Academic journal article Policy Review

The New Social Architects

Academic journal article Policy Review

The New Social Architects

Article excerpt

Millard Fuller

Habitat for Humanity

Here's a charity that scorns the concept of the handout in no uncertain terms. In fact, about the only thing they hand you at Habitat for Humanity is a ham- mer and a carpenter's belt. If you want a home for your family, they reason, you should help build it.

Championed by former president Jimmy Carter, Habitat for Humanity has helped provide shelter for more than 250,000 low-income people, constructing about 40,000 homes. Its goal is to help the needy achieve and maintain permanent economic independence. Investing their own "sweat equity," families assisted by Habitat help to build their own homes and assume ownership. Thanks to cor- porate support and an army of volunteers, Habitat homes in the United States are built for an average cost of $35,000.

The organization is the brainchild of Millard Fuller, a self-made millionaire who poured all of his money into founding the group in 1976. Based in Americus, Georgia, Habitat is now a global organization with nearly 1,500 active affiliates and building projects in more than 40 nations.

Habitat has recently accepted AmeriCorps staffing and funding from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. Fuller will accept government funds provided they come without conditions that might interfere with Habitat's Christian witness.

Marvin Olasky

World magazine

As a Marxist atheist undergraduate at Yale, Marvin Olasky once conducted an art project in which he let a black cat out of a bag onto the floor. This was a metaphor, he explained, for how the Black Panthers were freeing themselves from the racial oppression of American society

Today, Olasky says, he's a lot smarter about both religion and economics. A convert to evangelical Christianity, he has risen to national prominence through the promotion of "effective compassion"-material and spiritual help that upholds the dignity of the needy. His studies of 19th-century charities that lifted people out of poverty have propelled him to the forefront of the debate on welfare reform. After joining the University of Texas as a professor of journalism, Olasky and his wife started several "mustard-seed" groups, such as a crisis-pregnancy center in Austin. There, Olasky learned that "the great hope for our society lies with the millions of ordinary people who in quiet ways do heroic things every day."

Olasky is the editor of World, the lively evangelical newsweekly magazine based in Asheville, N.C., with a circulation of 75,000. No author has been more widely read over the past few years as a source of wisdom on private alternatives to the welfare state. Among his 11 books, The Tragedy of American Compassion (1992) and Renewing American Compassion (1996) have been particularly influential. Effective charity, Olasky argues, must be personal, challenging, and spiritual. In his inaugural address as Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich urged all Americans to read Olasky's work.

William Bratton

New York City Police Department

"We will fight for every house in the city, we will fight for every block. And we will win." So pledged William Bratton at his swearing in as the police com- missioner of New York City in 1994. And he kept his word. By the end of 1996, recorded incidents of seven major felonies had fallen by 33 percent and homicide by 50 percent.

Bratton's approach was based on the "broken windows" theory-that smaller infractions lead to larger scale crime and civil disorder. From his days as chief of the Transit Authority Police Department, Bratton knew that one out of every seven people arrested for fare evasion were wanted on a warrant, and that one in 14 was arrested for packing illegal guns. Bratton's first step was to train his men in aggressive "order maintenance" to address the smallest of missteps, in an effort to alert citizens and would-be criminals that behavior degrading the quality of life in the city would not be tolerated. …

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