Grapevine Online Exclusive


An alcoholic homeless man known as Mr. Sleepy comes to

My bank teller called me out of line one day and said, "Joe, I need your news team to take back my neighborhood." Debra was upset about a busy crack house directly across from her home on a residential street in Memphis, Tenn. It had been a persistent problem for years. "I've called the police, building code enforcement, and the mayor more times that I can count," said Debra. "The city boards up the doors and windows but before long, someone rips off the plywood andrestarts the cocktail party that goes on 24 hours a day. I can't sit on my front porch or let my children go outside," my teller reported. Debra said her grandmother had purchased the home during the Great Depression, no small achievement. The charming home had remained in the family all these years. "Please help," Debra requested. I promised to try.

Debra made the appeal because the TV station where I've been blessed to serve as a broadcast journalist since 1978 had a series of news reports called "Taking Back Our Neighborhoods." My colleagues and I told the stories of the solution-oriented people who were addressing crime, problem properties and other threats to healthy neighborhoods. Like AA, the stories focused on solutions. I have served as a reporter and news anchor at the station all these years—a sober one since August 28, 1989!

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