Archives for posts with tag: New York Times

I know that I’m supposed to, I know that I want to, but treatment of the Urban Millennium I promised a few weeks ago will need to wait.  Maybe I’ll get to it this New Year’s Day weekend.  But here’s something that at least obliquely addresses Urban Millennium.

Last month the New York Times featured Emily Badger’s article on the American rural vote in our recent election.  You will also find interesting bits such as “in 1920, for the first time, the Census Bureau counted more people living in urbanized America than in the countryside. This hasn’t been a rural nation ever since.”  This gives an idea of what is meant by the Urban Millennium.

There’s more great bits of information about urbanized America in the context of what some see as a frustrating election cycle that minimized voting power of urban Americans.  Check it out.

populous states subsidize less populous ones, which receive more resources than the tax dollars they send to Washington”


my view on Fairbanks one rainy Chicago day a few years ago


Hey.  Here’s a story of how one city has fared after a terrible disaster.

I could be but am not referring to Joplin MO or 9/11 New York City.  It’s New Orleans in Gary Rivlin’s new book Katrina:  After the Flood reviewed earlier this month by the NY Times.

Lance Hill, a white political activist serving as a mole, tells Rivlin: “It was impossible not to pick up on this sentiment that this was our chance to take back control of the city. There was virtually a near consensus among whites that authorities should not do anything to make it easy for poor African-Americans to come back.”

It looks worth a read.

In my work in post-2011 tornado Joplin it’s become clear that developers are not interested in replacing lost housing with affordable low cost rental units.  This is creating some problems.  Where do low-income households go?  They have doubled and tripled up in housing to be able to afford it.  Moved away.  Become homeless.

Sometimes when a city gets a hard knock, opportunity knocks for urban socio-economic engineering that makes life harder for the poor.

Today a New York Times article reports on what appears to be a revival of Asbury Park NJ.  So you can say that this blog is about the resurrection of cities.

The word ‘revival’ sounds religious, doesn’t it?  Bruce Springsteen appears to be the prophet, evangelist for the Asbury Park revival.

This summer, Mr. Springsteen took note of the city’s changing fortunes during a performance at Asbury’s Wonder Bar. As he introduced another song, “Atlantic City,” he said, “But maybe everything that dies someday comes back.” He paused for a moment, before continuing, “Maybe Asbury Park is back?” — to cheers from the crowd.

The Times noted The Boss’ My City of Ruins.  NYT call it a dirge.  To me it sounds like an urban prophet’s prayer.  Is it a prophecy that is now coming to pass?

Half ways through the Times’ article it dawned that the Salvation Army is in Asbury Park.  That to Salvation Army people it is a prominent presence.  The Asbury Park Corps is a place with history, tradition, staying power.  Officer friends have served there.  Visit its website.  You’ll see a listing of activities, services, photos of the currently assigned Officers.

Does the Army have a prophetic voice in Asbury Park?

Prophets of the OT cried out and cried over deserted places and hearts.  Prophets also gave words of promise and hope.

A developer is breathing life into old bones as renovation is taking place of a building, “a long vacant Salvation Army residence hall into a chic, 110-room hotel with a rooftop event space”.


The Salvation Army continues to have staying power in some tough urban places.  Our friends Majors Bill and Sue Dunigan (check their Servant Corps Facebook) lead a missional community, the Servant Corps in Camden NJ,  80 miles west of Asbury Park.  I believe that the Servant Corps, like our St Louis Temple Houses, represents new life breathed into the bones of an organization, a movement.  A 150 year old movement.

It’s great to see old buildings with cleaned up bricks and new purpose.  But it’s even greater to see life breathed into a movement.  And the Army still needs more of this breath of renewal.

Here in St Louis two old Salvation Army buildings were not sold to developers.  We kept them.  And the Army itself became a developer. We renovated the Railton Residence and the former Harbor Light (that once was the Father Dunne Newsboy Home) into the 3010 Apartments.

They are now modern, attractive places that continue to serve the people we have always kept our commitment to serve.

But the Army in St Louis is now a community developer.  Yes, we are bringers of salvation to individuals.  But now we also bring salvation to communities and to a city.

Old Salvation Army buildings.

The Salvation Army building in my hometown is now serving another purpose.  Last time I stopped in to see the Duluth Citadel built in 1929 it was looking good and being used as a rental hall for social events.  Perhaps hosting a singer of songs.

One last story.

My first corps appointment was to Gary IN during the early 1980s when US Steel dramatically reduced its workforce.  The result was steelworkers out of a job living in their cars.  Families appearing at the Salvation Army for food and utility assistance.

I also remember teen boys showing up every Friday night for basketball in our little gym.  It got so that I had to schedule shifts to share the gym.  The growing crowd of young men would patiently wait along the sidelines for their turn.  They didn’t have many other options.  We had the best show in town.

One group of guys were Springsteen disciples.  Morgan, Steve, Fish.  They introduced me to The Boss.  Born In the USA.

Bruce Springsteen.  Still crying out over cities.  Still preaching resurrection.

Alex S. MacLean writes

Cities are and will continue to be the greenest places to live on a per-capita basis. This is made only more striking when I fly over the suburbs and see the inefficiency of single-family homes. They are dependent on cars, for one thing, and are connected by miles of paved roads to single-use zones of office and retail developments. These areas will not fare well, if we begin to mitigate climate change through measures like a carbon tax.

Detroit’s rebound is just a matter of time.

Check out MacLean’s Detroit By Air.  It’s revealing of Detroit’s current state.  A lot of empty abandoned areas.  But, you can see that there really are signs for hope.

A phone by John, near Dexter and Chicago.

A phone by John, near Dexter and Chicago.



Kennedy Odede has made one of the most compelling statements I’ve heard in discussions on urban poverty, violence, hopelessness.

The urban poor are so close to the city’s opportunities — but they always remain out of reach.

I’ve tended to think in categories of developed and developing worlds.  North American and the now outdated term ‘third world’.  American and everywhere-else worlds.  Poverty is relative, dependent on these large geographic and socio-economic distinctions.  Sure, poverty exists in Chicago but compared with Kibura

But what if the categories today are urban and non-urban?

Odede points at poverty lived in places where a person can see how others live in contrast to their life.  So close yet so distant.  In our most densely populated places, our cities.

A 2011 study in the Journal of Peace Research found that the perpetuation of Islamist extremism was more significantly associated with urban poverty than with variables like religiosity, lack of education and income dissatisfaction.

During the late 20th century children grew up in public housing high-rises in Chicago within blocks, even within sight of life lived out by some of the most affluent Chicagoans.  Cabrini-Green and the Gold Coast.  Henry Horner Homes and streams of Blackhawks and Bulls fans on Madison Street.  It would have been cruel reminders if not for getting used to it.  But at times most became aware of the gulf between their trapped existence and one that they eventually came to accept was unattainable.

Gail and I saw boys and girls starting to realize this around age twelve.  I wonder, is there a correlation between this realization and that of the Santa exposé?

They still remained boys and girls.  But whenever this realization took place a somber quality entered their boyishness and girlishness.  They began a journey to a reality of inner city adulthood.

There is a story in the Gospel of Luke of a rich man and a poor man.  The poor man lay suffering at the gate of the rich man who feasted daily.  Watching and wishing for the food which dropped from the table.  The poor man dies, angels carry him to be with Abraham.  The rich man dies and tormented in Hades sees far away the poor man with Abraham.  Pleading, he receives no relief.  Why?  Justice. And an immutable condition:  between you and us a great chasm has been fixed.   There is no movement between Abraham and Hades (Luke 16:26).

Distance plays in this story.  The sumptuous table within sight of the hungry.   Comfort seen by the damned, yet far away.

Recently I posted the New York Times story of Dasani, a girl living with her family in one of New York’s homeless shelters.  Located in Brooklyn five blocks from a $1.63 million penthouse.  A neighborhood of $3 malt liquor in a deli across the street from $740 chardonnay at Gnarly Vines.

Poverty makes a second hit on those who do not have what they see others with.  Living in want comes with its own exhaustion and anxieties.  But a smoldering pain comes with seeing the sumptuous banquet from the gate.  Wealth made conspicuous on the street, the TV screen.  It also brings the danger of coveting which can lead to a host of rather unpleasant outcomes.

Coveting inoculation.  My mother enjoys recounting her young boy’s Sunday church recitation of the Bible verse be content with what you have (Hebrews 13:5).  Can it be done?  Somehow we must for the sake of our own soul.

But woe unto any who put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea  (Matthew 18:6).

It’s quite a contrast to make during these recent days of opinions on the 50th anniversary of America’s war on poverty.  Odede says that the best strategy in Kenya is to fight poverty.

Instead of investing billions of dollars on drones, let’s focus on augmenting economic opportunities and providing basic and essential services like health care and education.

And in America?  It may not be as in Kenya, terrorist groups recruiting young people from slums.  Other scenarios of hopelessness play out in our cities when there seems only one option.

Movement was needed, in the here and now, between the rich man and the poor man.  Movement here and now.  It’s not too late for either the poor or the rich.

Johnnie Footman died this year in New York City.  video-opdoc-spider-articleLarge

The oldest cab driver in NYC.

Here’s Joshua Z. Weinstein’s New York Times video of Spider recounting something of his experience and of his fellow cabbies.  Absolutely charming, the video and the man.

I am really taken with this Dasani.  Watch her best the New York Times interviewer in this minute and a half video.

Dasani is the subject of this five part series Invisible Child:  Dasani’s Homeless Life.  It tells the story of one young girl whose family lives in a NYC homeless shelter.

girl in the shadows



One in five American children is now living in poverty, giving the United States the highest child poverty rate of any developed nation except for Romania.  p1-povK-1_1024

On the way home this evening Gail and I talked about Andrea Elliot’s NY Times feature Invisible Child:  Dasani’s Homeless Life.  I recognize Dasani.  Not the Dasani who lives in Auburn Family Residence, the NYC run homeless shelter in Brooklyn.  But Dasanis who I have known in Chicago and Detroit.  By now they are grown up.

The ranks of the poor have risen, with almost half of New Yorkers living near or below the poverty line. Their traditional anchors — affordable housing and jobs that pay a living wage — have weakened as the city reorders itself around the whims of the wealthy.

Last night I sent the link for Elliot’s story to Gail.  Who passed it on to Sara Johnson, recently moved to St Louis from Detroit.  Sara has moved here to help get started what we hope will become the first Salvation Army center for urban mission in North America.  Sara sent the NY Times link to several young adults studying and living in Temple Houses on Arsenal Street, a Salvation Army missional community in south St Louis.  They are Sara’s neighbors.

Dasani is among 280 children at the shelter. Beyond its walls, she belongs to a vast and invisible tribe of more than 22,000 homeless children in New York, the highest number since the Great Depression, in the most unequal metropolis in America.

I recognize in Dasani the same too soon grown old I saw in young Chicagoans and Detroiters.

a child whose existence is defined by her siblings. Her small scrub-worn hands are always tying shoelaces or doling out peanut butter sandwiches, taking the ends of the loaf for herself. The bond is inescapable. In the presence of her brothers and sisters, Dasani has no peace. Without them, she is incomplete.

As a Salvation Army corps officer in inner city neighborhoods I watched young people watch out for their brothers and sisters.   At meal tables and snack times.  Making sure that they did not miss getting served.  Young deacons and deaconesses.  Holding hands and guiding them across Ogden Avenue.  Grand River Avenue.  Crossing guards.

It is still September when Dasani’s temper lands her in the principal’s office.

“Please don’t call my mother,” Dasani whispers.

Miss Holmes is seated in a rolling pleather chair held together by duct tape. She stares at the anguished girl. She has been at McKinney long enough to know when a child’s transgressions at school might bring a beating at home.

The principal slowly scoots her chair up to Dasani and leans within inches of her face.

“O.K.,” she says softly. “Let’s make a deal.”

From that day forward, Dasani will be on her best behavior. In turn, Miss Holmes will keep what happens at school in school.

With that, she waves Dasani off, fighting the urge to smile. She can’t help but like this feisty little girl.

Gail and I left Chicago’s west side 21 years ago.  Detroit 9 years ago.  We can’t help but remember their Dasanis.

There are 22,000 homeless children in New York City.  Advocates for the homeless call these children the ‘lost generation’.


This is one of many facts and bits of information Andrea Elliot shares with her New York Times readers.  But if you read Invisible Child:  Dasani’s Homeless Life more than facts and information emerges.

I felt as if I had met 12 year old Dasani, her teacher Miss Hester, the harassing security guards.   I had become part of Dasani’s closed system world she finds herself shuttling back and forth the two blocks in Brooklyn from Auburn Family Residence to Susan S. McKinney Secondary School of the Arts.  p2-povB-1_1024

“Adults who are homeless often speak of feeling ‘stuck.’ For children, the experience is more like a free-fall. With each passing month, they slip further back in every category known to predict long-term well-being. They are less likely to graduate from the schools that anchor them, and more likely to end up like their parents, their lives circumscribed by teenage pregnancy or shortened by crime and illness.”

But there’s hope.  Dasani has found a teacher that “makes Dasani want to learn”.

Invisible Child is the urban homeless story in grand opera.  Beautifully sung.

Despair and hope seem to be running neck-to-neck in Detroit these days.  It makes for urban drama writ big.

Weekly I receive an update on articles about the Motor City from the New York Times, a neat feature from my favorite newspaper.

The latest update contains –


%d bloggers like this: