Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Where Do You Go to Begin Again?

Interestingly enough, we all like stories of people who have overcome long odds. The professional athlete who was once a scrawny weakling; the professional who comes from poverty and obscurity; the entertainer who was told he or she would never amount to anything.

How would they become the inspirational figures that we admire, unless someone gave them a chance.

Again, another neighborhood in Dallas is declaring that where that place for beginning again is, its not among them...

"Lake Highlands residents are mobilizing against plans to house homeless people and former inmates in 70 units in their neighborhood."

"More than 700 people have signed a petition against housing plans at the Woodside Condominiums, 9302 Forest Lane, and Trinity Palms apartments, 9690 Forest Lane, organizers said. The petition drive is ongoing, and residents say they've only begun their grass-roots campaign."

"The area is the latest of several neighborhoods to battle housing for the homeless, where tenants include people with serious mental illnesses and addictions, including former inmates. A plan to move 100 formerly homeless to Cliff Manor public housing in west Oak Cliff is on hold after neighborhood opposition."

"On Friday, Lake Highlands resident Ashley Livingston distributed fliers on her street about the housing plan. Her neighbor Ashley Gomez has been giving packets of fliers for others to hand out throughout the area."

""I want to make people aware of what's going on," said Livingston, who went door to door as she pushed her 8-month-old son in his stroller. "I feel like the city was trying to sneak it in without residents who will be affected knowing it."..."

"Lake Highlands residents say the area already has too much crime and subsidized housing. They say it does not make sense to place formerly incarcerated people there."

"It has been difficult to find neighborhood support for this type of housing, even beyond Lake Highlands and north Oak Cliff. Deep Ellum residents objected to a proposal to build 100 units there. Plans for similar housing have fallen through in South Dallas, the Cedars and at another Lake Highlands site."

Dallas has a homelessness problem and its a problem that will not get better as long as we decide that we embrace the idea of ending homelessness, but don't want to spend the money or make the room to give them a home.

I'm fortunate to supervise Central Dallas Ministries' permanent supportive housing program we call 'Destination Home'. Before the year has ended, we will have housed nearly 150 formerly homeless citizens, providing them with the housing and case management will allow them to stabilize and improve their lives. It's not the answer for every homeless person, but it is the means through which literally hundreds will get off the streets and rediscover self sufficiency, dignity and self worth.

The video was filmed when I took over the program a couple of years ago. Today we have new staff that manage the day to day operations with incredible efficiency and make sure that men and women like the ones in this video discover what it means to begin again.

A bit of an update: some of the residents in this video have done well. Some have moved on. Some are still with the program, as are others who started with them. Leon, for instance, is still in the program and helps new participants adjust and get used to living with a roof over their heads again. Mr. Thomas Bedwell, a veteran, died, with dignity, in his own home earlier this year.

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