Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Task Force on Homelessness Recommendations: A Good First Step

Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert's Task Force to End Homelessness, has come up with a series of recommendations which it made to the City Council's Housing Committee last week.

I fully embrace the idea of educating neighborhoods on permanent supportive housing as a solution to end homelessness. Stereotypes and the accompanying fears persist, in spite of the fact that more and more the homeless look like almost anyone of us!

In fact, nationwide, an additional 1.5 million people are expected to experience homelessness because of the recession.

"A Dallas task force recommended Tuesday that the city launch a major campaign to educate the public about housing that officials want to build for the chronically homeless."

"The group also proposed a series of steps for developers wanting to build the permanent supportive housing – including meeting with neighborhood leaders early in the process to gain their support."

"We cannot run away from this issue," City Council member Carolyn Davis said at Tuesday's meeting. Davis served as a co-chair with chairman and fellow City Council member Steve Salazar.

"Residents in Davis' district raised concerns last year about a proposed permanent supportive housing project in South Dallas."

Here's some of what the task force recommended:

• The Dallas City Council should give incentives to developers seeking city funding to include some permanent supportive housing in their projects.

• The city should identify areas that would be ideal for the housing, as well as crime rates, access to transportation and distance to grocery stores in the locations.

• Developers seeking city of Dallas funding should be required to demonstrate a good faith effort of completing the steps of a "sponsor-neighborhood engagement process." Those steps include meeting with a council member, identifying key neighborhood leaders, arranging a tour of other similar facilities for a group of residents, and attending neighborhood meetings.

• The community outreach effort should be supported by a professional public relations firm and delivered by an array of voices.

Dallas' homeless problem is palpable. But homelessness is not just a issue for the homeless. Its a problem for the society that accepts it as an unsolvable problem.

On April 6, at CDM's Annual Prayer Breakfast, Rosanne Haggerty founder and President of Common Ground H.D.F.C., Inc. will come to speak to Dallas about this very same thing. More info to come on this. But the truth is, if these recommendations remain only recommendations, then the homeless situation in Dallas will only worsen - and the shame will be on us.

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