CityBeat column: Still don’t get it

The feeding line

(Photo from October 6, 2007, Feeding Washington Park)

God bless them. Really. They mean well, but after this blog post and my first column in CityBeat, I still believe we are not seeing eye-to-eye on the cause and effect of giving away food in Over-the-Rhine‘s Washington Park (and I would add to that: having a “church” service with loudspeakers so loud that windows shake in the building I live in across from the park). So, the good folks at Vineyard Community Church in Springdale (who give away food on Saturday mornings, provide some clothing and other assistance, plus send a van to pick up folks in OTR to attend Saturday evening church services) invited me to come along on a Saturday morning food run and witness first-hand (in this case, across the street from my house where I had been watching them before) the good they were doing. They believed I really didn’t understand. And they were wrong.

This week’s CityBeat column, this blog post, the past writings put me in the awkward position of being at odds with people who are truly, not only trying to do something good, on many levels they are. So, the question then becomes is just “doing good” enough? Or does the good you’re are aiming for actually have to have positive long-term consequences for those you are helping? And does the residual and indirect effects of your well-intentioned actions matter?

I’d say yes, but I think my pleas for understanding may be directed at minds that have already been made up or refuse to hear what I – and others – are saying.

Author: Joe Wessels

Joe Wessels is a freelance journalist and photographer. Wessels covers local news events for Thomson Reuters news service and features for About.com's Cincinnati Guide site, plus is the executive director of hyperlocal news site, iRhine.com. He wrote for The Cincinnati Post, covering Cincinnati City Hall and Hamilton County government and wrote a weekly political column, which continued weekly at Cincinnati CityBeat. Previously, he was a reporter for the Cincinnati Business Courier and writes or has written for several publications in Cincinnati and around the country including The Cincinnati Enquirer, Las Vegas Review-Journal, Cincinnati Magazine, Cincy Magazine and the Sacramento News & Review. He is a native of Colerain Township, one of Cincinnati's western suburbs, and now lives in Over-the-Rhine near downtown Cincinnati. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology and a journalism writing certificate from the University of Cincinnati. He also graduated from Colerain High School, is an avid photographer, news junkie and was once a roller rink disc jockey, and sometimes rides a scooter around town.

5 thoughts on “CityBeat column: Still don’t get it”

  1. I was reading this column while I was waiting on some take out Chinese, and just kept thinking to myself how much I agree with what you’re saying.

    I know a lot of people can easily get offended on the topic, but I’m right there with you.

  2. The problem with this kind of well intentioned “charity” is that it does nothing to address the real problem and if anything “enables” certain people to continue with bad choices. These churches arent social workers and lack the skills to make a difference. They had a problem here in Indianapolis with churches coming out and cooking food in the parks for homeless people, who already eat six times day by walking from one shelter to another. Fortunately the city put a quick stop to that because you would need an event liscense amd a catering liscense.

    I am moving to Cincinnati later this summer and I am sure this is an issue which wont “go away” anytime soon. Its always a challenge when a neighborhood begins to change. Those who choose to move to an urban neighborood and pioneer are accused of gentrification. I dont think this is a bad thing to turn around a neighborhood , restore empty housing and create a vibrant community.

  3. With great deeds all too often arises great criticism and judgment. It’s simple, be good, and be good to others. If someone feels there is something wrong with creating change with action, and intentionally positive actions, why not join them, learn, and be a catalyst with them (shift change vs. shift blame)?! Actions such as you mentioned won’t change the world over night, but they can certainly inspire us to connect with others in a different way. It is a challenge to give a gift, not expect, not have pride, not pass judgment, and think, “Is this really helping, or perpetuating a constant pattern of sameness?”. I urge you to see the goodness in selfless acts as fruitful action and not empty lack of resolve.

    I like to look at Cincinnati as going through a “Cincinnati Renaissance” of sorts, and we’re becoming leaders on how to revitalize their city/communities. There are causes and effects to any action, but I feel this complicated economic or knowledge economy model answers some of our dilemmas = Action>Talking. What do you feel could be done better to enhance our communities/city, as well as eliminating poverty?

    I seek to make positive impact, improve lives, and also not give hand outs, but rather build into/develop people with action vs. a one stop shop so to speak. I propose doing good deeds, yet offering other ways to eliminate the enabling of poor decision making, connect to organizations/others who can assist them better, and learn from each other. It is ironic you seem negative about good deeds, but I do respect your candidness and perspectives on ‘hand outs are hand ups’ (need to have residual and reciprocal relationships built), ‘people lack the social work skills/expertise’ (does one really need a masters degree to perform good works/build into one’s community/people…?!).

    I know you do a lot, are truly and passionately involved in business as well as community driven efforts, so you’re not a ego driven self absorbed spout mouth with no clout or action to back your perspectives, so I respect your words. My dilemma resides in the hearts of others who fail to get involved, yet pass judgment. I would be honored to connect with you to build ideas into action on ways that we could improve the “one stop pit stop hand out” model, and transform it into a real life changing/connecting tool! From colleagues, peers, and other experts, I know we can do it from your creative writing skills, organizations you’re involved with, and really utilize your intellectual gifts/talents to be catalysts for change, and formulate better strategies. See ya around the social networks of linkedin, facebook, blogosphere, etc. or even ‘do lunch/coffee’.

    later, look forward to hearing your innovative ideas!

    luceat lux vestra,
    Brian Siegel

  4. What are some other ways to change patterns, help directly (or indirectly if people aren’t comfortable facing poverty, issues, challenges, people, etc. head on getting ’emotionally dirty’) such as with fund raisers/awareness etc.?

    Rock on Joe!
    B

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