Friday, June 25, 2010
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.