The home is a status symbol for many people in America. The size, the location, and the quality of the home speak to neighbors and visitors about the potential type of individual who resides in the home. The home though for many represents more than status and reputation. It represents protection and stability in the life of an individual or family. The home for many persons is where harm should not knock on the door of life nor create disruptions in the pattern of that life.
The other day, I attended a meeting in which a prominent figure in my city discussed future expansions of the organization he leads. The expansions sounded necessary to accomplish the larger vision of the organization. In his presentation, the organizational leader made a statement that his organization owned several pieces of land on which homes and trailers currently reside. He then commented in the context of his organizations expansion, those homes and trailers would have to give way to organizational growth. He stated, “They do not know this.”
There are opportunity lessons for organizational leaders in various capacities that work in our city. Organizational leaders have a commitment to various stakeholders as the organization executes its specific mission. There are organizational responsibilities to execute on a periodic basis to confirm the viability of the organization. At the same time, organizational leaders in our city have moral and ethical responsibilities to those same stakeholders. The organizational leader’s statement while cavalier, requires a moral and ethical assessment as to whether removing homes for the sake of expansion is the best course of action. Organizational leaders who participate in this type of activity must ask, “Is this specific gentrification we are about to embark upon the best course of action?”
I would like to speak more specifically now on this idea of moral and ethical decision making regarding gentrification in Conway. Conway is currently in the middle of transition. The north of downtown experienced revitalization with the development of Hendrix Village to include housing that is priced for a specific demographic. East of Harkrider, the city is currently in the planning phase for redevelopment of the old airport. Redevelopment will inevitably generate new business opportunities, living conditions, and tax revenue for our city. None of those are particularly bad things. New businesses create opportunities for job creation and tax revenue should go towards improvements in all our city services. The concern I have, which is connected to the organizational leader’s statement is, “Who will these living conditions be focused towards?” “Is this specific gentrification the best course of action?” A moral and ethical decision making process requires all participants have the opportunity to learn, critique, and recommend, so that the most humane and equitable plan develops.
The lack of sustainable housing for low income persons should be an opportunity for all of our citizens to speak. The lack of sustainable housing creates burdens on families, law enforcement, and education. The lack of sustainable housing moves children into DHS custody and burdens a foster care system. The lack of sustainable housing combined with the lack of adequate employment contributes to homelessness? Who should speak for them?
We speak with words. Words can stimulate the construction of hope in the life of an individual. Words can begin as a small flame that increases to an inferno because of the winds of prejudice and greed. Words can flow like a stream from the hearts of men and women to serve as a fresh energizer or a salty inhibitor towards a person’s progress. Words are not simply the construction of letters, syllables, and annunciations; words become increasingly powerful when they are acted out.
How should we speak for those who lack sustainable housing or stand in danger of losing their home? The mayor and city council can speak to ensure that there is appropriate zoning in our growing city that does not isolate the poor into some corner, but integrates the poor into the life of the city. Entrepreneurs in real estate and construction can join together and use capital to develop appropriate housing that addresses every economic class in our city. Nonprofits can use the voice of advocacy and volunteerism to speak to landlords and residents about the opportunities of shared investment in their community. The colleges speak in their planning and development of the construction of multi-million dollar facilities to thoughtfully consider if the course of action is worth displacing individuals and families. The Church speaks as the moral voice of compassion to remind all our citizens that the homeless and poor housing are not blights to be tolerated but an opportunity to minister to Jesus himself.
When you go home tonight and enjoy the comforts of your home, remember there are some in our city who do not have your conditions. So rejoice! Due to God’s grace, your enjoyments create for you an opportunity to enjoy a level of protection and stability. Others in our city have received a different measure of his grace and this does not denigrate their importance as people in our city. Why do we have the presence of those who are seemingly strong and those that are seemingly weak? Our presence offers the opportunity to demonstrate to our state that those who are strong can be verbal demonstrations of love for those who are weak.
Who should speak for them? All of us.