Category Archives: Social issues

Valor on Eighth marshals resources, inspires hope

A public-private partnership with layers of leveraged resources produced huge community impact in the form and function of Valor on Eighth, an affordable housing complex with a special focus on veterans.

This is part of the “Communities on the Line” series that I write for LISC Phoenix.

Honor, dignity and opportunity took up residence at Valor on Eighth when the Tempe apartment community designed and built for under-served veterans opened in January. Hope and determination have made themselves comfortable there, too.

With Valor, housing and veterans’ advocates scored a victory in the ongoing battle to create decent, affordable living environments for those who have served our country. Valor is the only affordable housing apartment community in Arizona that puts the needs of veterans with families front and center.

Continue reading

LISC, Kiva help local shop owners gain critical access to capital

(Editor’s note: This article first appeared on the LISC Phoenix website.)

Perodin Bideri, a west Phoenix shop owner who was raised in refugee camps in Tanzania, and Christy Moore, a veteran Valley nonprofit executive who is on a mission to disrupt the landromat industry, are in the same boat.

Both are seeing things — opportunities, specifically. Both have a brand of ambition that’s engaging and inspiring; it invites participation.

And both are navigating waves of success that often come with access to capital made possible through a partnership with nonprofits LISC and Kiva, an online crowdfunding platform. For as little as $25, a lender can join a fund that allows borrowers to receive loans of up to $10,000.

Access to capital is a major hurdle for emerging small-business owners. They don’t qualify for credit from traditional lenders. If they do secure loans, they come with high interest rates and fees.

With a Kiva loan, borrowers pay zero interest and no fees. That got the attention of Bideri, owner of B&R African Styles.

“When I was introduced to Kiva, it was a great opportunity to open doors that grow my business,” Bideri said. “To get a loan with zero interest? I was in.”

Continue reading

Camelback Pointe combines Housing First model with transit-oriented development

(This article is part of a LISC Phoenix series, “Communities on the LIne.” Photo by Mark Lipczynski Photography.) 

For city, state, and federal housing leaders, Camelback Pointe is part of a regional effort to end chronic homelessness. The 54-unit apartment complex has a single-person focus and on-site case managers and resident service specialists to address an array of needs.

For developer Native American Connections (NAC), the $13 million complex in the West Camelback Road commercial corridor represents an evolution of its groundbreaking permanent supportive housing work, combining the Housing First service model with transit-oriented development principles.

For urban renewal advocates, Camelback Pointe, a LEED Platinum certified development, is an example of converting a nuisance property into an architecturally clean community asset. It replaces an abandoned fast food restaurant site that had become a problem property, and now has an engaging, neighborhood-focused owner (NAC) who will have a 24/7 presence at the secure-community site.

But for its new residents, Camelback Pointe is simply and powerfully one thing: Home.

Andrea Hipps, NAC affordable housing specialist, said Camelback Pointe is not temporary or transitional housing. It is designed and programmed to meet chronically homeless individuals’ needs, both basic and complicated, as a first step to wellness, she said.

On Jan. 18, residents, local and state housing leaders, and community development partners, including LISC Phoenix, will celebrate the grand opening of Camelback Pointe, 1537 W. Camelback Road.

NAC has a 46-year history of providing supportive services in central Phoenix for urban Native Americans with substance abuse issue. Its focus on housing emerged from that work. NAC opened it’s first Housing First service model to end homelessness when it celebrated the grand opening of Encanto Pointe apartment complex in 2013. Input from Encanto Pointe residents emphasized the importance of transit to wellness.

Camelback Pointe’s location adjacent to Valley Metro light rail is intentional and so are its design features. For example, bicycles are the major source of transportation for residents, and so Camelback Pointe has ample bike storage and a bike repair shop.

In addition to internal 24/7 NAC services, residents live in what Hipps called a “naturally service enriched location.” Via light rail or bike, residents have easy access to a federally qualified health center in Mountain Park Health Center at the Chris Town YMCA, a branch of the public library, Solano Park, and a Fry’s grocery story.

Camelback Pointe is NAC’s fifth permanent supportive housing site with a single-individual focus. A sixth site is in the pipeline.

“In Arizona and in Phoenix in particular, there is a significant need for  permanent supportive housing in general and for singles in particular, and so I think we’re just filling a much-needed gap for the type of community member that needs more structure, that needs more investment to achieve housing stability,” Hipps said.

LISC Phoenix, which helped NAC purchase land for Camelback Pointe, is among those contributing to the investment in permanent supportive housing. Such investment requires a shift in thinking about the expenses associated with improving the housing and health conditions of chronically homeless people who are regular users of the emergency medical services and can revolve through criminal justice systems. The Housing First service model shifts investment into something that has long-term, positive effect on their lives and reduces costs in other systems of care.

“In a financing climate where it’s really hard to find someone to be ‘first in,’ LISC is willing to be first in,” said Diana Yazzie Devine, CEO of NAC. “That means the world to us as developers to have a partner that believes in our model, believes in our ability to perform long-term. It’s a real gift.”

Don’t sell the flag and the values it represents cheap

I’ve been trying to articulate the angst, disappointment and frustration about the framing of free speech/Trump issue, and so of course, I find what I need in the sports pages, where on most days lives a newspaper’s best writing and perspective. A quote from Kurt Warner:
 
“We have this narrative that these protests are contradictory to our flag and contradictory to our military,” Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner said Sunday morning on the NFL Network. “I don’t see them that way. I see them as complementary to the ideals to the flag, to the military and what they fought for — the servicemen and women and what they fought for. I have not heard one player that has not been more than grateful to our military. This isn’t about that at all; it’s about standing up for the ideals of the flag.”
 
I can’t reconcile my understanding of the flag’s representation and the way the president and his supporters say how it MUST be seen. Any challenge to their idea is seen as unpatriotic, disrespectful and ungrateful. (And, Lord have mercy, there is so much “stuff” attached to that “ungrateful” characterization of black professional athletes.)
 
I see a lot of things when I look at the flag. I hear a lot of things when I hear the anthem. But based on what I hear from the president and others other the last few days, the flag is all about respecting veterans and first responders. That’s cheap and narrow.
 
We seem to be living in a moment of historic revisionism about a banner. Again.
 

Coffee shops make a small world turn round

Coffee shops are an integral part of a city’s connective tissue. I like their place in my world. Highlights of just the past few days:

Giant Coffee: The mayor is there. He asks me if I miss daily journalism. (That’s an emphatic, “NO!”) I tell him it’s good to see him out and about. He says it’s better than staying inside Phoenix City Hall. He dashes off, in that trademark way he comes and goes. He left me me wondering where his next political home will be, but not in a political junkie way. It was more personal. 

The Refuge: That’s the site of a business meeting with someone who is the wind beneath powerful wings. There’s lots to discuss about a long-term project that could revolutionize the way we help people in need, how we make our communities stronger. But first things first: We take our time catching up on family news. She’s wearing a sharp, black dress, heels and pearls. I’m in a shirt, jeans and flats. We’re both in appropriate work attire to handle the business before us. That’s just how we roll in Phoenix.

First Draft: Even when I’m not there, I’m there. While at the gym, I get a text from a dynamo who I’m counting on to win the most interesting Arizona legislative race in 2018. She’s at Changing Hands bookstore where we’ve bumped into each other a couple of times when I’m working out of the adjacent First Draft. It’s to the point where she expects to see me every time she’s at the bookstore. I like that connection.

None of this happens without the excuse to drink coffee and tea and to be in interesting places. Coffee shops make you feel like the world is small and intimate, but they are also places that help you keep the big picture in sharp focus. There’s a certain magic in all of that.

Community development

A focus on urban living

JDD Specialties has expertise writing about community development, urban design and sustainable communities. An article for LISC Phoenix that recaps “Happy City” author Charles Montgomery’s May 2017 visit to the Valley of the Sun is an example of that work.

Artspace

Mesa Artspace Lofts will have good bones

(Editor’s note: This blog is part of a LISC Phoenix monthly series, Communities on the Line. The illustration is an artist rendering of Mesa Artspace Lofts.) 

In July 2015, business leaders, community development experts, arts advocates and city officials took a bus tour of a downtown Mesa area transformed by creative placemaking and transit-oriented development. John C. Williams, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and Mesa Mayor John Giles was among them.

Tour stops highlighted strengths and challenges. Just south of Main Street, Giles pointed to a large, vacant lot where he hoped to see an affordable housing project built by Artspace, a nationally known developer of projects that support artists. “It has potential,” Williams quipped, as if assessing a fixer-upper. “Yes, it has good bones,” Giles replied, not missing a beat.

Mesa Artspace Lofts, a 50-unit, live-work apartment complex built especially for artists, had a ceremonial groundbreaking today (May 24). The permanent affordable housing complex at 155 S. Hibbert St. will have good bones. It’s also a transit-oriented development that will strengthen the beating heart of a disconnected neighborhood near the Valley Metro light-rail corridor.

Continue reading

Trump adds another twist to my hometown’s saga

jefferson-countySmithfield, Ohio: My hometown. My Mom’s hometown. Her father’s hometown. It had hopes for an Obama administration in 2008. Now it’s an example of Trump populism.

The photo with the Business Insider article, “A small town in Ohio holds clues to Trump victory,” shows the North and Main street sign. I had a wonderful childhood on North Street where Mom and Dad built a home more than 60 years ago.

The small town’s history has interesting twists and turns. It was a stop on the Underground Railroad. Quakers had a lot to do with that.

In Mom’s youth, there was a movie theater. It was segregated. Blacks had to sit in the balcony. Decades later her brother would become mayor.

Mom tells of the time some of her kin and their friends crashed a Klan rally. Whatever happened that night made it so my generation didn’t have to deal with that, at least not until I was in high school and some out-of-towner grand wizard threatened to hold a rally. My friends, mostly white, told me not to worry about it. The rally never happened.

There were several churches back in the day when the town was booming at about 1,000 people. Dad championed ecumenical services. Pastors delivered sermons at our church. Dad took the pulpit in theirs.

The town is surrounded by beautiful farmland. Fathers’ hard work in steel mills and coal mines put a lot of kids through college.

It’s a different place today. It has taken a turn for the worse. I’m so sorry about that.

Horoscope tells the story of my life

“To be persuasive, you have to get the facts right — a no-brainer for you. Details and integrity are the spokes in your wheel. Now you just need to give those facts an emotionally compelling context and you’ll be set. — Horoscope, Aug. 25, 2016

Reading my daily horoscope is a guilty pleasure. A couple of times a year it’s exactly right. Like today.

Continue reading

Breaking a sweat with gym dumbbells

A dumbbell spoke at my morning workout at the gym.

A young personal trainer dispensed all sorts of social and business advice to his young client during warm-up on the elliptical. The trainer looks like a short, buff Ken doll. The equally buff client is, shall we say, swarthy. Dark and handsome.

Their conversation about women and business is what you might hear at a young bucks’ happy hour or the 19th hole or maybe the break room near the executive suites. Ken doll is schooling Dark-and-handsome on the dangers of having a serious relationship while trying to be a successful entrepreneur. There’s no time for the kind of commitment a girlfriend wants when you’re trying to get ahead, he said.

Continue reading

I’m proud of you, Chief Brown

13592818_488406514687605_6018476988885338428_nDallas Police Chief David O. Brown is a profile in courage. He is so grounded in reality. I’ve enjoyed watching him lead. What he said about the impossible demands placed on police officers as quoted in the New York Times is truth in boldface. We have so much work to do.

“Every societal failure, we put it off on the cops to solve. Not enough mental health funding, let the cop handle it. Not enough drug addiction funding, let’s give it to the cops. Here in Dallas we got a loose dog problem. Let’s have the cops chase loose dogs. Schools fail, give it to the cops. Seventy percent of the African-American community is being raised by single women. Let’s give it to the cops to solve that as well.”

“Policing was never meant to solve all those problems,” he said.

No offense to great photogs, but it’s possible to love a crappy photo

IMG_0045I know a good photo when I see one. This is a crappy photo. Here’s why I love it:

There snoozes, Auggie, my hyperactive grandpup. When he’s not channeling his inner greyhound doing laps around the house, he catnaps. The space between my mom’s socked feet is his new go-to spot for some shut eye. Mom doesn’t notice because she’s napping, too, a frequent habit with the lower energy level of the last few weeks.

Continue reading

We are who we say we are, dang it

Brooks_New-articleInlineTwo great passages from David Brooks’ “Not Trump, Not Ever” column.

“Moreover, many in the media, especially me, did not understand how (Republican voters) would express their alienation. We expected Trump to fizzle because we were not socially intermingled with his supporters and did not listen carefully enough. For me, it’s a lesson that I have to change the way I do my job if I’m going to report accurately on this country.”

“Donald Trump is an affront to basic standards of honesty, virtue and citizenship. He pollutes the atmosphere in which our children are raised. He has already shredded the unspoken rules of political civility that make conversation possible. In his savage regime, public life is just a dog-eat-dog war of all against all.”

Presidential elections give voters an opportunity to have their say. Their choice in leaders says a lot, and it’s tradition to respect the message. This year is no different. Primary election voters are who they say they are. In 2016, we’re struggling to respect the clear message that rejects any notion of appealing to what Abraham Lincoln called the “better angels of our nature.”

 

Dad, like so many veterans, served a country that wasn’t entirely keen on serving him

My dad enlisted in the Navy in the early 1950s. He chose to serve a country that at the time still allowed Jim Crow to thrive. It was before Brown v. Board of Education and before the civil rights movement forced the nation by law to live up to its founding ideals for all citizens.

We never talked much about his Navy days, but I suspect he believed he served a country that, while deeply and tragically flawed, was the best in the world. I share that belief today.

Thank you, veterans, for stepping up and standing firm, even in days of doubt, struggle, disappointment and disrespect.

LISC Phoenix finds ways to spread news about vital work in underserved neighborhoods

LISC Phoenix executive director Terry Benelli is determined to spread the news about the nonprofit’s work in revitalizing underserved neighborhoods. I like helping her do that.

This article in the new issue of Green Living Magazine ( http://bit.ly/1kJiByS ) tees up the LISC Phoenix annual celebration and awards breakfast on Nov. 18 at the Phoenix Art Museum. John Graham, president and CEO of Sunbelt Holdings, is the featured guest. http://bit.ly/1Y1ViyW

Death made life real

Dad's portraitI grew up 15 years ago today, the final day of watching Dad die. Until then, I was just going through the motions of adulthood.

Death made life real. It shook up my thinking about what I thought was important and worth chasing. Clarity of purpose brought calmness and strength.

Losing Dad hurt like nothing I experienced before or after. But 15 years later, I know that one of the greatest gifts from that experience was losing my fear of death. Life is easier when you’re not afraid to die.

Below is a Thanksgiving column I wrote about Dad in 2000, when I was still struggling to fully understand what losing him meant to my family. I’m still figuring that out.

Continue reading

Answering the call

Briana, a best friend of my daughter, is a first responder. She is a freshly minted teacher beginning her first professional year of school. She’s running toward a crisis. It’s not a burning building; it’s Arizona’s public education system.

Teachers have left Arizona classrooms in droves, causing a critical shortage of educators. Rare is the school district that begins this academic year with a full complement of certified teachers. Many meet classroom needs with long-term substitute teachers.

Continue reading

Domestic terrorism … again

Let’s not mince words about the suspect in the massacre at Emanuel AME Church. He is a terrorist of the worst kind ­- the domestic variety that this nation knows so well.

Nine people were gunned down Wednesday night at a Bible study inside the historic church in Charleston, S.C. The attack ignites again the uniquely American debates about guns, violence and racism.

But this attack at this church in this day and age does so much more than that. At least it should. (Full disclosure: The African Methodist Episcopal Church is dear to my family. My grandfather was a presiding elder in the AME Ohio conference. All three of his sons, including my father, were ordained ministers. At least one cousin in my generation carries on the Dokes tradition.)

Continue reading