Monday, November 19, 2007

America's Most Compassionate City

Using a criteria based on several factors, such as a population of 250,000 or more, services available per capita, quality of services, and access to services, I have come up with America's Most Compassionate City. It's not a city that most would think of in this day and age of made up divisions like 'red' states, 'blue' states, or the increasingly popular 'purple' state terms thrown about by talking heads in MSM.

Founded in 1856, Lincoln, Nebraska quickly grew to the seat of local government, and was named the capitol of the state in 1867. Nebraska, having lagged behind the rest of the country in services for the poor and disabled for decades, in recent years has done so much to reverse that stigma, that they can rightly be proud of their achievements and accomplishments. Here's some of what this 'red' state city does to help those less fortunate, not just around the holiday season, but year round.

One of Lincoln's largest and most comprehensive programs for the poor is run by The People's City Mission, and before you say "Oh, not another religion based organization.", I want to point out that this organization does not try to force religion down anyone's throat, but tries, as best they can, to provide food, shelter, and life necessities to those in need. They are not a 'mission' in the traditional sense of the word, as they run not just a men's homeless shelter, but also provide housing to families, battered women, run a day program for the homeless that provides additional help in transiting from poverty to self-sufficiency, have a drug and alcohol rehab program, run a medical center that provides check ups, eye and dental care, help in obtaining medicine, and bases it all on a sliding scale fee, which means that if you're broke, you don't pay. Area doctors, nurses, and other professionals donate their time and money to this effort. They also run one of the country's best distribution centers for the poor, handing out food, clothing, furniture, hygiene items, household knick knacks, and more, all donated by a community that deems it their responsibility to be their brothers and sisters' keepers. Major food chains donate food to be distributed, as well as area restaurants.

This, in and of itself would seem to be a lot for a city of this size to be doing for their less fortunate, but not content with this, the city goes much further. They have several 'soup' kitchens, although calling them soup kitchens doesn't adequately describe what they actually do. Providing quality meals and comprehensive services is the main facility called The Matt Talbot Kitchen and Outreach Center, who also provides another on site health clinic, basic and emergency needs, and doesn't make people go through extensive 'criteria' to obtain services like some of the national charities do. A quick check through The Charity Navigator also shows that a full 90 per cent of all donations go directly into the programs they are intended for, again unlike the major national charities, and a report is provided to the public every year to account for expenditures. No fancy Mercedes for the directors of Lincoln's charitable endeavors, and no million dollar salaries either.

But this is still not enough. To ensure that no one in this city ever has to go hungry, the area churches started their own version of Food Net. On any day of the week, including weekends, one can call a number to find out which churches are giving out food baskets on that day. And we're not talking about going in and receiving a ready made up basket that contains items that are placed in by volunteers. The area food stores, restaurants, and food banks, as well as distributors, all chip in items every week, and it gets taken to the Food Net sites, where those in need go around in an orderly fashion and pick out the items they can use. They may go to any Food Net site on the days they are distributing, with no limit to how many times they may use this service, again, (and I love pointing this out) unlike the national charities.

On top of this, due to the state of Nebraska's own recognition that it wasn't doing enough to help those in need, their programs designed to help the disabled have so vastly improved over the last ten years, that they are being copied by other states. More recent additions to this city of compassion is a program designed to help the addicted get their lives back in order called CenterPointe, which provides housing, help with their addictions, counseling, job and training referrals, and much more.

Combine all of this with the work done by the national charitable organizations, and one would have to conclude that this is, if not The most compassionate city in America, then it surely ranks as one of them. Having been all over this country at various times, having been a director for homeless programs before, and having researched over 100 cities in order to compile data, I can tell you that Lincoln is a model for the country, and should be emulated by others. Unlike other places where the down trodden are shunned and discarded, Lincoln embraces their helpless, and gives them the resources to become productive members of the community again. Maybe that's how they are able to keep rents and housing prices so low, their utility costs so cheap, and for the city itself to thrive in these times of uncertainty. Because instead of resentful people, who see those who have shoving those who do not out of their way, this point of light city reaches out to those who have not, gives to them in extraordinary ways, and tells them that their lives have value, which in turn breeds not contempt, but hope, not hate, but a chance for a brighter future for every one in their community. A salute to their achievements and their enlightenment is in order this holiday season. Batmanchester


Anonymous said...

Shoot, I'm moving to Lincoln!

Anonymous said...

wow, I wish they had that stuff in new hampshire

Anonymous said...

California used to be like that, but now they don't care that much either. It almost seems like the whole country doesn't care about each other no more. Could be they need to be reminded that we're all in this boat together.

Abby1274 said...

Another good city is Wichita. They have a lot of programs for poor people.