Friday, June 25, 2010

Not everyone agrees

Not everyone agrees with me. 

No surprise there. 

Last week The Dallas Morning News published an Op-Ed essay of mine dealing with the Cliff Manor situation in North Oak Cliff and the benefits of Permanent Supportive Housing in eliminating chronic homelessness in a city like Dallas.  You can read my opinion here

Earlier this week, Jeff Herrington, co-founder of the Fort Worth Avenue Development Group, wrote a reply or, better, a rebuttal of sorts to my opinion.  You can read his opinion here

One of the truly great things about our society, culture and nation is the fact that we can hold to different opinions and freely argue our points of view.  It's really nice when that can happen in a civil manner.  As a nation, we've always been a little rough around the edges when it comes to civility, but the instincts remain with us even when we don't follow the values of our "better selves."

Last Monday evening I attended the public hearing to "discuss" the Cliff Manor project.  About 500 people showed up for the meeting that turned into a rowdy, loud, at times disrespectful venting session.  The targets of the anger and frustration included the Dallas Housing Authority and Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance.  The plan to move 100 formerly homeless, disabled persons, many senior citizens, was opposed from start to finish.  Those backing the plan were shouted down.  Even Mayor Tom Leppert, who tried to help moderate the crowd, was interrupted and disrespected. 

Despite pleas and claims to the contrary, the truly forgotten constituents in the entire evening were the homeless men and women who need and hope for decent places in which to live. As I said in my opinion piece, when the homeless find permanent homes, they no longer behave like homeless persons because they are not any longer! 

There were several brave, homeless persons at the meeting.  A group of the homeless greeted people as they entered the hall.  As the very ugly meeting unfolded, I wondered what they were thinking and feeling.  It felt to me that the meeting was a referendum on the humanity and the value of the homeless.

At one point the thought crossed my mind, "What would happen if the homeless poor in Dallas got organized to really be in a position to advocate for better lives and living conditions?" 

Certainly, it was a night of free speech, even if much of the civility of the evening evaporated.  I continue to be thankful for that gift.  And, we'll continue the argument, the debate with our friends and for the sake of our friends.  Hopefully, we'll hang on to a civil spirit and heart.  The process is one of our rarest and most important gifts as a people.


rcorum said...

Larry you always set the example of civility, and I appreciate that. It sure makes for better reading. I live in Memphis where our morning paper is the Commercial appeal. I usually read the online version and like most of those there is a comments section, and sometimes I just get sick or reading those comments coming from both sides of any given issue.

In the specific case you mention today, do you think that the anger of most people is fueled by fear of how they think if might affect them financially, and why do you think meetings like this often just break down into shouting matches?

rcorum said...

I guess I should not have posted the first time before I read the articles in question. I have now read both articles and all of the comments. I thought both of you made your case well, but I thought Jeff Herrington's raised some questions that seem to deserve answers. People never like it when they perceive that they are not informed. In your opinion do those in opposition to this project have a valid point in feeling uninformed?

Anonymous said...

I've read the article that you linked to and I've pondered a little.. Here is what I think. You are right, and the other side is wrong. But...

I happen to know how diligently you worked to educate people, and make your case, regarding the downtown project that you completed. And I also know that you did not necessarily change many minds. But -- maybe -- just the act of talking about it over a longer period was "enough" to make it more tolerable, if not desirable.

The article you linked to implies that these steps were not provided as diligently for this different project. So -- maybe it will require a non-stop, oft/repeated education & acclimation process. And doing it for one group will never be enough, and doing it just once or twice will never be enough.

I wish it were!

Larry James said...

RC, appreciate your comments. The issue is complex in part and simple in part. CDM was not involved in this project, but in fairness to those who are leading the way, you can never begin early enough to satisfy opponents like this. I reached out last week to a leader on the other side, but he decided not to meet with him because he believed that I was "just wanting to do a sales job" on him. I find that sad. Often property owners have one focus: their financial investment. Even though the national and local data reveals that PSH does not harm and most often increases property values, it is not convincing to people who are not interested in learning something surprising and new. In the case in question, DHA has housed mentally ill persons at the same property for years, but without the benefit of the supportive services that LifeNet will provide. The plan will improve the property, increase the positives in the surrounding area and help the extremely poor. But at the meeting, and sense among some, there is no listening. Not to pick on Oak Cliff, we have experienced the same thing in every neighborhood where we attempt to lift people out of homelessness by providing PSH options. It is a battle.

Anon 4:51, I appreciate your comments as well. You are correct, we must continue to sing the song in all its verses. CityWalk is working out as we planned. We have moved the homeless into our building and it is working well and we cleaned up what one Downtown worker called the "eyesore on Akard" in the process. It is win-win. We were able to do it because there was no "neighborhood" involved.

We'll keep trying.