Friday, December 28, 2012

The Darker Side of Dallas' White Christmas

On Christmas night, when most of us in Dallas were lost in the romance of an extremely rare 'White Christmas', two homeless citizens froze to death on the streets...

What if we decided as a city to never let that happen again?

That's the substance of CitySquare's CEO and President, Larry James' op-ed, in this morning's Dallas Morning News. 

"What if we began by working with the leaders of the various emergency night shelters to provide housing for every one of their customers before Christmas 2013? What would that take? Simply put, the community will and political insistence to support such an endeavor. We need a determined, patient policy and the funding commitment to get it done."

"If we target the first 2,000 homeless people, we could place all in housing for the year and surround each person with high-touch care with a budget of less than $25 million. Once housed, these friends of ours could receive orderly case management. One short-term outcome would be the discovery that a number of the chronically disabled homeless currently receive some public benefit, a part of which could go back into underwriting rent and services. The scale of our effort would drive costs down."

"Our efforts could be time-stamped. In other words, anyone participating in the benefit would be required to document residency in Dallas or Dallas County prior to a start date. This would prevent the program from attracting the homeless from outside our area.
Property owners in the private, multifamily housing industry would benefit from such a community housing effort. Other players would include the Dallas Housing Authority, already a leading light in our progress to date."

"Like all other public investment (for instance, the beautiful Omni, where the great event was staged on Christmas Eve), spending this relatively small amount of public funds would result in significant churn in our local economy. Furthermore, the savings realized on public services (ER, EMS, hospital in-patient, jail, police, mental health and nonprofits) would be substantial. In essence, the investment would more than return to us all, but especially to some of the weakest among us."

"The annual cost would amount to less than 2.5 percent of the city of Dallas operating budget. When factoring in county contributions, the picture is even better."

"It’s not impossible."

"This could be done."

"Our challenge is one of priority."

"It’s a matter of what we decide to do. It’s all about how serious we really are, all of us, including those who have no place to call home."

Read the entire column here...

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