Sunday, September 28, 2014

Wisdom at the Margins

Standing at the Margins

There is important wisdom to be gleaned from those on the margins. Vulnerable human beings put us more in touch with the truth of our limited and messy human condition, marked as it is by fragility, incompleteness and inevitable struggle. The experience of God from that place is one of absolutely gratuitous mercy and empowering love. People on the margins, who are less able to and less invested in keeping up appearances, often have an uncanny ability to name things as they are. Standing with them can help situate us in the truth and helps keep us honest.

Friday, September 26, 2014

The Cottages at Hickory Crossing

At last, after almost four years, construction begins on The Cottages at Hickory Crossing!

Use the Search Tool on this page to read more about The Cottages, one of the most unique and innovative housing developments in the region.

More images and updates as we move along.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings offers his thoughts regarding the challenges facing the city related to the dramatic growth of poverty and the work of his "Task Force on Poverty." 

Clearly, there is much work to be done to recover and sustain opportunity for our weakest neighbors. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Banning books in Highland Park

Of course, the headline caught my eye:  Highland Park ISD suspends seven books after parents protest their content.

As I read on, the report really grabbed me. 

I mean, one of the  authors of one of the banned looks on the list spoke for CitySquare several years ago at a prayer breakfast!

Our guest speaker on that occasion, David Shipler, one of best ever, wrote the now classic and still bestselling, Working Poor: Invisible in America. 

Here's the quote from The Dallas Morning News regarding this particular book: 

"One of suspended books — The Working Poor: Invisible in America, written by Pulitzer Prize winner David K. Shipler — is about Americans in low-skilled jobs who struggle because of economic and personal obstacles. Some parents objected to the nonfiction book because it has a passage about a woman who was sexually abused as a child and later had an abortion."

While it is none of my business what these parents want for their children and while I'm not a taxpayer in the Highland Park ISD, I must say I find this action and concern, especially about Shipler's book, fairly surprising. 

Possibly, public demands like this one explain why we are making so little real progress on confronting, understanding and overcoming poverty in Dallas and across the nation. 

What do you think?

Monday, September 22, 2014

Universal expressions of beauty

It is a very simple arrangement, or so it appears from the sidewalk about 8 floors below. 

Just a small planter bowl with a few carefully placed, brightly colored flowers. 

The blossoms grace one of the windows in a small, studio apartment at CityWalk@Akard, our housing development in Downtown Dallas. 

I'm not sure who occupies the apartment. 

It really doesn't matter because I "know" them well from countless previous encounters.  Undoubtedly a low-income person lives up there.  Possibly even a person who last lived on our streets is the current resident. 

The flowers are universal in my experience.  

Everyone loves beauty, even those too stressed to allow for it or to even recognize its presence in life at present. 

But this love, this connection, this longing attention resides in every heart and soul. 

We seem "hard-wired" for beauty. 

I observe this everywhere, even among neighbors who have no home to call their own. 

Housing allows for the necessary psychic space to "stage" or present the beauty that one appreciates or has found--thus the flowers nestled in a meagre bowl. 

To ignore the hunger for beauty that "the poor" possess is to make a fundamental and deadly error if one's intention has anything to do with connecting or engaging in community. 

The flowers up there remind me of the beauty all around. 

Beauty can't be denied or squelched, at least not for long. 

Beauty gives me hope.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Ron Anderson, MD

My dear friend, mentor and hero, Dr. Ron Anderson passed away Thursday evening after a battle with cancer. 

Reports abound in all of our media outlets, as in this article from The Dallas Morning News.

But, the news items that we'll be reading for the next few days won't be able to capture the heart, soul and life of this amazing man.  He served the hospital system, within the healing culture that he constructed, for almost 40 years. 

Dallas and the world lost a dear, devoted friend in his death. 

Throughout his career as the leader of the Parkland world, Dr. Ron continued to take his rounds with patients.  He wore his trademark white coat because he never stopped being a physician and healer. 

My sessions with Ron always left me with my head spinning, my soul nourished and my resolve made stronger.  We talked about poverty as the cancer and blight that it is.  His commitment to justice and equity amazed and strengthened me. 

He was something of an expert on Native American culture.  I will always remember my first visit to  his office at Parkland.  To my surprise, his office, like mine, had a number of Native American artifact and symbols.  The sense of community and universal connectedness of Native Americans and their thought/worldview were notions that made a lot of sense to both of us.  Ron worked very hard at building community among his team and in our neighborhoods in Dallas.

He always took the time to encourage me in my work.  He was a faithful partner in our common fight for "the poor." 

A few weeks ago, a longtime staff member close to Ron called me to ask that I go by the hospital to see Ron and to pray for and with him.  Of course, I gladly agreed.  That last visit was wonderful, almost magical.  He envisioned getting out of his bed and coming by CitySquare to do some work with us.  How welcome he would have been and how I wish he still had that opportunity. 

In my almost 40 years of ministry, I've never had a patient insist on praying for me.  But, Ron did.  He wouldn't let me pray for him.  He wanted the spiritual energy to flow in my direction. 

That story really sums up the life and heart of Ron Anderson.  "I'm okay," I can still hear him saying, "Let's focus on you." 

God have mercy on us.  I will miss my friend more than I can say.

Cottages at Hickory Crossing Update: Building permits issued, at last!!!

Finally, we've received the building permits to begin construction on The Cottages at Hickory Crossing

These 50 homes will house 50 of our "most expensive" homeless neighbors to Dallas County--that is, those who consume the most services at our county hospital, our mental health facilities, our EMS services and our county jail. 

The average cost to Dallas County (not including City of Dallas or non-profit organizations' expenses) to serve a person who is on the streets is $40,000 a year. 

The Cottages project will provide permanent housing with wrap around, supportive services, including quality mental health services, all at a cost of less than $15,000 annually. 

The project will be complete by April 2015.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Friday, September 05, 2014

CitySquare AmeriCorps team at work in the heart of Dallas

Here's a report on one of CitySquare's placement sites for its AmeriCorps team members. Well-deserved recognition!

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Battling poverty--the complexity

Policy makers find it very hard, if not impossible to talk to one another across the widening socio-political chasm.  This appears especially the case when it comes to poverty and its alleviation. This inability to talk in light of largely unrecognized complexities makes the following compelling for me. 

So, how do we explain and understand why people are poor in the United States?  How about this as a starting point in answering this important question?

"Despite the conflicting nature of these left and right analyses, there is a strong case to be made that they are, in fact, complementary and that they reinforce each other. What if we put it together this way? Automation, foreign competition and outsourcing lead to a decline in well-paying manufacturing jobs, which, in turn, leads to higher levels of unemployment and diminished upward mobility, which then leads to fewer marriages, a rise in the proportion of nonmarital births, increased withdrawal from the labor force, impermanent cohabitation and a consequent increase in dependence on government support."

Read Thomas B. Edsall's opinion in his complete essay, "What Makes People Poor?"

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

A respected voice not often heard. . .

Here's a word from a respected source that we don't hear from very often.

 In fact, I can't recall the last time I heard him speak.

 Clearly, we have more work to do in this nation.

 We see evidence of that reality on a daily basis in the city.

A fundamental part of our work here focuses on racial reconciliation.

This has always been true.

 I know we will continue to work at bringing people together.