We've been working very hard to conceptualize and develop high quality, affordable housing for very low-income people here in Dallas, Texas.
Predictably, lots of people are not excited about our ideas.
We encounter strong resistance from some business interests who believe that single room occupancy apartments simply deepen the seemingly intractable problems associated with the chronic homelessness that is a big problem in our city's central business district.
For whatever it is worth, we have in mind permanent, extremely well-done studio type units. Everyone who lives in our development will be a paying customer from some source or the other. Some may lease a home using a voucher. Others will pay rent with Social Security or Supplemental Security income. Still others will be veterans and will satisfy their rental requirements by using those benefits. Some units will be paid for by earned income.
"So, is your project going to house homeless people, Larry?" someone always seems to ask.
How do you answer that question?
"Well, I guess it will if you mean people who might be homeless if we didn't develop our property," is an answer that is not completely satisfying to me.
A better answer is really no answer at all, but a question back to whomever asks me next.
"I'll answer your question, but first you must answer mine. What do you call a formerly homeless person who gets a home?" is what I intend to reply next time.
I call that person a neighbor, a tax-payer, a fellow-citizen, a wage-earner and a valued human being.
Of course, in every instance that is exactly what currently homeless men and women are before they find homes in which to reside off our streets! Somehow "homeless" has become an inescapable stigma.
Let me add one more thing. Lots of people post on this blog. Lots of people have ideas about who should do what and who shouldn't. Many have strong opinions about what the church should do and how business can help.
All of this is stimulating and wonderful.
But we need to remember that there comes a time to simply act. To be quiet and go to work. I've discovered that when you do that, the true colors of individuals, organizations and institutions are clearly revealed.
We're going to build fine studio apartments. Our target market is at the very bottom. It will be hard. But we will achieve our goal and we are open to working with anyone who wants to move past conversation to real work. . .for the sake of an important group of our neighbors and for the economic well-being of our city (more on this aspect of the challenge in a later post).