Making Decorations for the Homeless Shelter Christmas Tree Auction

Whenever I think of bettering my community, I think of working with those less fortunate in the area that I live in. Before leaving for Thanksgiving break, I called my mom to see if she knew of any volunteer opportunities I could engage in over the break. She got back to me and told me that her friend that volunteers at the homeless shelter could use some help. I accepted, assuming that I would be helping distribute food or something along those lines since it was Thanksgiving. Upon arriving at home, my mom told me that I would be making decorations. I figured I was now stuck making these decorations and then would have to find another opportunity that I could actually talk about for this paper, but I was completely wrong.

The decorations I made are going to be used to decorate Christmas trees, which will then be auctioned off at the homeless shelter fundraiser later in the month. I made many different origami decorations and some chains made out of paper. After making the decorations, I talked to my mom’s friend who gave me more information about the homeless shelter in Falls Church. I was very surprised by what she told me.

The Friends of Falls Church Homeless Shelter has been operating for 20 years. It was created to address the critical need for emergency housing in the community, and only operates during the winter months of November through March. Although the shelter is only open during the winter, there is counseling provided year round. The shelter also works closely with these individuals to help them find permanent affordable housing, providing case management services, and education classes and presentations that help them make wise financial, medical, and personal choices. After the individual exists the program, the shelter works with them for up to 2 years if needed. The main power struggle for this shelter is that the city only provides 20% of needed funds for operation.

To date, 80% of the shelter’s funds have been raised by the community through fundraising events. After hearing this statistic, I realized how important it was that I volunteered and made the decorations. The Christmas tree fundraiser is one of their most profitable fundraisers for the shelter. Although my part was very small, somebody had to make the decorations so that people would be willing to buy them at the auction. This made the power dynamic really interesting. The city has a lot of power, as 20% of the shelter’s money comes from the City of Falls Church, but then the other 80% is dependent on fundraising. Within this 80%, people such as the Board of Directors, which is comprised of volunteers, and other short-term volunteers, like me, have power. Then there are the individuals being served by the homeless shelter, who are at the bottom of the power chain. They are at the bottom because they are dependent on the funds from the city and fundraising to be able to have a place to stay.

Comparison of Baltimore and Appalachia through Structural Strain Theory

In class we learned about Structural Strain Theory. This theory states that “deviance is a result of a mismatch between cultural goals and the institutionalized means of reaching those goals” (Medley-Rath). There are cultural goals, which generally means the American Dream in the United States, and institutional means, which generally means education in the United States. It is argued that “a mismatch between the cultural goals and the institutionalized means can lead to deviance” (Medley-Rath) and therefore result in five adaptations which include conformity, innovation, ritualism, retreatism, and rebellion. The article we read by Medley-Rath focuses on how this theory was evident during the Baltimore riots.

The article stated that “one only needs to work hard, get educated, and then a person will be able to achieve the American Dream” but then went on to state that this was nearly impossible in Baltimore where Freddie Gray lived where the employment rate is “over 50 percent, the high school student absence rate hovers at 49.3 percent, and the life expectancy tops out at 68.8 years” (Medley-Rath). These statistics show evidence of how hard is it to achieve the American Dream if the odds are so against people in these communities and that is why they rebel. The situation of this neighborhood in Baltimore reminded me a lot of the communities I have worked with in Appalachia, but the communities in Appalachia have not rioted.

Similarly to the neighborhood in Baltimore, Appalachia experiences extreme poverty and inability to achieve cultural goals and institutionalized means. The poverty rate is “16.1% in the Appalachian region of Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia” (Fahe). Also, In Appalachia “only 17.7 percent of the population age 25 and older has a college degree” (Schwartz). These statistics are very comparative to areas where there have been riots, yet riots are a rare occasion in these rural Appalachian communities although they are both equally similar in ability to reach cultural goals and institutionalized means. This leads me to believe that Structural Strain Theory is simply not enough to explain why riots happen.

There are many factors that could trigger rioting beyond lack of access to cultural goals and institutionalized means. Police brutality is a large factor. When trying to find examples of police brutality in Appalachia, I came across an article that talked about how a man was killed after being tased multiple times for acting “erratic, crashing his truck into a ditch, and cussing and yelling during the Lawrence County High School graduation” (Griffin). Although friends and family feel as though there was more to the story and he was not justly cared for, no riots broke out. When a similar event occurred in Baltimore with Freddie Gray, riots erupted. This is most likely because there is a long history of police brutality in neighborhoods such as Freddie Gray’s. This example shows that Structural Strain Theory can not simply be used on its on to describe why riots happen.


Works Cited

“Appalachian Poverty.” Fahe. Fahe, 12 Sept. 2013. Web. 22 Nov. 2015.

Griffin, Dan. “UPDATE: Friends and Family Want Answers in Death after ‘Tasing'” WSAZ RSS. WSAZ News Channel, 2 June 2015. Web. 22 Nov. 2015.

Kelvin, Pollard. “The Appalachian Region in Review: 2010.” The Appalachian Region in 2010: A Census Data Overview (n.d.): n. pag. Appalachian Regional Commission. Web. 22 Nov. 2015.

Medley-Rath, Stephanie. “Structural Strain Theory and the Baltimore Riots.” Sociology In Focus Structural Strain Theory and the Baltimore Riots Comments. Sociology in Focus, 4 May 2015. Web. 22 Nov. 2015.

Schwartz, Jeffrey H. “Development and Progress of the Appalachian Higher Education Network.” ARC. Appalachian Regional Commission, n.d. Web. 22 Nov. 2015.

Case Study on the Riots in Kentucky After a Basketball Game in Comparison to the 1968 Riot in Chicago


The 1968 riot in Chicago and the 2015 riot in Kentucky are two examples of nonroutine collective action that occurred in the United States. In 1968 in Chicago, Illinois a riot broke on the west side following the assassination of Martin Luther King Junior. In 2015 in Lexington, Kentucky a riot broke out after the men’s basketball team lost a game. Both had extremely different pre-conditions, triggers, and responses. These two examples of riots show how riots can be caused by any group of people and for any reason. The pre-conditions were very different.



The pre-conditions of the 1968 riots were mainly based on race. There were tensions because the ghetto population’s density was greatly expanding, bringing many blacks into Chicago. Due to these tensions, Martin Luther King decided to focus on Chicago to bring political change. The black people in Chicago were especially fond of King because of this reason. There were many tensions between King and Daley, though, so these tensions were never truly resolved. This situation in Kentucky was much different

The pre-conditions before the Kentucky riot was much different. The year prior, the University of Kentucky men’s basketball team had lost in the NCAA championship. Riots broke out that year, causing students to burn at least 17 couches, leaving 18 injured, and 7 arrested. The police used tear gas to control the crowd and get everyone to leave. As you can tell, the pre-conditions from these 2 riots greatly differed and so did their triggers.


Trigger and Responses

The trigger of the 1968 riot in Chicago was the assassination of MLK. This especially impacted the high schoolers and younger residents of Chicago. The way the city responded to this did not go well. The National Guard was immediately called in because it was mainly black people rioting, which made the environment very militaristic. Also, Chicago high schools where mainly black students attended were shut down. A curfew was set to keep young residents from rioting through the night. This made it so that the residents could not voice their feelings on the situation and also targeted the young black residents as the problem.

Similarly, the riots in Kentucky were started by younger people, but for very different reasons. The start of this riot, like the year before, was because the men’s basketball team once again lost in the NCAA championship. Lawn chairs, shirts, and other items were burned all over the streets of Lexington. Many students were injured by having bottles thrown at them and some were burned. The police responded by going through the crowds with riot gear and protective shields and arrested 31 students. According to an article on Daily Kos, “fortunately for the students involved in this repeated riot it is unlikely to result in an increase in militarized police force at their doorsteps or set curfews”. This was shocking to read, as those were the first steps in the 1968 riot in Chicago.



From what I have mentioned, it is evident that these are 2 very different examples of riots. The riot in Chicago had an important underlying cause. I guess if someone is a huge basketball fan they could argue that the Kentucky riot had an important underlying cause, but most would disagree. Both of these riots had a very different demographic group participating in it. In Chicago, mostly black, and in Kentucky, mostly white. The title of an article on Daily Kos said, “Riots, Looting & Fires Break out in Kentucky. Don’t Worry. It’s Mostly White Kids.” By comparing these two riots, this title seems very relevant. In Kentucky, calling the National Guard and setting up a curfew was never an option while it was the first response in Chicago.

The 1968 riot in Chicago and the 2015 riot in Kentucky are two examples of nonroutine collective action leading to riots. The 1968 riot in Chicago after the assassination and the riot in Kentucky after losing a basketball game show how different riots can be and how the pre-conditions, triggers, and responses also vary. These examples show how differently cases are dealt with depending on who is involved and why.


Works Cited

Abu-Lughod, Janet L. Race, Space, and Riots in Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2007. Print.

Bailik, Carl. “The Latest Kentucky Riot Is Part Of A Long, Destructive Sports Tradition.” DataLab. FiveThirtyEightSports, 06 Apr. 2015. Web. 06 Nov. 2015.

Press, Associated. “31 Rioting Kentucky Fans Arrested after Fights, Fires.” New York Post. New York Post, 5 Apr. 2015. Web. 06 Nov. 2015.

Reeves, Chris. “Riots, Looting & Fires Break Out in Kentucky. Don’t Worry. It’s Mostly White Kids.” Riots, Looting & Fires Break Out in Kentucky. Don’t Worry. It’s Mostly White Kids.Daily Kos, 5 Apr. 2015. Web. 06 Nov. 2015.

The Old Manchester Neighborhood Plan

Plan Summary

The Old Manchester Neighborhood is a very desirable neighborhood in Richmond, Virginia as it has rich historic roots, is directly south of downtown, and has a large sense of community. With these things said, it is surprising that the area has been declining for decades. There are many vacant homes and lots, “husband-wife families” have been declining, 80% of residents are considered low-income, and 69% of residents are below the poverty line. The city decided something had to be done about this. The primary goal of the city is to encourage mixed-use development while preserving the historic character. There is a mixture of rehabilitation and redevelopment strategies. The goal is to create an urban environmental where people can live, work, shop, and recreate. Demographics from 1980-1990 were used to establish this plan. This analysis will mainly focus on housing using background from what we have learned about and discussed in class.


Strengths of the Plan

This plan seems to have many strengths. The city of Richmond plans on providing a range of housing types to provide opportunities for people of all incomes. This is very important because it makes it possible for people of all different backgrounds to live in the neighborhood. There will be places for lower-income and higher-income and this makes the neighborhood very inclusive. The plan also states that they will displace as few residents as possible and provide new homes for displaced residents within Old Manchester. Unlike other cities that we’ve learned about, Richmond has actually prepared and has a plan for the residents. The residents are more likely to go along with this plan knowing that they will have a place to return to. It was also stated that the city will develop infill housing where there are gaps in the neighborhood. When there are vacant lots or vacant homes, there is a higher chance of crime. Also, as we saw in Boston, the vacant lots can become sites for garbage dumping which is a health hazard. By making it a priority to infill these vacant lots and homes, it makes the community a much safer place. They also stated that they will balance economic development activity with the needs of the residential community. I think it is very important that they value both of these so highly. From the statistics stated before, the area needs economic development, but if that takes priority to the residents severe problems will arise.


Weaknesses of the Plan

There were not many weaknesses to this plan. One thing that did stand out to me, though, was that they plan on developing Old Manchester as a community conducive to single-family residential land uses. From the existing conditions provided in the plan, I feel like this would not be the best solution for the community. It was stated that most of the units were multi-family (36%), following that two-family units (33%), and then single-family units (31%). Also, the number of families has been declining. It does not make much sense for a single person or a couple to live in a single-family home, but more likely a multi-family unit.



Overall the Old Manchester Neighborhood Plan seems like a great plan that respects the community that lives there and wants to keep them happy while also improving the area. They plan on developing economically but not so much to impact the residents negatively. Their plan to create a majority of single-family residential land uses is questionable, but positively they focus on maintaining affordability, providing housing for all income levels, displacing as few residents as possible, and developing infill where there are gaps or vacancies. Although the plan sounds good on paper, it will be interesting to see how it plays out in real life.


Works Cited

Arena, John. Driven from New Orleans: How Nonprofits Betray Public Housing and Promote Privatization. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota, 2012. Print.
Holding Ground: The Rebirth of Dudley Street. Dir. Mark Lipman and Leah Mahan. 1996.
“Richmond, VA.” Richmond VA Planning and Development Review Other Plans. Richmond Government, Aug. 1996. Web. 18 Oct. 2015.

Emily Garrett IDIS 400 Research Paper 1: Issues in Inner-City Schools

Many inner-city students struggle every day for reasons that are not their fault. This literature review delves into the issues faced in many inner-city schools among students including aggressiveness, mental health, parent involvement, principal involvement, and the culture of violence. Many theorists make arguments about what can be done. Efforts from the principals, teachers, parents, and community stakeholders can greatly improve the overall academic ability in inner-city schools.