Formerly homeless men and women now occupy forty-six of our 50 apartments. Our negotiations continue on a contract with HUD that will provide 55 more apartments. Each of the men and women living in our apartments deal with disabilities of one kind or other.
What's really cool is the simple fact that we are all becoming good friends. We call the project "Destination Home."
Last week, Kim Horner, a reporter with The Dallas Morning News, stopped by to visit with our staff and our tenants about the program.
As we visited with her, one of our residents offered this observation:
"The best thing about this is the fact that they give us our freedom. It is unlike any other program I've been involved in. They gave us an apartment and left us alone. The freedom makes us realize that we have to be responsible and we hold each other accountable."
His words may provide one of the best insights into our "housing first" philosophy.
If a person is homeless and disabled and if they agree to complete a lease agreement required by the property owner, they are eligible to receive an apartment.
Basically, that is the program. There are no other prerequisite requirements--no classes, no group meetings, no curfews, nothing beyond what anyone would need to do who leases an apartment on their own. Just be a good tenant, abide by the lease terms and enjoy the community.
Yes, we have staff on site ready to assist the tenants with their needs. But, the tenants must request our involvement. If they want to participate in our activities or seek other services through our team, they are welcome to do so and we are pleased to help.
Our experience tells us that the national research we've seen is true. The vast majority (over 85% in at least one study) of homeless persons do not require much beyond a place to live to see their lives stabilize.
Tears flowed in our little meeting last week. Smiles and laughter filled the room. People are just really glad to have a home. So glad that almost all of our tenants are approaching us to see what they can do to help with our efforts to make their larger housing environment a true community. In this process giving goes in every direction. The property management tells us they are very glad to have our tenants in their apartments, and they are looking forward to leasing us more as the funding becomes available.
We intend to provide as many housing units as possible. Our focus will continue to be housing, rather than service. Freedom is the key.