturbed and deceived and
     devoured by money-hungry glory-craving leeches,
     preyed on by facile force of state and fad and novelty, by
     false prophet and holy believer;

For my people standing staring trying to fashion a better way
    from confusion, from hypocrisy and misunderstanding,
    trying to fashion a world that will hold all the people,
    all the faces, all the adams and eves and their countless generations;

Let a new earth rise. Let another world be born. Let a
    bloody peace be written in the sky. Let a second
    generation full of courage issue forth; let a people
    loving freedom come to growth. Let a beauty full of
    healing and a strength of final clenching be the pulsing
    in our spirits and our blood. Let the martial songs
    be written, let the dirges disappear. Let a race of men now
    rise and take control.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Rock Enroll this Saturday, March 1!

On March 1, from 10 a.m until 5 p.m., the CitySquare Public Policy Department will host Dallas’ first young adult health insurance enrollment event at our CityWalk (511 N. Akard) location in Downtown Dallas. 

Though this city-wide Affordable Care Act education and enrollment event is targeted at young adults, it is open to the public.

CitySquare has partnered with nationally recognized groups like Enroll America and the Young Invincibles, as well as a statewide partner, TexPIRG Education Fund (that works closely with university students) to make this event largely visible and well attended. As a result, it has been recognized by the Department of Health and Human Services in Washington, D.C.!

Saturday will be a fun filled day with local DJs, food trucks, fitness instructors, and Health Care Navigators to help us deliver Dallas’ largest young adult enrollment event

We expect to see a strong local and national media presence, with local and statewide elected officials, university leadership, not to mention some of the areas tastiest foods trucks!

We would love for you to attend! As with any CitySquare event, we need as much help as possible!   

If you are available to volunteer, please sign up here.

What's wrong with this picture?

Read more here!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Darkness, uncertainty

Calling Out to God

The secret essence of the soul that knows the truth is calling out to God: Beloved … strip me of the consolations of my complacent spirituality. Plunge me into the darkness where I cannot rely on any of my old tricks for maintaining my separation. Let me give up on trying to convince myself that my own spiritual deeds are bound to be pleasing to you. Take all my juicy spiritual feelings, Beloved, and dry them up, and then please light them on fire. Take my lofty spiritual concepts and plunge them into darkness, and then burn them. Let me only love you, Beloved. Let me quietly and with unutterable simplicity just love you. 

Friday, February 21, 2014

Life can change

When I first met Eddie, he sat in his wheelchair in front of the Downtown YMCA panhandling folks who walked by him on their way to workout inside.  Lots of well-intentioned people, including me, gave Eddie money, meals and provided occasional nights in nearby hotels.  My staff chided me and forced me to swear off helping Eddie in the manner I normally did.

So, Eddie became a friend of CitySquare.  Or, maybe better, CitySquare became Eddie's friend.  There were times when he likely didn't consider us his friend!  Tough love can be difficult.  

Eddie's had a misfire or two on his way off of the cold, hot, mean, lonely streets of Downtown Dallas.  I won't go into anymore detail, it's really nobody's business but Eddie's.  Still, I can't help but celebrate his victories and his hard-won progress.  And, I can't resist the urge to tout the great work accomplished by our team of street workers here at CitySquare.  

Here's a great set of photos of Eddie signing a lease to his new apartment before getting a "new look" for his new start.  I gotta tell you, these photos made my day!

Congrats, Eddie!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Closed lives

Closing Doors

Our growing capacity to look the other way when confronted by poverty in the public sphere lead us to accept not only the segregation of our neighborhoods and public places, but also the segregation of our consciousness and being. When we close the door or turn away from the stranger, a door closes in us as well.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Funding: An inside story (Part 1)

Providing leadership to a growing non-profit organization can be a maddening enterprise!

Don't get me wrong, I love the work I get to do every day.  I love my team.  I love our neighbors.  I love our supporters.

But, and maybe it's my prejudice for a "full disclosure" approach to about everything, this job is the hardest one I've ever had, bar none.

A huge part of that "hardness" factor relates to funding.  Forgive me, but it helps to talk about it--just to lay it out there for everyone to see.  This approach is sometimes frowned upon by the experts in philanthropy.  I mean, you just don't reveal everything when it comes to funding, development strategies or the financial threats that you inevitably face along the way if you are attempting anything worthwhile.

So, stay with me for a bit here as we consider a number of the realities of non-profit funding.

1.  Every year you must find a way to virtually, completely recapitalize your business.  This is especially true if you work in the human services/poverty space.  Cash reserves are nice and important, and very difficult to grow in view of the pressing and expanding human need that one observes all around. Basically, in this sector you grow accustomed (almost) to  having to build your wealth from practically ground zero every 12 months.  Thank God for great, good, consistent partners who journey with you in this world!

2.  The reality of differing kinds of funds with different uses can send you over the edge! Very little of the funding received is for general or unrestricted use.  Especially as an organization grows, more and more of the funding comes in the form of contracts, grants, or bequests that restrict and designate just where funds may be legitimately deployed.  So, an organization might have $1,000,000 in the bank, but none of it be available for use except in the special way its purpose is defined.

Imagine if your paycheck were restricted in such a manner. What if you could only use your pay for capital improvements or education or savings?  How would you cover more general operating expenses?  Possibly you would decide to get a part time job!  Non-profit management can feel about that scattered and desperate at times.  Hey, I'm just sayin'!

3.  Then, there are matters related to sheer scale, as in the amount of funding that must be acquired on an annual basis. Let's say your organization crafts an annual operating budget, not including any special capital or reserve efforts, that comes in at $11,900,000.  In real, pressing, "keep you on your toes and awake at night" terms, that budget calls for funding at an annual rate of $1,358 per hour calculated on a twenty-four hour/7-day week basis.

4.  Meeting your financial objectives and goals demands the development of a sophisticated strategy complete with a variety of fundraising tactics.  To raise $1,000,000 monthly you need some large gifts.  You also must be working on a basis of hundreds of smaller gifts.  Staying in touch with your supporters on their terms can be challenging, but essential, and not just because you need their gifts. Effective fundraising assumes that you are working to assist donors realize their individual giving goals.

More and more non-profit organizations are attempting to identify "widgets" to manufacture in hopes that social enterprises might provide some relief.  Fee for services and sales can be helpful in rounding out a comprehensive funding strategy.

No one approach proves adequate.

It's complicated!

More on all of this later, I'm sure.

Thanks for hearing me out. . .it helps, as I noted in the beginning.

But now, I've really got to get back to our daily goal:  $32,592 and some change!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Tell me your ZIP, I'll tell you about your health

Just in from the Colorado Health Foundation.  Move evidence of the interrelated complexity of poverty.  This poverty is destroying our neighborhoods. 

Health by ZIP Code

Where You Live Determines Your Health – for Good or Ill
Feature 1 - Health by ZIP Code
By Sandy Graham
Opportunities for good health bypass far too many people, in Colorado and nationwide.
If you live in a poor neighborhood, chances are that you are not as healthy as someone who resides in a more affluent neighborhood. Your address reflects your health – and more.
"There's a lot of information in an address," says Anthony B. Iton, MD, JD, MPH, senior vice president of healthy communities for The California Endowment. "It tells me about your income, your education, the health amenities you have access to and employment opportunities you can access. I can pretty much predict your life expectancy by where you live."
Iton has data to back his point. Mapping life expectancy in major metro areas by census track or ZIP code finds wide ranges even a few miles apart. In Philadelphia, for example, those in the city's center live 6.4 years less on average than neighbors 21 miles away in Chester County. Life expectancy in Oakland, Calif., is less than 74.3 years compared with more than 80 years in much of the rest of the county.
Assuring the highest level of health for all Americans is a goal that many experts believe makes both humanitarian and economic sense. But achieving what some call "health equity" requires tackling social determinants of health such as income, education, nutritious food, safe housing, affordable and reliable public transit, culturally sensitive health care professionals, health insurance, and clean water and air.
A Complex Problem
"That's why health equity is so elusive," says Len Nichols, PhD, director of the Center for Health Policy Research and Ethics at George Mason University. "You can't push one button. You have to think about the totality of the social fabric of the community."

Read more here.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Asset Poverty: "One Crisis Away"



On February 27 @ 7pm KERA’s Krys Boyd Moderates Free Public Forum
on Asset Poverty in North Texas at Dallas City Performance Hall 

DALLAS/FORT WORTH – Imagine being so close to the financial edge that a single life event could push you and your family over. According to a study by the Corporation for Enterprise Development, 29 percent of North Texans are classified as "asset-poor" – meaning they don’t have sufficient assets to live for three months at the federal poverty level if they lose their income. KERA, the North Texas public broadcasting station, and Communities Foundation of Texas (CFT) present One Crisis Away, a free public forum discussing asset poverty in North Texas at Dallas City Performance Hall on Thursday, February 27 at 7 p.m.

The free public forum is the culmination of the ongoing One Crisis Away news series launched by KERA News in November 2013, following four families bravely telling their stories of living on the financial edge. The news series includes radio and video stories; conversations on KERA FM’s Think; and a television program of the public forum scheduled to broadcast Thursday, March 27 at 7 p.m. on KERA TV.

“KERA partnered with Communities Foundation of Texas to build awareness around the growing issue of asset poverty,” said KERA President and CEO Mary Anne Alhadeff. “Almost one-third of all North Texans are a step away from financial ruin, which means it could be your friends, neighbors or family members. Or, it could be you. One Crisis Away explores what living with ‘asset poverty’ means and elevates public dialogue about this increasing reality.”

Moderated by KERA’s Krys Boyd, the One Crisis Away event will feature an in-depth discussion on asset poverty with three leading experts: Andrea Levere, president, Corporation for Enterprise Development; Alfreda Norman, vice president and community development officer, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas; and Larry James, president & CEO, CitySquare. Join the discussion by submitting questions for the panelists on Twitter @keranews using the hashtag #onecrisisaway.

“Asset poverty extends far beyond those living below the federal poverty line,” says Alfreda Norman, vice president and community development officer of Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. “One-third of those households that earn $45,655 to $70,000 annually is asset poor or has less than three months of savings, and one in five of those that earn $70,015 to $107,000 could not weather a job loss without falling into poverty.”

"These stories of local families bring the data to life. They give a startling revelation of how many of us are in or very close to serious financial trouble," says Brent Christopher, president and CEO of Communities Foundation of Texas. “We applaud KERA for creating programming that educates and empowers families in our community with the skills to sustain themselves through a crisis if or when the time comes.”

The One Crisis Away forum will begin promptly at 7 p.m. at Dallas City Performance Hall. The event is free but seating is limited and offered on a first-come, first-served basis. Doors open at 6:15 p.m., so arrive early for best seats. To attend the One Crisis Away free public forum, please RSVP by Tuesday, February 25.

KERA’s One Crisis Away project is funded in part by Communities Foundation of Texas, Allstate Foundation, Dallas Women's Foundation, The Fort Worth Foundation, Thomson Family Foundation, and United Way of Metropolitan Dallas.

Monday, February 10, 2014

A time for action
            Recently, Republican leadership in the U. S. House of Representatives released a document titled “Standards for Immigration Reform” outlining a set of principles to guide their negotiations on the issue in 2014. 

Included in their framework are familiar ideas such as securing the nation’s border to the south, implementation of an entry-exit visa tracking system, employment verification and workforce enforcement of the law, a special plan for addressing the status of under aged youth brought to the United States by parents and a requirement that undocumented residents be willing to “come forward” and honestly address their current status.  A requirement embedded in the GOP plan would be the admission of a violation of the law by the undocumented, submission to rigorous background checks, the payment of fines and any back taxes, development of proficiency in both English and U. S. civics and the ability to support their families.  Finally the “Standards” state, “Criminal aliens, gang members, and sex offenders and those who do not meet the . . . requirements will not be eligible for this program. In addition, none of this can happen before specific enforcement triggers have been implemented to fulfill our promise to the American people that from hereon, our immigration laws will indeed be enforced.”     

This clear statement of the Republican position provided encouragement to those of us who have been working hard and clamoring frequently for Congress to take action to define, reform and pass comprehensive immigration reform that will benefit millions of our undocumented neighbors by providing them legal status and the protection and opportunity that they so richly deserve but presently do not enjoy. 

           Protection is essential because currently many of my undocumented friends work, study and serve without assurances provided by law or regulation.  As a result, workers are forced to live with the exploitation of unscrupulous employers who take advantage of their immigration status to underpay or, in some cases, to not pay for work performed.  Furthermore, in many of the most demanding work settings safety, human resources standards and fair labor practices are not simply neglected; they are largely ignored or completely dismissed. 

Dedicated, hardworking students complete degrees at our universities with absolutely no pathway to full employment.  Individuals and families are forced to live in what amounts to an underground society defined by limitations and the very real fear of deportation and separation from loved ones. 

I understand the fears of parents well thanks to the fact that for several years I’ve worked with a family whose son was deported to Mexico, even though he was brought to the United States as a very young child with no knowledge of immigration law.  Jose, now sent away to a village in central Mexico, knows nothing but his experience and self-understanding as an American. 
A city like Dallas would be hard pressed to function without the presence and labor of the undocumented, like Jose’s father.  Comprehensive reform would bring everyone into the light of day.  The overall local economy would benefit.  Our schools would improve dramatically, as now documented parents felt more confident in engaging with public schools.  Law enforcement, labor relations, business development, home ownership, community strength and enhanced social stability would improve the quality of life for us all in virtually every neighborhood in town.
Beyond the clear economic return to Dallas as a result of immigration reform, we need relief from the injustice and immorality of the current state of affairs that weighs on our city’s self-understanding, as well as its vision for a bright future.  No city aspiring to become a world-class community built on fundamental democratic ideals, the power and beauty of human diversity and the promise of a people’s innovation can achieve its goals when so many of its people cannot function as fully vested partners in the enterprise of hope and justice.

Unfortunately, the Speaker of the U. S. House of Representatives has now come out to inform us that he will not take up any effort to enact reform this year.  Claiming that President Obama “cannot be trusted to enforce the law,” Speaker Boehner has decided no action is the proper approach to this pressing national problem.

Texas is special.  So much of our history, hope and heritage connect to families south of our boarder.  For generations the real immigrants to Texas, and more particularly to Dallas, have benefited greatly from this Latino connection.  The time has come, and is long past due, to honor our centuries old joint heritage.  Providing a way for our hard working, undocumented neighbors to more fully embrace our community, its opportunity and its promise makes sense for us all.  To fail again in addressing this clear and immediate challenge seems unthinkable. Clearly, it is time for action.

Larry James

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Pope Francis: Lenten message

From the National Catholic Reporter:

Full text of Pope Francis' Lenten message

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,
As Lent draws near, I would like to offer some helpful thoughts on our path of conversion as individuals and as a community. These insights are inspired by the words of Saint Paul: 'For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich'. The Apostle was writing to the Christians of Corinth to encourage them to be generous in helping the faithful in Jerusalem who were in need. What do these words of Saint Paul mean for us Christians today? What does this invitation to poverty, a life of evangelical poverty, mean to us today?
Read the entire message here

Friday, February 07, 2014

Dallas Snow

American Beauty

This ad moved me deeply. The role of the United States as a great welcoming land must never be lost. This same spirit translates into every plan, aspect, dream and action that we take in the inner city here in Dallas. All are welcomed! The party needs to grow larger, not smaller!


Thursday, February 06, 2014

No Corner today

Today snow, ice and cold shut us down at CitySquare.

Our kitchen in the Pantry closed.

Our food warehouse went dark.

Everyone either stayed at home or left early to get there as the weather worsened.

So, I didn't go the "the Corner" today.

No food or drink or coffee to share.

I didn't go, but some of my dear friends did. . .they live there and have few options.

The Corner has taught me that poverty offers few options and often no really good choices.

So, we didn't go.

But they were there in the snow, ice, wind, and what I expect felt like gray hunger.

The Corner has quickened my understanding of things.  It has altered my memory and my experience.

It snowed unexpectedly in Dallas today.

Many of my friends found themselves outside.

It is not enough to remember or to know.

My friends deserve so much more.  They deserve better.

As I say, it is not enough to remember or to know.

Life Purpose?

Will someone please tell me what this means?

I'm not connecting to the images of labor, sacrifice, deeper meaning, danger, giants and even community that take us to an expensive sports car.

Educate me.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Business faces hard facts. . .plans accordingly

This week an amazing report on the shrinking middle class in the United States hit the streets via The New York Times.  The report was based on analysis done, not by social scientists or liberal political talking heads, but by business leaders and marketing strategists.

These two paragraphs set the tone for the article:

As politicians and pundits in Washington continue to spar over whether economic inequality is in fact deepening, in corporate America there really is no debate at all. The post-recession reality is that the customer base for businesses that appeal to the middle class is shrinking as the top tier pulls even further away.

If there is any doubt, the speed at which companies are adapting to the new consumer landscape serves as very convincing evidence. Within top consulting firms and among Wall Street analysts, the shift is being described with a frankness more often associated with left-wing academics than business experts.

Read the entire report here.

Clearly, this sort of trend alerts us to the growing numbers of people who stare poverty in the face on a daily basis.  We must work smarter.  We must become bolder.  We turn away from systemic, collective strategies to our own and our society's peril.

Are we simply asleep?

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Risking vulnerability

There is much to consider in this TED Talk. 

 Certainly, as we relate to people, including "poor people," dealing honestly with my own life struggle will be essential. 

Vulnerability is a real challenge, but so worth it if change and transformation remain our objectives.