Tuesday, April 6, 2010

So...What's Next? Part II

Central Dallas Ministries' growth in the past 5 years I've been here has been nothing short of amazing.

Interestingly enough, when I got here we were committed to feeding the hungry, providing health care and legal services for those who otherwise were unable to afford to access them and providing similar services for those in the Roseland Homes public housing development, as well as services for youth aging out of foster care. We did more, but our growth took place as we 'swam upstream' and looked for ways to address the reasons why people were poor.

We strengthened and expanded our commitment to living wage, jobs driven job training, through a employment strategy called WorkPaths. And we looked for ways to address the issue of homelessness.

It started with Destination Home - our permanent supportive housing program, where the chronically homeless and disabled are provided subsidized housing, in a 'housing first' model. This model deals with homelessness (being without a home) first and then through case management addresses the other needs that result from homelessness.

This led to CityWalk@Akard, a vertical community that includes retail, office space and over 200 mixed income units (50 of which are for the formerly homeless). A $35 million project that is exciting to watch as it develops (we received our permanent certificate of occupancy last, and watching more people move in today was a sight to behold!).

On the drawing board is not only the Center of Hope, a much needed major relocation of our food pantry, health and wellness services and employment training and something else!

Across the street from the Center will be 'The Cottages at Hickory Crossings', a permanent supportive housing project that will house 50 of the most difficult homeless population, whose needs are usually met with costly incarceration, or psychiatric hospitalization.

""These are the most expensive people on the streets in Dallas," said Larry James, president and chief executive officer of Central Dallas Ministries, which would provide caseworkers to assist the tenants."

"The Communities Foundation of Texas and the Meadows Foundation are working with other agencies to raise the $10 million in public and private funds needed to build and operate the housing program over three years."

"Residents would be referred by the Dallas County criminal justice system and the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance, which runs the city's homeless assistance center, The Bridge. The agencies would research jail, mental health and hospital records to determine the homeless people with the highest costs to public systems."


Will it work? It works throughout the country. What doesn't work? Warehousing homeless people in homeless shelters. It's an inefficient use of taxpayer dollars. It doesn't address the needs of the people who are without homes, jobs or consistent health care. And it doesn't say much about a society that says "This is the best we can do, for the least of these among us."

I tell you, my colleagues are great to work with!

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