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Friday, April 17, 2015

Poverty's toxic, damaging stress. . .

Overcoming Poverty’s Damage to Learning

 
In the weeks after 9/11, Pamela Cantor, a child psychiatrist specializing in trauma, was enlisted by the New York City Board of Education to lead a team studying the impact of the attacks on the city’s public school children.
 
What the researchers discovered surprised them. Many children in city schools exhibited symptoms of trauma — but the problems weren’t clearly attributable to 9/11 nor were they clustered near Ground Zero. Such symptoms were, however, concentrated in schools serving the city’s poorest children. And the students’ sense of threat or insecurity stemmed not so much from terrorism as from exposure to violence, inadequate housing, sudden family loss, parents with depression or addictions, and so forth.
 
“One-fifth of children met criteria for a full-blown psychiatric disorder, and 68 percent of kids had been exposed to a prior trauma sufficient to impair their functioning in school,” said Cantor.
 
Read the entire report here.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Anger/Desperation

Driving into Downtown Dallas from Deep Ellum out of S. Dallas, I spotted a rather animated homeless man. 

Not so unusual, but one thing I saw him do, as I rolled to a stop at a traffic light, caught my attention. 

Someone had left a plastic cup turned upside-down on a post (once a parking meter).  The man grabbed the cup, threw it to the ground in disgust and cursed in anger--I read his lips.

What came next broke my heart.

He reached into a trash can also beside the sidewalk and pulled out a large drink cup with the safety lid still in place.  Some liquid remained in the discarded cup. 

I watched him survey us who watched from the comfort of our cars.  He then turned away and drank whatever was left in the used cup.

It matters not how the man got "there." 

The fact is, he is "there." 

Watching him from my "here," turned my stomach. 

The man needs a place to live.

He needs someone to care.

He needs a second or a thousandth chance.

He needs what I need:  grace and a hot cup of coffee.

I think I understand something of his anger.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Poverty and brain development

Poverty shrinks brains from birth       

Studies show that children from low-income families have smaller brains and lower cognitive abilities.  Sara Reardon



 
 
 
The stress of growing up poor can hurt a child’s brain development starting before birth, research suggests — and even very small differences in income can have major effects on the brain.
 
Researchers have long suspected that children’s behaviour and cognitive abilities are linked to their socioeconomic status, particularly for those who are very poor. The reasons have never been clear, although stressful home environments, poor nutrition, exposure to industrial chemicals such as lead and lack of access to good education are often cited as possible factors. 
 
In the largest study of its kind, published on 30 March in Nature Neuroscience1, a team led by neuroscientists Kimberly Noble from Columbia University in New York City and Elizabeth Sowell from Children's Hospital Los Angeles, California, looked into the biological underpinnings of these effects. They imaged the brains of 1,099 children, adolescents and young adults in several US cities. Because people with lower incomes in the United States are more likely to be from minority ethnic groups, the team mapped each child’s genetic ancestry and then adjusted the calculations so that the effects of poverty would not be skewed by the small differences in brain structure between ethnic groups.
 
Read the entire essay here.

Monday, April 13, 2015

So proud of my dear friend, Rev. Gerald Britt and so is The Dallas Morning News!



Check this out!

"Poor" folks and wealth building

Are Government Efforts to Help Poor People Manage Money Working?
Cities have offered financial counseling to low-income people for years, but only recently have some tracked the impact of these services on clients' debt, credit and savings.
by | April 6, 2015
      
Many low-income people rely on payday lenders and check cashers that charge higher fees than traditional banks. (AP/Al Behrman)

 
For decades, nonprofits that serve the poor have tried to impart lessons about managing money, but until recently it’s been hard to know whether the services work. Now a multi-city initiative is tracking and sharing results, addressing the effectiveness of financial counseling for the poor.

Read more here.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Hope


Plotting the Resurrection


[Writing of his wife Katharine, who was planning the planting of bulbs in her garden even though she knew she likely would not live to see the spring.] There was something comical yet touching in her bedraggled appearance…. The small hunched-over figure, her studied absorption in the implausible notion that there would be yet another spring, oblivious to the ending of her own days, which she knew perfectly well was near at hand, sitting there with her detailed chart under those dark skies in dying October, calmly plotting the resurrection.

Friday, April 10, 2015

"Every week"


I could have taken scores of sad, moving photos, but out of respect for the frustration and suffering of those involved, I refrained. 

People literally dragged the tents shown here from under the freeway overpasses and lined them up on the sidewalks. 

Later, after the police left, they set them up again under the same overpasses.

"Every week they do this," a very tired gentleman told me.  "Every week it's the same."

Sadly, every day hundreds of our neighbors set up homemaking under the naked sky. 

Emergency shelters provide cover for some at night.  But morning comes and everyone is forced out until the intake hour arrives in late afternoon for most programs. 

Some folks have decided that the last shred of dignity they possess can be protected only by remaining outside and independent.  I respect that. 

Of course, what people need is housing, plain and simple. 

That's why these tents project both sadness and hope.

Almost always a tent is a home owned by the one who sleeps in it at night. 

People don't like living on the streets. 

What is needed is the development of hundreds of homes and the loving friendship that can grow from a neighborhood. 

Sometimes a tent city is about the limit of the available capacity for people who don't seek handouts, but simply peace and progress. 

There is something, no, there is much to learn in this reality. 

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Emptiness


   A Door Opens


A door opens in the center of our being and we seem to fall through it into immense depths which, although they are infinite, are all accessible to us; all eternity seems to have become ours in this one placid and breathless contact. God touches us with a touch that is emptiness and empties us. God moves us with a simplicity that simplifies us.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Texas should expand Medicaid

Texas political leaders prove themselves irresponsible for not expanding Medicaid. 

Take a look right here at the gains made by other states that decided to expand the health benefit to poorer folks. 

Why do voters tolerate shortsighted public policy against their own self-interest?

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Owen: Long pass, big gain!

Watching my grandchildren play, dance, sing and live in joy makes life pretty amazing!

Here's a clip from Owen's flag football game on last Saturday. He has quite an arm!
 
 

Monday, April 06, 2015

Cottages "portfolio" update

Photos below: 1-2) floor systems being built--Cottages with private bath and full kitchen 3) foam insulation being applied to flooring systems 4) flooring systems place 50 Cottages together in tight-knit community 5) CitySquare's new Opportunity Center located just across the street from new housing 6-7) insulation pumped to houses ensures dry and efficient climate control 8) more Cottages to be placed on open spaces 9) foundation for community services building in place.


Friday, April 03, 2015

Destination Home


On Tuesday afternoon I toured our Destination Home housing sites. 

We serve 28 wonderful neighbors in southern Dallas in one complex and 105 friends in two north Dallas apartment complexes located adjacent to one another. 

Here are my two overwhelming impressions/takeaways:

1.  The formerly homeless persons living in these apartments have found homes.  Most don't see their current situation as the end of their stories.  Still, each person has found a home far, far from the mean streets of Dallas.  Mission accomplished!

2. The staff leaders who relate to, serve and encourage the residents are beyond exceptional persons.  What a team we have at CitySquare! 

I need to get out of the office more often! 

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Elevator Speech

So, after two decades of working/living among very low-income persons, here are the main points of my "elevator speech" on what I've learned:

1.  Consult the experts on poverty---that would be the so-called "poor" themselves. People closest to a problem usually know most about it, or at least the most important things about it.

2.  Stay to your mission--refine, but never abandon.

3.  Make respect your "default" setting.

4.  Partner for collective impact--give credit to everyone except your organization.

5.  Don't sweat failure--embrace risk.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

An Investment Option

People constitute our community's greatest asset by far. 

All kinds of people, including those many of us seldom remember or seriously consider.

Recently, I sat in a small group of social scientists concerned about poverty and overcoming it.  The group discussed various interventions to knock it down/out, strategies for measuring its depth and intensity and various approaches to data collection and interpretation.  One of the main concerns involved developing a "narrative" for educating the entire community about the prevalence of a social reality that saps our strength as a city and a region. 

As we talked, it hit me. 

We need new recognition skills.

Dallas must recognize the wealth, the beauty, the skills, the intelligence and the power resident in low-income communities--the very communities that on the one hand cause us to wring our hands in anxiety and on the other remain great unmined repositories of amazing social capital and survival strategies.

With accurate recognition of value, we should begin to expect adequate investment, and even some cases of "over investment" or remedial investment to make up for time lost in our social blindness and  heedless stupor. 

Consider children for a moment. 

Every dollar invested in the life and future of any child carries with it the promise of surprising return on investment (ROI). 

Maybe we need an IPO on the future of our children, if coupled with a sound and generous investment strategy in their lives. 

Failure to invest in the education of all of our children is short-sighted and negligent by definition. 

Failure to care for the wellness of our children sets a course for suicidal economic realties a generation or less from now.

Failure to create living wage jobs results in economic disincentives that discourage and dissuade commitment to creativity and hard work. 

Failure to draw our children into fully participating members of our democracy opens corridors leading to social unrest.

Those neighborhoods of Dallas, about which we concerned ourselves in my group meeting, need to be served by a robust investment strategy that results in progress, full-participation and generous portions of hope and opportunity. 

We can't wait any longer.  The time for delay passed us long ago.

This is our time, a time to invest while expecting amazing returns because the product and enterprise attracting our attention turn out to be our neighbors and their children, as well as us and ours.

We're all in this together expecting an amazing ROI! 

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Asset based community development

John McKnight: Low-income communities are not needy -- they have assets

Detail from a graphic record of a facilitated discussion in Vancouver, B.C., in which participants talked about what belonging and community mean. The artists included examples of local community development in the drawing.
Detail from a graphic record of a facilitated discussion in Vancouver, B.C., in which participants talked about what belonging and community mean. The artists included examples of local community development in the drawing. Illustration by Liz Etmanski and Aaron Johannes/Spectrum Consulting
  
People who want to help low-income communities should see them as “half-full glasses” -- places with strengths and capacities that can be built upon, says the co-developer of the asset-based community development strategy.

Most people and institutions that want to serve poor communities are focused on what the residents lack. “What are the needs?” is often the first question asked.

John McKnight says that approach has it backward.

“I knew from being a neighborhood organizer that you could never change people or neighborhoods with the basic proposition that what we need to do is fix them,” he said. “What made for change was communities that believed they had capacities, skills, abilities and could create power when they came together in a community.”

McKnight is co-director of the Asset-Based Community Development Institute (link is external)and professor emeritus of communications studies and education and social policy at Northwestern University.

He and his longtime colleague John Kretzmann created the asset-based community development (ABCD) strategy for community building. Together they wrote a basic guide to the approach called “Building Communities From the Inside Out: A Path Toward Finding and Mobilizing a Community’s Assets.”


Read more here.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Acceptance and community


The Discipline of the Tongue


Where the discipline of the tongue is practiced right from the beginning, each individual will make a matchless discovery. He will be able to cease from constantly scrutinizing the other person, judging him, condemning him…. Now he can allow the other to exist as a completely free person, as God made him to be. Now the other person, in the freedom with which he was created, becomes the occasion for joy, whereas before he was only a nuisance and an affliction. God does not will that I should fashion the other person according to the image that seems good to me, that is, in my own image; rather, God made this person in God’s image. I can never know beforehand how God’s image should appear in others.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Strange Fruit

The offensiveness of recent expressions of hate and racism by university students comes into sharper focus if you expose yourself to the context, background and meaning of any talk of "hanging" people on a tree.



 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Police actions and training?

Disturbing video by anyone's standards.

Can police not learn how to take a potentially threatening person down without killing them?

Not hard to understand how communities of poverty and color feel in jeopardy while being pushed to the margins. 

I'm needing some answers.

How about you?

Monday, March 23, 2015

When Whites Just Don’t Get It, Part 5

WE Americans are a nation divided.
 
We feud about the fires in Ferguson, Mo., and we can agree only that racial divisions remain raw. So let’s borrow a page from South Africa and impanel a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to examine race in America.
 
The model should be the 9/11 commission or the Warren Commission on President Kennedy’s assassination, and it should hold televised hearings and issue a report to help us understand ourselves. Perhaps it could be led by the likes of Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush and Oprah Winfrey.
 
We as a nation need to grapple with race because the evidence is overwhelming that racial bias remains deeply embedded in American life. Two economists, Joseph Price and Justin Wolfers, found that white N.B.A. referees disproportionally call fouls on black players, while black refs call more fouls on white players. “These biases are sufficiently large that they affect the outcome of an appreciable number of games,” Price and Wolfers wrote.
 
Read more here.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

When Whites Just Don’t Get It, Part 4

WHEN I write about racial inequality in America, one common response from whites is eye-rolling and an emphatic: It’s time to move on.
 
“As whites, are we doomed to an eternity of apology?” Neil tweeted at me. “When does individual responsibility kick in?”
 
Terry asked on my Facebook page: “Why are we still being held to actions that took place long ago?”
 
“How long am I supposed to feel guilty about being white? I bust my hump at work and refrain from living a thug life,” Bradley chimed in. “America is about personal responsibility. ... And really, get past the slavery issue.”
 
Read more here.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

    
 
Huh? Why do we need a Mandela over here? We’ve made so much progress on race over 50 years! And who is this guy Stevenson, anyway?
 
Yet Archbishop Tutu is right. Even after remarkable gains in civil rights, including the election of a black president, the United States remains a profoundly unequal society — and nowhere is justice more elusive than in our justice system.
 
When I was born in 1959, the hospital in which I arrived had separate floors for black babies and white babies, and it was then illegal for blacks and whites to marry in many states. So progress has been enormous, and America today is nothing like the apartheid South Africa that imprisoned Mandela. But there’s also a risk that that progress distracts us from the profound and persistent inequality that remains.
 
Read more here.

Friday, March 20, 2015

When Whites Just Don’t Get It, Part 2

 
Readers grudgingly accepted the grim statistics I cited — such as the wealth disparity between blacks and whites in America today exceeding what it was in South Africa during apartheid — but many readers put the blame on African-Americans themselves.
 
“Probably has something to do with their unwillingness to work,” Nils tweeted.
 
Nancy protested on my Facebook page: “We can’t fix their problems. It’s up to every black individual to stop the cycle of fatherless homes, stop the cycle of generations on welfare.”
 
Read more here.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

When whites just don't get it. . .

When Whites Just Don’t Get It (Part 1)

AUG. 30, 2014 

    

MANY white Americans say they are fed up with the coverage of the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. A plurality of whites in a recent Pew survey said that the issue of race is getting more attention than it deserves.
 
Bill O’Reilly of Fox News reflected that weariness, saying: “All you hear is grievance, grievance, grievance, money, money, money.”
 
Indeed, a 2011 study by scholars at Harvard and Tufts found that whites, on average, believed that anti-white racism was a bigger problem than anti-black racism.
 
Yes, you read that right!
 
Read more here.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Other people's kids

"The American dream is in crisis. . .because Americans used to care about other people's kids and now they only care about their own kids."
 
Robert Putnam,
Our Kids:  The American Dream in Crisis
Check out related The New Yorker article here

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Racism and forming children

The broadcast of a recent video of Oklahoma University fraternity students singing racially charged lyrics (including a refrain that speaks of lynching black people and uses the "N" word with clearly casual ease) shocked many people.

Frankly, I wasn't too surprised. I run into such attitudes frequently.

What troubled me most was the light-hearted, nonchalance of those involved.

Where does one learn the "values" of such an insensitive, thoughtless, hateful, racist frame on life?

On the other hand, where does one learn truth, the sort of truth that resists evil when it's encountered.

Here's the horrific video.

Watch it again.

Let it soak in.

As you watch, try to put yourself in the shoes of your African American neighbors.



If you are a parent, use this shameful display of hate to teach your children the truth they will need to be a force of transformation and unity that stands resolutely over against the darkness of this latest example of the spirit of racism that remains alive and thriving in our society.

Over 60 years ago, Ms. Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus. She stayed on the bus and she didn't get up or off.

Today we face a similar choice as white people.

When we face moments of hatred and racism, we must be brave enough to deal with the bus we may be riding.

In our case the challenge will be to stand up, speak out and get off any bus going into the terrible darkness defined by our nation's past in this country.

Form your children in love, acceptance and celebration of the beauty of all of God's children.

And, by all means, never tolerate expressions of hateful racism.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Sankofa Coalition




Take a moment to view this public statement from Dallas City Hall from Rev. Dr. Michael W. Waters.

Click "Open Microphone Speakers" and FF to comments beginning at 4:49.

In view of all that has been going on, what do you think about this idea?