Recently, the Central Dallas Community Development Corporation submitted a proposal to the City of Dallas for the redevelopment of an old, abandoned Army Reserve base located on Northwest Highway out in the Lake Highlands community in North Dallas.
Those of you who check in here frequently will recall what I posted last Friday, January 12, 2007 ("Fear of the poor") to provide the details.
[Let me confess just here that it is very hard for me to refrain from a rather cold-hearted, cynical rant in response to the neighborhood's reaction to the plan, a plan that was very creative, if I do say so myself.]
This situation raises all sorts of questions about how a community coordinates its efforts to deal with the unique problems associated with homelessness and extreme poverty.
What should our collective approach be?
It is clear from our experience here that a group of vocal and organized neighbors can "peel off" the voice and leadership of a good council member simply because he or she is willing to listen--not endorse, just listen-- to an innovative proposal.
If this is standard operating procedure, is there any location in our community where the very poor will be welcomed? Where is the voice for the poor?
If you take the Lake Highlands' folks who were quoted in The Dallas Morning News at their word, they want to help out.
In fact, they are on record as loving the poor, especially the very poor who are homeless. It's just that they feel certain there is a better place to extend a hand to these folks than in their area of town.
You can read what they said for yourself at:
About one thing they are not right. The article seems to imply that the homeless in Dallas are all residing Downtown. That is not true.
For years there have been, and there remain today, homeless "camp grounds" along White Rock Creek right in the middle of the Lake Highlands community.
That is the point, it seems to me.
Homelessness is not a problem isolated to just one area of town.
In view of this reality, it seems only reasonable that every area of the city should be willing to take responsibility for responding to at least a part of the problem--their fair share, if you will.
The typical response in Dallas has been to point South.
The message seems pretty clear to me: Let's keep poverty where it belongs, down there with the other poor people.
Such an answer is not acceptable.
So, the Lake Highlands community is on record as saying they want to help the homeless.
Now, let's get down to practicality.
What would that look like?
How do these good church-going, PTA-participating, upright folks intend to get involved with providing a solution?
I'm very eager to hear from them.
At present, it seems they want to see the property in question turned into a city park. Who could be against that?
Why, I bet even the homeless living down in the creek bed would vote "yes" on that one. They might even end up using the park themselves when the weather warms up, especially since there will be no permanent housing development on the site.
Short of some really creative ideas, what we are left with is another victory for "not in my back yard" with the clear result going forward to segregate the poor even further.
Shame on all of us.