Archive for the ‘Homeless’ Category

Mayor Leppert and the Homeless – Under the Radar

July 23, 2008

I came across this post on The Intermittent Volunteer’s Weblog, which talks about our Mayor and his involvement with issues involving the homeless.

Note that the poster said there were no cameras or press; just an engaged Mayor giving some of his time to pitch in. Says Karen Shafer, the blog’s owner:

He could easily show up for a photo-op (no press were present at this event), he could stay behind the glass counter, he could come and go quickly and say he’d made ‘a stop.’ He doesn’t. For the third time since I’ve known him, he’s come out among the homeless, touched them, talked to them at length one to one, spent time with them as though he did not have pressing time concerns.

For those of us that know the Mayor, this is nothing new. We appreciate the Mayor’s efforts in making Dallas a better city, and it’s good that people notice the efforts.

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Some Great Things Happened at City Hall Yesterday

May 29, 2008

As you’ve probably heard, yesterday’s City Hall meeting went into the evening. However, a lot of things happened yesterday.

The hot-sheet motels across from Veterans Hospital will be torn down and a job training center with office space will be built in its place. The Urban League and City Wide CDC are partnering up to bring this great development to South Oak Cliff. When Dwaine Caraway, Bishop McGriff and the Church of the Living God, the Urban League, and I worked to close the Sunset Motel and the Southern Comfort motel, this was what we had in mind. The goal was to rid the community of blight and crime havens and to have positive things in its place. As you know, the first motel the Dwaine and I helped to shut down in South Dallas has been demolished and a community/health center is being built. Thank you to the Mayor and City Council for making this a unanimous vote.

People that are stopped for traffic violations and do not have insurance will be towed. This is a significant step in Dallas, and this has already happened in other major cities. In this issue, I look at it as protecting the single Mom with kids that has her car totaled when she’s hit by an uninsured driver. There are strong feelings on both sides of this issue, but as it has in other large cities this will be proven to be a good thing as time goes on. Even though I’m on the younger side, our liability insurance costs $220 for 6 months, which is $36-37 per month (about $1.20 per day). That’s much cheaper than the ticket.

The towing vote was 10-5 as follows:

Voting for it: Mayor Tom Leppert, Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway and council members Sheffie Kadane, Linda Koop, Mitchell Rasansky, Carolyn Davis, Ron Natinsky, Dave Neumann, Angela Hunt and Jerry Allen.

Voting against: Mayor Pro Tem Garcia, and council members Salazar, Medrano, Atkins, and Hill

Larry James, John Greenan, and CDM got more funding for their Citywalk project. I have written about this project in the past, and it will be a great step in ending chronic homelessness in Dallas.

Dallas’ scrap metal ordinances were strengthened yesterday. We must combat this plague and place as many roadblocks as we can in this insidious practice that is severely impacting our neighborhoods, and we don’t need to wait for other cities or counties to toughen up to do so.

The St. Regis hotel/condo project was approved. This $200 million+ development (with no tax abatements) will add needed property taxes to the city once its completed.

All in all, it was a great day at City Hall and a great day for Dallas.

A Bridge to Hope

May 21, 2008

Yesterday, I attended the ribbon-cutting for “The Bridge,” also known informally as the new Homeless Assistant Center. I was floored and humbled.

I felt embarrassed to drive my car to the front of the building. I’m not knocking those who did, but I just left a sick feeling in my stomach. I parked a little ways away and walked to the entrance.

As I approached the entrance, I saw hundreds of homeless people that were watching us walk past them to go into the courtyard, all silent but watching. I stopped for a bit to say hello to everyone; immediately their eyes lit up and they all said hello and smiled. I wonder how many times someone speaks to them in a day. I know now that a beautiful place will await them to give them the services that they need.

I’m glad I voted for the 2005 proposition to fund this center via city bond funds. I knew we had to have this center. The way things were being done in Dallas was simply not working.

Last December (when we on the City Plan Commission voted to temporarily extend the permit on the Day Resource Center), the excitement started to kick in for me. That’s when I knew that the Bridge would soon be a reality.

I have written many posts about the homeless situation in Dallas since I started this blog. This phrase comes to mind when I think about the new center.

In my interactions with homeless people, I have found some of them to be highly intelligent and capable of surviving on their own. They just need a place to stay to stabilize themselves. How can you get a job if you have no address? There are street people that can’t get their veterans’ checks or SSI checks because of this.

I talked yesterday with one of the tour guides that told me about an overlooked but important fact. The Bridge can accept mail for the people it serves. This is a major step in stabilizing people that do not want to be on the street. Unscrupulous people can no longer steal their benefits check, and people can now work on getting jobs since they can put an actual address on a job application.

There are so many resources and services that are now available in one place. A pharmacy, mental health counseling, legal services, and community service supervision is available. A full list can be found on the Metro Dallas Housing Alliance website (link).

Larry James, whom I was glad to see yesterday, wrote a great post this morning poking fun at those who thought that downtown would disintegrate if this center was built. As he accurately pointed out, more developments are being announced within walking distance of this facility.

This facility is the beginning of an era in which Dallas will be viewed nationwide as an example of how to properly address the homeless epidemic that is grappling our cities.

The picture I chose to post (from the DMN), which shows a man doing his laundry, is significant to me. Most homeless aren’t asking for anything special; just a sense of stability and dignity. Now people can have clean clothes to go to try and get a job, or can feel presentable enough to seek out their family.

A shot at dignity, and an opportunity to reestablish their lives. The Bridge isn’t a cure-all for homelessness, but it’s a great step in the right direction.

Living in a Homeless Camp

November 9, 2007

The DMN has a heart-wrenching story about the homeless camp problem in Dallas.

There’s got to be something that can be done. I know that the new homeless shelter will have an open area, but we’ve got to do something about the people that live in the homeless camps.

The story references “Dignity Village” a city-sanctioned open-air camp. Here is their website, their myspace page, and their wiki. It looks like the homeless have built little shacks to accomodate themselves.

The land abutts the Portland International Airport and two country clubs. Click the picture to read the community rules.

The residents have set up their own government and well, as they have regular “Council Meetings.” The residents build each other furniture, and they cook for one another. After their homes become too run-down they are recycled and rebuilt. Local volunteers have built structures as well. Does this place really look that bad? I’ll always remember the homeless person I met when we had a community meeting for forward Dallas. He was as intelligent as anyone there. Sure, his clothes were run down and his glasses were broken but he is still a HUMAN BEING!

Can this be done in Dallas? I’m not sure. However, we are all God’s people, and we must all be afforded the opportunity to live with dignity.

July 10, 2007

A Wake Up Call

Robert Wilonsky of the Dallas Observer has a post regarding the carbon monoxide poisoning death of a man inside of the Dallas International Street Church. This death occurred over the weekend.

What’s so sad is that the man died from fumes because they were running a generator to keep food cold. This food was to be given to the homeless people to whom they pastor in the neighborhood.

The generator was needed because of miscommunication and finger-pointing that caused the unnecessary disconnection of electricity to the building.

All the Church needed was power for Sunday’s service and to keep the food cold in their pantry. To some people that wasn’t important, and a man had to die because of it.

April 10, 2007

What Works with the Homeless

Since many people in Dallas are paranoid of the homeless, I thought this would be a good read. Let’s learn about a city that took their homeless population from 4,500 to 150 (not a misprint). My uncle is one of those 20 workers (probably higher since this article was first published), and I was always amazed at his level of dedication.

(The following is a classic column by Otis Smith of Governing.com)

Homelessness is a destroyer of urban areas. If your city’s sidewalks are filled with sleeping men, drug abusers, the mumbling mentally ill and aggressive panhandlers, it’s in big trouble. Tourists won’t come, conventions will steer clear, downtown businesses will decamp, and residents won’t put up with the smells, sights and hassles; they’ll move to the suburbs. Cities know this and have tried two general approaches: coddling and criminalizing. Neither works. So, is there anything that does work, that actually moves homeless people into safe, clean environments and eventually to productive society? Yes, and the pioneer for this middle way is Philadelphia.

As much as any big city, national experts say, Philly has solved its chronic homelessness problems. In the mid-1990s, it had 4,500 people living on its streets. Today, there are about 130. How did Philadelphia perform this minor miracle? By doing three hard things: It built enough supportive housing units to take care of its homeless population (supportive housing has services on demand for drug and alcohol abuse, mental illness and other problems), created a central intake authority to assess and place homeless people into appropriate programs (and, importantly, track their progress), and launched an innovative outreach program to persuade — but not compel — the homeless to leave the streets.

The outreach program may be Philadelphia’s greatest innovation. The city has 20 workers on the street around the clock, looking for homeless people. Some are welfare workers, others are police officers with special training. If a regular officer sees a homeless person sprawled on the sidewalk, he can call the outreach unit and within 20 minutes, a worker will be there to question the person and talk about life on the inside. What does this cost? Philadelphia spends $60 million a year on homeless services. While that’s not cheap, others spend more and get much less.

San Francisco, for instance, spends $104 million a year on direct services and has one of the worst homeless problems in the country. Footnote: There are two additional keys to Philadelphia’s success, says Dennis Culhane, a University of Pennsylvania professor who has studied efforts to deal with homelessness around the country: Philly targeted the hardest cases, not just the easy successes, and stayed committed. That’s important because it took about four years to see dramatic improvements. “People have to realize a problem like this doesn’t go away in 12 months,” Culhane said, “and it won’t go away at all unless you have a real commitment by the city and the public. You have to keep your eye on the prize.” 7/1/2004