Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Cottages get Dallas Morning News endorsement

The following editorial endorsement appeared in this morning's edition of The Dallas Morning News:

Editorial: Project for chronically homeless deserves strong council support

At a time when finances couldn’t be tighter for the city, this newspaper places a high bar on any project that calls for taxpayer assistance. A proposal by the Central Dallas Community Development Corp. for a unique, 50-unit homeless housing project in South Dallas clears that bar with room to spare.

The development group is asking for $500,000 in voter-approved bond money to assist with a $6 million project focused on helping the chronically homeless — those whose persistent mental-health and legal issues help perpetuate their life on the streets. The City Council should have no problem approving this request from the same 2005 bond package that funded Dallas’ main homeless assistance center, The Bridge.

Don’t be fooled by the project’s name, the Cottages at Hickory Crossing, which conjures up images of hickory trees along a serene country road. These efficiency-size homes will be located amid blighted, empty lots and the DART maintenance station where Malcolm X Boulevard intersects with Interstates 30 and 45.

The tract is part of one of the largest, contiguous expanses of vacant property in Dallas’ urban core. This newspaper’s preference has been for a mixed-use development there, capable of luring retailers and urban dwellers across the psychological threshold that divides northern and southern Dallas along I-30. But the economic reality is that no such development will happen anytime soon.

The Central Dallas Community Development Corp. will work closely with CitySquare, the nonprofit previously known as Central Dallas Ministries, to provide not only housing and counseling but also health services and a food pantry for homeless and low-income individuals.

Years ago, another organization quietly tried to build a similar project on Malcolm X, not far from this site. The plan collapsed when local residents learned of it and protested the surreptitious route that its planners took to sneak it into existence. The cold reality is that no one wants to live next door to a facility for the chronically homeless.

John Greenan of the Central Dallas Community Development Corp. says Hickory Crossing came about with full consultation among community members, including on the other side of the freeway in Deep Ellum. There were no major objections, possibly because the site is in such an isolated area.

The project also won strong support from City Council members Pauline Medrano and Carolyn Davis, whose districts will be most affected by it. UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas plans to monitor the facility’s progress under a three-year study to gauge its effectiveness.

Dallas has 600 to 1,000 chronically homeless people. The cost of caring for them, according to some national studies, can range between $35,000 and $150,000 a year. It makes much more sense to give programs like Hickory Crossing a chance to put a dent in those numbers, rather than standing idly by and watching them grow.

The tract bounded by Interstates 30 and 45, Malcolm X and Louise sits largely isolated and has been vacant and blighted for years. A few light industrial businesses share nearby spaces along with the DART maintenance terminal at Malcolm X and Santa Fe. The closest South Dallas residential neighborhood is more than half a mile away, making this location ideal for an urban homeless housing project.


rcorum said...

Larry, I am proud of your desire to help people, especially those who are chronically homeless. You do not have to be a liberal or conservative to see the need for a true safety net for the type of homeless people that are described in this post. The stability that comes to a person who has a roof over their head is amazing. We all need to be reminded of the value to helping "the least of these." I wish more people who criticize you would also offer praise when it is due, and in this case it is truly due. I don't think you need the praise, but it is still the right thing to do.

Larry James said...

You are very kind, RC. No praise needed, desired or earned! Just a bit of hard work and a million meetings!