Thursday, December 22, 2016

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Dear Mr. President-Elect

Rev. Paul Rasmssen, Senior Minister at the Highland Park United Methodist Church in Dallas, delivered this message to the church on the Sunday following the 2016 national election.

 You'll want to listen, I can assure you.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Mistakes We Make When Giving

The Wall Street Journal published a very helpful article on the mistakes we make when we give or think about giving with the most impact. 

Read this provocative essay here

Pop Quiz:  True or False  "It is best to give money if the goal is highest impact." 

Monday, December 19, 2016

I see the Christmas story every day, all year long at CitySquare:

. . .the young women who discover they are pregnant before they are married.

. . .the poor fathers who lapse into homelessness at crucial moments.

. . .the kinfolks who believe with every new born child that the family is poised for better days.

. . .the ordinary, common, working people who show up to see hope, sort of like the shepherds.

. . .the immigrants who live on the run because of unjust public policy and cruel leaders.

. . .the political officials who go home another way to keep from confronting the oppressors who    threaten the poor and their children.

. . .the arrival of babies and the spread of joy and longing for better days and better options.

. . .the angels, ah, the angels who clearly visit us in strange disguise, but clearly other worldly.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 16, 2016

Run, Mary Run

This is from The Brilliance. 

Some may find it offensive, but the story of the birth and childhood of of Jesus was anything but peaceful.  It would be easy to write additional verses to this song, lyrics dealing with hunger, homelessness, and exclusion.  The ability to hear the contemporary truth of scripture through careful and faithful contextualization--ancient and modern--transforms people and systems. 

May we have ears to hear. 

Like far too many children today, violence, discrimination, fear, poverty and life "on the run" characterized the earliest experiences of this special baby.

As we worship the Christ child, may we really see him in the children who suffer today, near and far.

Friday, December 09, 2016

"What am I worth to you?"

My friend, Joe is dying.  Joe has advanced stage cancer. 

I've known him for about three years.  I met him on a street corner.  Almost all of that time Joe has been homeless and on the street. 

Thanks to a public health benefit, Joe's health care as he reaches the end of his life has been really excellent. Ironically, Joe's had the best living situation of his life during his time in a couple of local hospitals and a rehabilitation center. 

Joe and I have stayed in touch by phone, and I've visited him in the care centers where he's been receiving treatment. 

Earlier this week I visited him in the hospital.  He is weak, battling pneumonia and the cancer.  As always, he was glad to see me.  We visited for a while, and then, I had to go to get to another appointment. 

As I prepared to leave, Joe asked me. "Larry, can I get a $20 bill from you?"

I said, "Sure, Joe, that's an easy one," as I lifted the bank note from my wallet. 

"Here you go!  Are you going to buy you something better to eat," I asked and motioned to his untouched, cold meal the nurses had set before him. 

"Yeah, man, I'm going to find me a great buffet," he exclaimed, flashing his broad smile.

As I turned to leave, he called out, "Larry, how long's it been since I asked you for a $20?" 

"Long time, Joe, long time," I answered. 

"I love you man," I told him.  "I'll be back by."

"I love you, too, Larry," he replied.

As I walked to my car, I remembered our street routine, repeated so many times.  Joe would ask me for money.  Usually, I gave him $20 at a time for something to eat. He needed a little help because he hated the shelters and preferred the freedom of the street, as cruel and unforgiving as it was.  At least with the street, he could deal on his own terms. 

As I recalled those times, it hit me.  Joe didn't really need my $20.  He wasn't going to any buffet.  He's headed to hospice. 

What Joe needed was to know that I'd still honor his reqeust. Joe needed to know that he was worth something to me, that he was special, that we were, after all, friends. 

As I pondered in my flashback mode, I realized that is all Joe ever needed from me.  The money possessed varying degrees of value to him, depending on his circumstance.  But being able to approach a friend and have a request honored, there was what he really sought. It all translated to his own sense of worth.

My, my. 

Joe, old pal, you're worth so much more than you understand, so much more. 

Monday, December 05, 2016

Advent Conflict

Advent tensions. . . reading the Gospels

A "virgin birth"                                       A teenage mom

Emmanuel (God with us)                        A very poor child     

A father's dreams                                    Harsh reality facing fathers

A political tyrant                                     Suffering people

Oppression and lies                                 Dishonesty with the poor

Refugee family                                        Immigrants systematically excluded

Children murdered                                  Children in toxic stress

A special child                                         Syrian children

Surprised by joy!                                     Tables turned upside down

Birth                                                         All people included

Waiting ended                                          Celebration of jutice realized

Wise men & shepherds                             Classless community

Advent                                                      Advent



Thursday, December 01, 2016

Chideo comes to CitySquare

Chideo provides an effective platform for non-profit leaders, as well as celebrities, speak up for their causes. 

Not long ago, Chideo added a podcast feature.  Check out my interview with Drew Hamilton here or here

Thanks, Drew and Chideo! 

Monday, November 28, 2016

Inhuman Generosity

One of the real special blessings of my life is friendship across miles and years.  My longtime friendship with Randy Jolly has meant the world to me.  Just today, Randy sent me one of his uplifting notes.  It is worth simply quoting. LJ


A great quote from the recently departed poet Leonard Cohen:

"I'm very fond of Jesus Christ.  He may be the most beautiful guy who walked the face of the earth. Any guy who says, 'Blessed are the poor.  Blessed are the meek,' has got to be a figure of unparalled generosity and insight and madness. . . A man who declared himself to stnad among thieves, the prostitutes and the homeless.  His position cannot be comprehended.  It is an inhuman generosity.  A generosity that would overthrow the world if it was embarced becasue nothing would weather that compassion." 

Love you brother,

Monday, November 21, 2016

Race and Homelessness

The Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance hosted representatives from the Center for Social Innovation to lead a discussion of race and homelessness in Dalllas. The presentation is the latest in MDHA's "Hard Conversations" serires.

Thought provoking and relevant!

Watch it!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Race and Homelessness

Racism and Homelessness
African Americans make up 13% of the population, both in the U.S. and in Dallas.
Across the country, on average, African Americans make up 40% of the homeless population, and 28% of the unsheltered homeless population, which is troubling, in and of itself.
However, in Dallas, African Americans make up 67% of the homeless population, and 70% of the unsheltered homeless population! 
Read more from Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance here.

Monday, November 14, 2016

"Hey man, got any spare change?"

People ask me all the time: 

“What should I do when approached by a homeless person for a handout?”
And, of course, I have no idea!
Oh, I have ideas, but no standard idea or answer.  Everyone is unique, including people without a place to call home.
So, I follow "my gut" most of the time with no predetermined, stereotypical response, just like I repsond to others who do have homes in which to live. I realize this deficency on my part drives lots of people crazy, especially professionals!  But, so be it. 
One thing I do know from lots of experience: I find it hard to walk on without at least “knowing"  or acknowledging a person who asks me for a little help. 

For me, my entire duty as a person is to come to know God, and in the process, come to know the people I encounter for meaningful engagement with both. 

Every encounter should be considered worth a response of kindness. 

Every person is worthy of my repsect, even if I decide not to honor their requests by providing exactly what they seek. 

What I  always can do is respond with gentleness, attentiveness, openness and respect.   



Sunday, November 13, 2016

Direction on Power

   Psalm 15

Lord, who can be trusted with power,
and who may act in your place?
Those with a passion for justice,
who speak the truth from their hearts;
who have let go of selfish interests
and grown beyond their own lives;
who see the wretched as their family
and the poor as their flesh and blood.
They alone are impartial
and worthy of the people’s trust.
Their compassion lights up the whole earth,
and their kindness endures forever.


Friday, November 11, 2016

Political Leaders and God

Psalm 72

Prayer for Guidance and Support for the King Political Leader

1 Give the king your justice, O God,
    and your righteousness to a king’s son.
2 May he judge your people with righteousness,
    and your poor with justice.May the mountains yield prosperity for the people,
    and the hills, in righteousness.
4 May he defend the cause of the poor of the people,
    give deliverance to the needy,    and crush the oppressor.

May he live[a] while the sun endures,
    and as long as the moon, throughout all generations.
May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass,
    like showers that water the earth.
In his days may righteousness flourish
    and peace abound, until the moon is no more.
May he have dominion from sea to sea,
    and from the River to the ends of the earth.
May his foes[b] bow down before him,
    and his enemies lick the dust.
10 May the kings of Tarshish and of the isles
    render him tribute,
may the kings of Sheba and Seba
    bring gifts.
11 May all kings fall down before him,
    all nations give him service.
12 For he delivers the needy when they call,
    the poor and those who have no helper.
13 He has pity on the weak and the needy,
    and saves the lives of the needy.
14 From oppression and violence he redeems their life;
    and precious is their blood in his sight.
15 Long may he live!
    May gold of Sheba be given to him.
May prayer be made for him continually,
    and blessings invoked for him all day long.
16 May there be abundance of grain in the land;
    may it wave on the tops of the mountains;
    may its fruit be like Lebanon;
and may people blossom in the cities
    like the grass of the field.
17 May his name endure forever,
    his fame continue as long as the sun.
May all nations be blessed in him;    may they pronounce him happy.
18 Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
    who alone does wondrous things.
19 Blessed be his glorious name forever;
    may his glory fill the whole earth.
Amen and Amen.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Nouwen on community. . .

Prayer and Compassion

Many people tend to associate prayer with separation from others, but real prayer brings us closer to our fellow human beings. Prayer is the first and indispensable discipline of compassion precisely because prayer is also the first expression of human solidarity. Why is this so? Because the Spirit who prays in us is the Spirit by whom all human beings are brought together in unity and community…. In the intimacy of prayer, God is revealed to us as the One who loves all the members of the human family just as personally and uniquely as God loves us. Therefore, a growing intimacy with God deepens our sense of responsibility for others.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Press Release: Haskell Encampment to be closed, Tuesday, October 25

Contact: Cindy J. Crain
President and CEO, MDHA

Housing and Shelter Targets Exceeded as Haskell Encampment Closes;
Street Outreach and Case Management Continues

Haskell Encampment, Dallas, Texas – Today , October 24, 2016, the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance (MDHA) and the Street Outreach Initiative, closes out an intensive week of case management and engagement, reviewing options with the remaining thirty-seven individuals, living at the Haskell Encampment, who had not moved yet. The encampment area located between S. Hill and Haskell Avenues under I-30 will be formally closed beginning at 9:00 a.m. tomorrow, October 25.
The site was slated for closure after a joint meeting with City Officials on September 29, 2016, when MDHA and collaborative partners agreed that the Street Outreach Initiative could reasonably house half of the then population of eighty-two encampment residents. The closure guidelines were developed by MDHA in consultation with the City of Dallas, following the clearing of Tent City in April-May of this year.

As of today, 45 persons have been placed,  just above the goal of 41. 

Over the course of the last few weeks, in fact, MDHA and its partners from the City of Dallas, CitySquare, Nexus Recovery Center, Turtle Creek Recovery Center, The Bridge, Austin Street Shelter, the Salvation Army and Metrocare Services, were able to find and place forty-five residents into shelter, treatment, rapid rehousing, permanent private housing, and group homes or help them reunite with their families.

“Consistent and persistent case management, patiently undertaken by seasoned professionals, trained in trauma-informed care,  and armed with a toolbox of evidence-based solutions, is the only way we can end unsheltered homelessness in Dallas,” said Cindy Crain, President and CEO of MDHA. “The success of this effort could not be accomplished without strategic interagency collaboration, which has been developing over the course of 2016 into a true crisis response system, where we all work together, breaking down silos, and securing the best possible outcome for every individual,” she added.   

Today, as case managers and volunteers helped the remaining residents pack up, they were joined by five formerly unsheltered homeless from prior tent encampment closures who are now permanently housed.

Crain reflected, “Their presence gave residents a glimpse of hope and possibility of the results of accepting shelter, housing, treatment and services. Seeing is believing, and is critical to motivating and working through the ever present  trauma enforced fear and uncertainty of accepting assistance. The Street Outreach team gets better every day at the hard work that they do.”

MDHA and its partners will continue to work with these and other unsheltered individuals to get as many of them as possible off the streets and into shelter and housing. The overall impact of the successful, peaceful and housing-oriented closing of three encampments since the beginning of May 2016, will not be fully known before the annual Point-in-Time Homeless Count, which will be led by MDHA on the night of Thursday, January 26, 2017.

In the last Count, conducted on the night of Thursday, January 21, 2016, MDHA counted 539 unsheltered homeless individuals in Dallas. In order to conduct a full and accurate count of the unsheltered homeless, this coming January, MDHA will need 1,000 volunteers, registered as teams of 3-5 persons. Registration will open mid-November. Those wishing to receive notification of such, should text keyword MDHA to 22828 to join MDHA’s mailing list. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

This resonates. . .

The Creative Life

Some say the creative life is in ideas, some say it is in doing. It seems in most instances to be in simply being. It is not virtuosity, although that is very fine in itself. It is the love of something, having so much love for something—whether a person, a word, an image, an idea, the land or humanity—that all that can be done with the overflow is to create. It is not a matter of wanting to, not a singular act of will; one solely must.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Important Book Synopsis

On Monday, Setember 19, MDHA, CitySquare, and the Dallas Public Library presented a book synopsis of Housing First: Ending Homelessness, Transforming Systems, and Changing Lives.

The data for client success in Housing First programs in Dallas comes in at 96%!

Watch the presentation below!

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Urban Bird: 9-20-2016

observed a small bird,
mouth a-gape,
on searing asphalt parking pavement;
an urban bird,
hopping toward the hope of
unseen water, shade--
so much like me!

Friday, September 23, 2016

Housing First--even Starbucks understands

The data and the experience make an irrefutable case for the best, most logical approach to solving the riddles of chronic homelessness.

 Members of the Dallas Continuum of Care have been using this approach for several years, and it works!

  As more Dallasites turn their attention to homeless encampments, the concerns of property owners in the Downtown core of our city and the pressing needs of the homeless; the best way forward to sustainable solutions will involve a deeper and deepening commitment to Housing First.


Thursday, September 22, 2016

Just In: Donor Match Challenge!!!


This just in!

A generous donor has offered to give CitySquare a bonus of $100,000—if we raise $100,000 through North Texas Giving Day. Visit the North Texas Giving Day website today before midnight and make a gift to CitySquare.

With your help, more neighbors will move beyond poverty.


Your friends at CitySquare


Pitch In today!


It's time! Happy North Texas Giving Day!

Visit the North Texas Giving Day website today between now and midnight and make a gift to CitySquare. Any gift greater than $25 is multiplied, thanks to the Communities Foundation of Texas!

Remember, our goal is to raise $1 to represent each neighbor we will serve in 2016. We need to raise more than $50,000 to make that happen. Follow us on Facebook throughout the day to find out how much we've raised.

Thank you so much for standing behind CitySquare today and every day. 


Your friends at CitySquare

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Treading on dreams

Bishop Mike McKee shared these words this week at a meeting of North Texas Conference of The United Methodist Church ministers.  My Bishop loves Yates! 

The sentiment below is worthy of consideration in a number of contexts. 

HAD I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
W.B. Yeats (1865–1939)"He Wishes For the Cloths of Heaven"
from the Collected Works of W.B. Yeats

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Monday, September 12, 2016

KERA 90.1 FM on The Cottages

KERA 90.1 FM here in Dallas, Texas, reported last week on the "soft opening" of The Cottages at Hickory Crossing.

Tune here to hear the report!

(From L-R): Dallas County Commissioner Dr. Elba Garcia, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, Dallas City Council Member Tiffinni Young, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, Monica Egert Smith, John Greenan and Larry James.

Friday, August 05, 2016

Cindy Crain: First responders should not be our first response to homelessness

G.J. McCarthy/The Dallas Morning News
People pitch a tent under I-45 south of downtown after being kicked out Tent City Tuesday, May 3, 2016 in Dallas.
Three months ago, a patrol officer called me regarding a person experiencing homelessness who was trespassing. I asked the officer to hand his cell phone to the man. I calmed him and recommended a solution, and he agreed.

Unfortunately, my staff and I were not immediately available to help. The Dallas Police Crisis Intervention Team was working on stacked calls. The two street outreach workers were knee-deep in cases involving the Interstate 45 tent city removal.

I called the officer back. I could clearly hear his frustration and agitation. He had been on this call for more than an hour, and it was hot outside.

"Ma'am, if y'all cannot get here soon, I am going to take him in."


Thursday, August 04, 2016

People keep asking me. . .

Never before have more people asked me more times this one question:

"Larry, when will The Cottages open?"

A close second is:

"Are The Cottages open yet?"

So many people have asked so many times in so many places with such interest that I feel the need to give you the "inside scoop" on why this creative project has taken us so long to complete. 

And, I get it!  We intended to open the project in the fall last year, already! 

So, here are the reasons--not excuses, reasons:

1)  2015 turned out to be the wettest year on record in Texas.  Rain, heavy rains and storms slowed the earliest, muddiest times of the year, and then some. 

2) We endured a few "technical issues."  Early on, civil engineering challenges were a factor.  Our contractor made a big mistake when he ordered a big shipment of the wrong materials for the houses.  The order had to be resubmitted, delaying us several weeks. There were other fairly typical matters that you just expect, but taken with the other matters simply added to our "days behind" count. 

3)  Our General Contractor got sick and almost died.  Our project was a tough one, made tougher by the 6-week plus absence of the leader of the company in charge of the project due to serious health problems. 

4)  We finally landed a competent project superintendent who shortly thereafter suffered a serious heart attack on the job! Shortly after surgery, he was back on the job and will see it to completion.  Still, a very disruptive event for our project.

5)  Our award-winning design strategy turned out to be very difficult to construct, requiring artisans to address the challenging metal work, a slow, tedious process. 

6)  More recently , the General Contractor underestimated the amount of material needed to complete a crucial aspect of the build out--another time draining mistake. 

7)  In general, across our region, labor is in very short, highly competitive supply.  We have not been able to keep enough workers on our job, our comparatively smaller job.  Our staggering progress is the result of this labor reality. 

Thankfully, we negotiated a guaranteed cost contract, so cost overruns are not a big concern. 

It's all about time.

As I read back over my list, I can tell you again I don't intend these to be excuses. 

There is no excuse for this ridiculous delay. 

Every day we delay means that 50 people have no home to call their own. 

No one is more upset by the time delay than I am, unless it is CitySquare's  Neighbor Supportive Services team and/or John Greenan, our leader at the Central Dallas Community Development Corporation.

I'm sure I've overlooked something else that has slowed us down.  The Cottages will be wonderful.  They've been too hard to bring to life for the result to be anything but terrific. 

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Irish wisdom, delivered and received

Recently, John Greenan, Executive Director of the Central Dallas Community Development Corporation, traveled to Ireland to present a paper at the Second International Housing First Conference at the University of Limerick.   No doubt, John represented us well with this presentation. 
While he was away, he sent me an email that made me think  (John's like that continually!).  Here's just a part of what he communicated to me: 

. . . going to the Housing First conference made me realize just how much we are doing. Combined, CitySquare and Central Dallas CDC are housing more formerly homeless people than any European country except France.

The Cottages themselves are a bigger project than any countries but France and Belgium have taken on.

France has now managed to house 600 homeless people for two years--after a full two-year planning process with real experts in the field--people with doctorates in the social sciences and psychology and the full support of the French government (which in France means a  lot). And the only reason the French were able to do so much is because their national health system is so robust that they didn't have to bring on or pay for additional support services. All they had to do was find the people and put them in apartments with vouchers. . . .

Actually, Denmark is doing a project for twelve homeless men, but that's it. Ireland thinks it has a terrible problem because Dublin, which is almost exactly the same size as Dallas, has 100 "rough sleepers" (the European term for unsheltered homeless people). We had almost three times that number in Tent City alone before it was taken down.

I understand John's point, and am encouraged by it.

But, there is something else here:  a troubling comparison.  European nations experience nothing near the terrible scale of our homeless population in the U. S. 

Why is that?

I'm sure there are contextual complexities that I don't understand.  However, it seems clear that European nations do a much, much better job at prevention than we do in this country.  Many of the factors that topple individuals and families into homelessness just aren't present in France. 

Why do you suppose this is true?  I

n large part Europe does better at preventing homelessness from ever happening because of things like: 

Universal health care

Mental health services

Living wages

Housing supports

Worker's leave benefits

Much of our hard work on housing development would not be necessary if we as a people decided to put in place systems of protection and support designed to assist and benefit neighbors who need a hand up, back onto the road to success.

Lots to think about here.

Monday, August 01, 2016

HighPoint Family Living

The HighPoint Family Living development will celebrate its grand opening in late August!

The multi-family complex, the latest in the portfolio of our sister organization, the Central Dallas Community Developmnet Corporation, offers great high quality housing for families and individuals.

Congratulations to John Greenan and his team.

And, a big thank you to Bank of America CDC, our partners in this great endeavor.

Drive by the development at 414 W. Louisiana Avenue here in Dallas.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Prophetic words: Reviving for the heart of our democracy

You may not agree with everything mentioned here.  There may be an issue or two you'd like to discuss or debate.  But, here is thoughtful theology--theology that moves to action by definition. 

Here we encounter the message and the values of the faith inspired by the prophetic movement of God. Here we see the strong, undeniable connection between the heart of God and the pain of the world, largely the product of the injustice we encounter at work all around us today.

When was the last time you heard anything like this in church?

Friday, July 29, 2016

The power of place. . .and data

Can you tackle poverty without taking on place?

June 28, 2016

Throughout June, Urban Institute scholars will offer evidence-based ideas for reducing poverty and increasing opportunity.

Earlier this month, House Republicans released a new plan to fight poverty and help Americans move up the economic ladder. The plan begins and ends with the premise that “The American Dream is the idea that, no matter who you are or where you come from, if you work hard and give it your all, you will succeed.” In between, however, there is scant mention of the role that place (i.e., where you come from) plays in perpetuating poverty or shaping economic opportunity.

This is a glaring omission, especially in light of the plan’s insistence on grounding poverty-reduction policies in the best available evidence. The evidence shows that geography plays a powerful role in determining life outcomes in the United States. Better understanding the mechanisms by which zip codes determine destiny and identifying effective strategies to sever the connection between poverty and place should be central to any federal antipoverty plan.

Read on

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Poorest neighbors must not be ignored any longer. . .

Funds to help Dallas' homeless could be in short supply after police shooting

The Dallas Commission on Homelessness is preparing for a budget fight when the group presents a proposal next week to solve the city's homeless problem.

The group expects to face tough competition for limited funds as city leaders finalize next year's budget.

The commission, formed in May by Mayor Mike Rawlings, was tasked with finding housing solutions for the estimated 3,900 homeless people in Dallas.

But after a gunman killed five Dallas police officers, including a DART officer, downtown earlier this month, commission members said police are likely to be a priority to the City Council.

Continue reading. . .

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Resource for inner city community development

Annual Conference
Save the date:  October 5-7, 2016
Dallas, Texas
Cliff Temple Baptist Church
(details here)

Friday, July 22, 2016

In between. . .

Classic case of "between a rock and a hard place" for us at CitySquare.

See the video posted below.

On the one hand, the pressure created by the time frame to "move along" imposed on the people living in this encampment made it nearly impossible to transition folks from the street to housing.

We could have refused to be involved in the removal.

On the other, we couldn't walk away from so many friends and neighbors who endured the trauma of being removed.

We know most of these people. Our Homeless Outreach Team interviewed every one of them in an attempt to begin the process of moving toward permanent housing.  We had no choice but to be with them and attempt to ease their burden, even if inadequately.

Dallas (City and County) and its leaders need to stop, take stock and recognize the fact that every homeless person on our streets is just as important as the person living in the best housing available. Homeless persons are citizens and constituents, and must not continually be defined as a problem.

I believe the Mayor's Commission on Homelessness provides us the opportunity to "re-boot" and approach the challenge in a much different, more comprehensive manner.

Time will tell.

I know one thing for sure: Dallas must do better.


Thursday, July 21, 2016

Once upon a time. . .

Earlier this year, I spoke at a "storytelling" workshop to a group of enthusiastic fund development and communications professionals.  The organizers of the event were the good folks at the Bob Schieffer College of Communication, Texas Christian University.  

I found my assigned topic intriguing:  “Awe & Aww: Storytelling to Motivate Impact and Engagement.”  What I shared were some basic principles of telling a story that either fills hearers with "awe," as in shock and awe, or "aww," as in puppy dog warm and fuzzy, good vibes. 

Here's a summary:

1)  Your story must always be true.  You know, rooted in reality.  No composites drawn from various experiences.  No embellishments.  Just the facts, please, but with great heart and emotion!

2)  Look for and journal seminal stories that arise from "breakthrough moments" that typically provide and define your organizational narrative long term.  These are tales that define your culture. If you know anything about CitySquare, you've heard the name Josefina Ortiz.  If you don't know her story, email me or, better yet, read my book, The Wealth of the Poor.

3) Gather up stories along the way--those ordinary instances that reflect your organizational culture.  These are the day-to-day events that align completely with the essence of your work and endeavors.  They reflect the state of your enduring soul. Your journal or your Outlook calendar should be full of these. 

4)  Be HONEST about your FAILURES.  All is not goodness and light!  Along the way you and your team blow it.  Include the negatives with the positives.  Keep it real.  Telling the truth always works.  Ask me sometime about our landscape company and our teenage summer program crew and buying and selling "grass"! 

5) REPEAT, REPEAT, REPEAT! Always be ready with a story, no matter how many times you've told it.  Great stories are more than worth repeating.  Telling stories again and again create the power that fuels movements and real solutions.

There you have it.  And, good luck with telling your powerful tales from your important work. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Community Engagement

Rev. George Battle served at CitySquare as one of our AmeriCorps members after his graduation from Perkins School of Theology at SMU. He has since gone on to direct the Zip Code Connection for the North Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church.

He is a great leader with a great understanding of his community.

I feel honored to call him friend.

What George shares in this interview in the aftermath of events of the last three weeks is important.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

"Losers" and Hope

The past two mornings I've stopped by "Tent City II" on my way to the office. 

At the insistence of the Dallas City Council, city staff, including police, were given about two weeks to clean up the camp and remove the residents.

The scene: magnetic.  Both days, it literally pulled me into its center as I got out of my car (a huge luxury, by the way).

The pull connected my eyes to an extremely hard, harsh reality over the two-day period. 

Possibly 100 tents with the owners and others on day one. By 9:00 a.m. on day two, virtually everything had been removed, including most of the people.

Almost all of the residents were black. 

All possessed almost nothing. 

When rounded up by the city workers, these possessions formed giant piles that otherwise I would have classified as trash.  In fact, the piles represented the net worth of the departing owners. 

The deadline on this closing, harsh itself, fit the circumstances of the people I saw Monday and Tuesday.  Better, the deadline, completely unrealistic, framed our community response to the poorest, weakest and most vulnerable among us. 

We haul trash off. 

We move undesirable persons, even when they have no place to go. 

Some regard our homeless neighbors as inherent "losers." 

If you think about it and if you hear the stories of those being moved from under now the second bridge in our city, these people are definitely losers, just not inherently so.  

You see, each has lost something precious, invaluable and essential. In most cases the loss has been in multiple layers, as loss usually goes with people.

Losses like. . .


Children and grandchildren.










The list goes on. 

Maybe I'm off the edge here.  But, if I put myself in the shoes of these, the weakest among us, I'd hope for better from my hometown. 

But, how realistic would my hope actually be? 

What if I lost everything and became a real "loser" due to the loss, what could I expect?  Where could I place my trust at the lowest moment of my life?   To whom could I turn with a realistic expectation of receiving the help, the hand up I would certainly need to get back home?

Based on our community performance to date, my honest answers provide me no real comfort.