Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Church Response on Cliff Manor

The following is an email I received. It lets us know that not everyone is upset about the way things went or are going down in Oak Cliff's newest permanent supportive housing project, Cliff Manor. The letter has been reprinted with permission. We need to all remember that we are called to be in the people-helping business, not property-value-helping business.

Oak Cliff Churches Silence Opponents of Housing Homeless by Acts of Kindness

Will You Be My Neighbor? How Oak Cliff groups have become great neighbors to former homeless through the assistance of the Greater Dallas Justice Revival.

Good Neighbor Done Right

In a time where there is so much controversy over what to do with the homeless, a group of Oak Cliff churches and residents are showing how to truly be Good Neighbors. Over the past several weeks, a group of Oak Cliff residents have quietly been reaching out to their seventeen new neighbors, who were formerly homeless. The new home for the seventeen individuals is the Cliff Manor, a Dallas Housing Authority property.

Baskets and Hugs

When residents moved into the facility a few weeks ago, five Oak Cliff churches provided gift baskets and greeted the residents with open arms. In addition to inviting them to church, they have special group meetings. On a recent Thursday night, eleven of the seventeen new residents attended a “Friendship Circle” that included interaction around a bible study and prayer. The event led by Roger and Jana Jackson has proven to be a great success.

In reaching out their new neighbors, these groups of Oak Cliff residents are giving a living demonstration of how to help our formerly homeless citizens become neighbors with grace and dignity. Churches involved in the outreach led by Cliff Temple Baptist Church, also include Christ Episcopal, Gospel Lighthouse, Grace Temple Baptist, Oak Cliff House Church Network, and Kessler Community Church.

Serving as a Catalyst

Behind the scenes, the Greater Dallas Justice Revival has been privileged to help be a catalyst for these “Good Neighbor” efforts by organizing leaders, building dialog and sponsoring outreaches. The Greater Dallas Justice Revival has partnered with Dallas Housing Authority and the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance to engage local churches into Good Neighborhood Covenant Councils. The Greater Dallas Justice Revival sponsored the meetings with the local pastors who then invited their members to be involved.

The councils consist of local Dallas Housing Authority (DHA) residents, formerly homeless new residents, DHA property management, social service representatives, Dallas Police representatives, local church representation, local community residents, and an outreach coordinator to the community.

West Dallas Success
The council is modeled after the successful similar model that helped launch a safe community initiative five years ago in West Dallas. In previous years crime in West Dallas was out of control, violent crime was rampant, and fear ruled the community. Since the launching of the initiative violent crime has been reduced seventy percent and overall crime by forty percent.

The West Dallas model was organized by Strategic Justice Initiatives, Inc., an educational non- profit for the development of safe communities. Strategic Justice Initiative’s executive director, Randy Skinner, worked with Norm Henry of Builders of Hope, a community development non- profit and home builder, to organize more than 50 community leaders to form a campaign to eradicate crime.

The two non profits led in the development of a U.S. Justice Department launch of a Weed and Seed site (that eradicates crime and develops healthy communities). Strategic Justice Initiatives developed a block by block, house by house, reclamation database with support services, and Builders of Hope brought their successful home building program and holistic approach to the process. Dramatic results have followed including a housing renaissance, school reclamation, and economic development.

Oak Cliff Transformation

When a town hall meeting in Oak Cliff was led by opponents to placing rehabilitated homeless individuals into the Cliff Manor public housing site, a silent group of attendees determined to put a different face on Oak Cliff. During the closing of the tumultuous evening session, Skinner, a resident of nearby West Dallas, who also serves as director of the Greater Dallas Justice Revival, shared that the faith community would walk with the formerly homeless and work with the support agencies assigned to make their new homes a success.

Skinner knew the rich history of Oak Cliff faith community commitment to the homeless and mentally handicapped for the past decade led by Cliff Temple Baptist Church and The Well, a ministry to the disadvantaged.

True to his word, and the nature of the faith community in Oak Cliff, seventeen new residents feel welcomed and wanted.

The wonderful welcome and outreach from the “Good Neighbors of Oak Cliff” deeply touched the lives of their seventeen new neighbors. The Greater Dallas Justice Revival was celebrates the unity in Oak Cliff and looks forward to helping other communities and churches become “Good Neighbors”.

Thank you so much for your contributions, hard work, and continued prayers, and support for the Greater Dallas Justice Revival. We would appreciate you help in expanding this much needed work. Help us help Dallas be a community that is known for its “Good Neighbors”. If your interested in serving on a council, or serving in a service project, please contact us today by filling out the volunteer form.

The work of the Greater Dallas Justice Revival is made possible by the generous donations of people who have a desire to see our community transformed. This past year thousands of volunteer hours were donated in outreach projects to help the hungry and our inner city schools. We urgently need your financial support to continue this work. Please give generously.

Randy H. Skinner
Executive Director
Greater Dallas Justice Revival
Read more on the exciting results of church outreach in Oak Cliff from a local resident:

Join our movement to support the new residents into housing with support services by volunteering. Click here:

Echoing the words of Mother Teresa, as he reflected on the new residents of Cliff Manor, Skinner said: “The material and physical suffering is suffering from hunger, from homelessness, from all kinds of diseases. But the greatest suffering is being lonely, feeling unloved, having no one. I have come more and more to realize that it is being unwanted that is the worst disease that any human being can ever experience."

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