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Wins & losses

"Wins & losses" Continued...

Issue: "New Orleans' comeback kids," Oct. 22, 2005

The biggest mistake was to give complete authority to local residents instead of creating a business-community partnership with "a mutually agreed-upon mission and negotiated roles and contingencies for each party." Politicians-in-residence axed a highly respected developer who was volunteering as board chairman and then alienated other outside supporters as well. In the end, funds disappeared or were spent unwisely, community glad-handing politicians did not fulfill their promises, and once-willing outsider helpers gave up.

The failure still grates on Mr. Lupton. Ironically, parts of Summerhill now are gentrifying-a close-in area cannot be held down forever-but the likely result is that long-term poor residents will be driven out, rather than integrated into a new community as they were in East Lake.

4. South Atlanta is a neighborhood where Mr. Lupton plans to apply what he learned from success in East Lake and failure in Summerhill: "We're organizing block by block, adopting seniors, setting up crime watches, and putting our pioneers into houses. Some think business folks who can do a real estate deal are the enemy, but we value them." The South Atlanta crime rate is still high and property values are still low, but he is optimistic about developing "gentrification with justice."

"Gentrification," Mr. Lupton has seen, is a term often thrown around unintelligently either as a hope or-for some low-income renters who will be displaced -a curse. But some neighborhoods have lived with displacement for decades as those with talent and legal ambition left, leaving drug dealers in charge: A new displacement is not the enemy if dealers and addicts are displaced by those ambitious for community renewal.

What about the worthy poor who may be displaced? That's where the development of mixed-income housing becomes essential. "Gentrification with justice" means that striving poor families can stay in their communities and live next to middle-class families who can help poor parents keep their children from the undertow of the streets. Mr. Lupton has come to oppose the "romantic notions" that a poor community's culture must be protected from outside values and that the affluent who become involved in inner-city neighborhoods must practice "servanthood." The better goal, he says, is "partnership."

5. Mr. Lupton's organization, now called FCS Urban Ministries, is deep into constructing low-cost homes (through Charis Community Housing) and helping people to live in them. He set up a Home Resource & Furniture Center adjacent to his office that sells low-price, used, slightly damaged or irregular household items and building materials. There's also a Family Store selling good used clothing and overstocked or irregular items obtained also by donation: "The dignity of purchasing goods affords families a sense of pride that the best-intentioned giveaway items cannot provide."

Bob Lupton, half a lifetime ago, whizzed by inner-city areas and once had romantic ideas of "relocation" within them, as if there is some magic in middle-class individuals moving into poor areas. He's learned that motivation and goals are what really count, and he advises Christian urban pioneers to examine their own: "If the only goal is to build a church, you can end up with a church within a rotting community." His ideal is the church leader "who sees the whole neighborhood as his parish" and strives to build up the community, not just the church.

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.

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