By Lloyd Gray
While division was evident on one front in City Hall last week between airport officials and the City Council, another development showed the power of “win-win” thinking.
The council unanimously authorized the city’s purchase of the former Salvation Army recreational facility behind the Link Centre, housed in the old Harrisburg Baptist Church building on West Main Street. The Army vacated the building, which had housed an after-school tutoring program, when the recession caused donations to drop and required the charity to cut back on programs.
The Salvation Army was still left with a note to pay on the building, which was no longer in use.
Meanwhile, the Army’s homeless shelter was running well over capacity, and the homeless situation in Tupelo had assumed a new visibility with the eviction of a group of people who had made their home on the banks of a creek. The community was searching for solutions, and the Army was looking for ways to expand its capacity to house the homeless and help get them on their feet.
Enter the Tupelo Police Athletic League. Its current 8,500 square foot facility on Robert E. Lee Drive houses a program that provides youth sports opportunities and mentoring from police and firefighters. This summer the program served 220 kids, and it needs more space to expand.
Out of these varied needs came this proposal: Why not have the city buy the 17,000 square foot Salvation Army facility and move the PAL program into it?
The city wins by getting more space for more young people to participate in one of the most successful youth programs around. The Salvation Army – which renders vital services no one else in the community offers – gets financial relief from its obligation on a building it can no longer use. The community gets the prospect of more support for the homeless, especially families, with the proceeds providing the Army a jump start on fundraising for an expanded shelter.
In short, everybody wins.
A bump or two in the road arose in those discussions, including initial differences of opinion about what funds would be used for the $225,000 purchase price the city was to pay. But the will was there to make it happen, and what obstacles and disagreements existed were overcome.
It’s another example of what Tupelo has been so good at through the years: Finding win-win solutions through good-faith collaboration and public-private partnership. There will always be reasons not to do something, and many communities excel at finding them. Tupelo historically has done the opposite in finding ways to make things happen.
There’s a message there for those involved in the conflict that represented the flip side of events at City Hall last week, or for any situation where people are at odds. Think “win-win” and solutions can be found.
Lloyd Gray is executive editor of the Daily Journal. Contact him at (662) 678-1579 or firstname.lastname@example.org