Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Down Time

Just FYI: 

I'll be in a "down time" mode for the next couple of weeks.

I'll connect again around August 11. 


Monday, July 28, 2014


Stepping onto the light rail train in Minneapolis on the way to the airport before 7:00 a.m. yesterday, I noticed 4 or 5 men sleeping in their seats. 

Immediately behind me, a young man entered the train. 

He was ill-clad, not much over 20 and developmentally challenged. 

He turned to me with a look of panic on his face.

His speech sounded garbled. 

His demeanor somewhat timid. 

He drooled on this chin as he spoke.

"Could you give me $2.50 to make my fare?" he asked. 

Turns out you can ride a day pass for $6.00. 

The young man fumbled with money held in an open hand.  He tried to count it again and again, even as the train rumbled along.

I handed him a five dollar bill.  He thanked me and headed toward a seat to count his change again and again. 

A couple of stops down the line he exited the train.  I watched as he put his money in the ticket machine and received his day pass. 

Now, I turned my attention to the others on the car. 

Two men were urged off the train by transit officers under threat of a $180 ticket--one left thanking the officer again and again for not writing him up.  The officers had stepped onto our car to do their morning work.

The officers interviewed another young man with a bicycle.  They checked him for warrants.  Not sure how his situation ended, as he remained on the train when I got off. 

Most striking of all was an older gentleman with long, white hair. 

He sat in a corner. 

He held his head in his hands and moved his head back and forth, as if to declare a categorical "No!" on all of life as he knew it. 

The ride to my plane made me feel like I was home already. 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Deed restrictions and discrimination as "ethical"

My good friend, Randy Mayeux writes in a most revealing way about a problem that persists in other, more respectable forms even today. 

Read what he has to say here.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Context and interpretation. . .

   Through Whose Eyes?

Reading the Bible with the eyes of the poor is a different thing from reading it with a full belly. If it is read in the light of the experience and hopes of the oppressed, the Bible’s revolutionary themes—promise, exodus, resurrection and spirit—come alive.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Join AmeriCorps at CitySquare!

2014-15 AmeriCorps Member Requirements

Position Title: Afterschool Hero!

Eligibility: 17 or older by 09/08/2014

High School Graduate

US Citizen or Permanent Resident

Pass a criminal background check

Must have reliable transportation

General availability Sept-May, M-F, 1-7pm

Commitment: 09/08/2014 through 05/29/2015 (full 9 months)

Min. Hours: 20 Hrs/Wk

675 Hrs Total
Compensation: $221 Biweekly; $4,200 Total Living Allowance

$2,150 End of Term Education Award
Required Events: AmeriCorps & Site Training 09/08-09/12/2014

Additional Trainings TBD

Afterschool Position Description:
Members serve with one partner agency for the length of their term to provide afterschool assistance, homework help, tutoring and lead academic enrichment and recreational activities to youth grades K-12 under the supervision of a Site Coordinator.

Before students arrive on site, members plan, gather materials and prepare their stations for the day’s activities. When the students arrive, members guide students to the appropriate stations, help with homework and provide an afterschool meal. Based on the curriculum set out for the day, the member will assist or lead an academic enrichment activity. In the evening, the member will ensure students are picked up safely by a parent or guardian. Workstations will be cleaned up and team meetings may take place at this time. Any required data collection will be completed at this time, including time sheets, student attendance records, meal counts and homework completion.

Members also assist with program-related special projects and events as determined by site staff. Members are expected to help with program based events to help whenever possible, as long as these requests are within the AmeriCorps guidelines and do not take away time from essential functions.

Placement Process:
All prospective members must be interviewed by both the partner agency and AmeriCorps before receiving an official offer to be a part of the AmeriCorps program. This offer will be made by the AmeriCorps program via email and requires an official acceptance. Once a member has accepted the position, information on training and completing the required FBI fingerprint background check is provided.

All members will be confirmed no later than September 8, 2014.

Partner Agencies:
Cornerstone Baptist Church http://www.cornerstonedallas.org/

Jubilee Park and Community Center http://www.jubileecenter.org/

Kids University http://kids-u.org/

Trinity River Mission http://www.trinityrivermission.org/

Wesley Rankin Community Center http://wesleyrankin.org/wp/ 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Amazing growth in poverty. . .will we wake up?

This is amazing and disturbing.

Our current trajectory as a nation and an economy is not sustainable socially, economically, or morally.    

Simple fact:  Poverty must be reduced. 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

For Our Country

O God, keep our whole country under your protection.  Wipe out sin from this land; lift it up from the depth of sorrow, O Lord, our shining light.  Save us from deep grief and misfortune, Lord of all nations.  Bless us with your wisdom, so that the poor may not be oppressed and the rich may not be oppressors.  Make this a nation having no ruler except God, a nation having no authority but that of Love.  Amen.

Toyohiko Kagawa
20th Century
(c) 1950 by Harper & Brothers

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Regional recognition for The Cottages project!

The Cottages at Hickory Crossing received a great "shout out" in the latest edition of the Corporation for Supportive Housing's Central Region newsletter.

Check the report out right here

Thursday, July 10, 2014

It could be me. It could be you.

No doubt most of my readers have never been so poor that they had to sign up for public, safety net benefits.  You know, like SNAP (Food Stamps) for example. 

In addition, those of us who are fortunate beyond imagination sometimes form opinions about people much less fortunate than we.  Some of our opinions are misguided. 

I suppose this discussion falls under the category "You have to be here to really understand." 

How would you feel if you knew that today you would be going to the food stamp office to apply for relief to feed your family?  How would you handle the knowing stares of the people around you? 

How would I feel when I checked out that first time at the local grocery store using my SNAP benefit card?  What would the cashier and other customers think of me? 

What impact would the constant berating of programs like SNAP in media have on me and my children? 

Take a moment and read the compelling story of a young mother's first experiences with just these dilemmas, feelings and impressions.


Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Compassion and ROI

The longer I live in the city with all of its challenges and complexities, the more I realize that doing the right thing is almost always the best thing

When it comes to serving hard core, down-and-out, mentally ill, addicted people who have racked up impressive criminal records and a huge tab for urban taxpayers, lots of folks lose all touch with compassion and any notion of "shared humanity."

I get that. I really do. 

I may not agree, I may not respect the sentiment, but I do understand.

So, let's just leave soft-hearted, "do gooder" concerns behind.

Enough of this compassion speak!

Let's talk cost. 

I mean, cold hard cash! 

Housing the seemingly "unworthy"  or undeserving poor can be tough business, if you're inclined to look at folks that way. But what if providing housing turns out to save us all money, the hard, cold cash variety? 

You need to read this thoughtful, realistic essay by Dallas Morning News columnist, .

Tell me what you think!

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

"Housing First". . .is Dallas ready?

The story of "Million Dollar Murray" and several national research trips convince me that the very best approach to overcoming the challenges facing our friends and neighbors who live without permanent housing is to provide them the housing they need first

Further, we must build into the provision of housing some "space to fail." 

Recovery doesn't happen over night for people who battled addictions.  Punitive approaches that terminate housing benefits following set backs, work against recovery, not for it.  Extending grace and coupling it with realistic expectations, turns out to be the most effective approach to overcoming homelessness in a city like Dallas.

In addition, providing permanent housing with "high-touch" support services (I like to use the word "concierge" right here), turns out to be less expensive by a factor of about three than maintaining people on the streets of our community. 

So, doing what is right by this special population,  turns out to also be doing what is best for everyone.

Funny how that works out. 

Our coming Cottages at Hickory Crossing project will embrace the strategies of "housing first" from the beginning.
 The Dallas Morning News reported Sunday on the story of a man who fits the profile of the men and women who will live in the new housing that we will complete by January 2015. 

We're ready for it at CitySquare

Hopefully, Dallas is as well.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Freedom for what. . . .?

Consider your freedom today, and its price. 

Then take a look at this data on how we spend our time, state-by-state in the USA! 


Friday, July 04, 2014

Freedom day. . .for what?

Today could be a day of national reflection on where we are actually headed.

Possibly this could be your reading for mediation today before you take in the local pyrotechnic display.

We must do better.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

"You remembered!"

A couple of weeks ago some of our volunteers from "the Corner" organized a fairly amazing event. 

We offered an old-fashioned foot washing service, not in a church, but out in a vacant lot. 

The event combined the spiritual and the utilitarian about as perfectly as any experience I've ever witnessed. 

Think about it.

If you are homeless, you walk a lot.  Your feet remain perpetually tired from the parade march that fills your days.  Your shoes may not fit.  A major challenge is finding some place where you can sit down to "get off your feet."  Having your feet washed is like a little taste of heaven, just for a short while. 

What made this event special was the fact that homeless people returned the favor.  Some of our homeless neighbors washed the feet of their housed friends. 

Special stuff.

In the midst of the activity, over at the edge, a friend of mine showed me the blisters that plastered his feet.

His foot is size 14 extra wide!  He has a big foot.

The shoes he wore were about size 11.  They were worn out.  They rubbed the top of his feet raw.

"Brother, Larry," he said, "do you think you could find me a pair of shoes that fit?  That's all I ask."

Of course, I said, "Sure.  I'll work on that." 

Later that day I learned that a size 14 extra wide shoe has to be special ordered! 

About a week later, after the shoes arrived, I found my friend out on the street. 

I pulled up beside him at the corner and presented him with new socks and a pair of 14 extra wide, New Balance walking shoes.

The first words out of his mouth stunned me.

"You remembered, brother Larry, you remembered!" he almost shouted.

I thought to myself, well, sure I remembered. 

Not a big deal.

But to him it was the whole deal.

He turned to a buddy standing behind him on the sidewalk at the corner and said, "They remembered me!  They didn't forget me!"

The shoes were nice.  They fit and everything.

But the great learning, the big take-away for me was the importance and the power of being remembered. 

Like I say, utilitarian:  sore, hot, blistered feet placed in comfortable new shoes.

But, also so spiritual:  "Do this in memory of me"--spiritual in a real world way.  A sacrament of the street.

Let's not forget to remember.