Saturday, March 15, 2008

Dallas mayor urges businesses to fight homelessness

Thank you to Phil Cubeta for not only joining me at Central Dallas Ministries' recent Urban Ministries Prayer Breakfast, but for citing the event on his blog, Gift Hub: "Of Metrics and Prayers for the Poor".

The Dallas Morning News also covered the event in their article, "Dallas mayor urges businesses to fight homelessness." This article is cited below.

To grow physically and spiritually, Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert said Thursday the city must embrace the needs of its most vulnerable residents – particularly the homeless – and not leave them behind while those stronger thrive.

“To progress together, we need to understand the needs of others,” Mr. Leppert said during a keynote address before about 1,000 people at the Urban Ministries Prayer Breakfast at Dallas’ Hilton Anatole hotel.

Economic constraints, such as limited housing options and high gasoline prices, remain barriers to the homeless engaging in mainstream society, Mr. Leppert said.

But Dallas is poised to significantly improve homeless residents’ lives through the opening this spring of a new downtown homeless assistance center, the mayor explained. Mr. Leppert also said he envisions the creation of a $20 million housing trust fund that could be included in the city’s next public works bond package. Top city staffers project placing such a package before voters within three or four years.

The public sector, however, can only provide so much funding, Mr. Leppert said.

“The private sector must step up,” Mr. Leppert said. “Government can’t do everything and shouldn’t do everything. It should set a foundation, it should set priorities.”

To that point, the mayor called on area businesses to support, through word and checkbook, efforts combating homelessness and its root causes. General investments in Dallas will also create a stronger economic climate benefiting the entire community.

“Investments are, at their heart, a belief that we can create opportunities,” said Mr. Leppert, a career businessman and self-made millionaire who often crafts his political messages in economic terms.

But this morning, he stood before the crowd as part preacher and part politician.

Quoting Mother Teresa, Mr. Leppert said that the good one does today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway, he implored.

“In the end, it is between you and God,” he said.

Supporters hail Mr. Leppert’s ideas for reducing homelessness as at once compassionate and realistic.

But some homeless advocates have derided as callous one particular program Mr. Leppert strongly advocates: the Lend a Hand campaign, which calls on Dallasites to resist giving panhandlers money.

Instead, the campaign recommends, drop pocket change in any of several dozen lock boxes provided throughout the downtown area. Backers call it a vehicle for better supporting organizations dedicated to helping the homeless.

Larry James, chief executive officer of the Central Dallas Ministries, rejects such criticism of Mr. Leppert. He says the mayor’s efforts will only help the plight of Dallas’ homeless residents.

“This mayor is the real deal,” Mr. James said. “Tom Leppert cares about every street, every corner and every person in this city … He’s refreshing in every respect.”

Thank you also to the sponsors of the event:

Providing Hope
The John and Dorothy Castle Advised Fund of The Dallas Foundation

Providing Housing
Baron and Blue Foundation
Clay Cooley Automotive Group
Jon and Linda Halbert Family Foundation
Morning Star Family Foundation
Mr. and Mrs. J. McDonald Williams

Providing Health
Champion Partners, LTD
Church of the Incarnation
Texas Instruments
Thompson & Knight Foundation

Providing Hunger Relief
Abilene Christian University
Argent Property Company
Bank of America
Baylor Health Care System
Beaird Commercial Realty
The Beck Group
Don J. Clevenger
Scott Collier/The Staubach Company
Cornerstone Christian Church
Wesley and Teresa Crawford
East Dallas Christian Church
Embrey Interests LTD
Holmes Murphy & Associates
Dan and Sue Hopkins
Willie and Gigi Hornberger
Sam and Patricia Ligon
Sarah Losinger
Schuyler and Lila Marshall
Leadership Network
North Texas Food Bank
Glenn and Gabriella Owen
The Rees-Jones Foundation
Riverside Church of Christ
Dave and Cathy Shipley
Blake and Erynn Shipley
Kay and Kevin Thomason
Jim and Rhonda Walton
Walton’s Garden Center

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