Efforts to end homelessness in Dallas face a number of obstacles, most of which appear in the form of what I call "unsatisfying half measures." Here's another of those:
When it comes to homelessness and solutions, we continue to go out "on the cheap."
Oh, we talk about all that we're doing, all that we've done, all that we plan to do. We populate endless PowerPoint presentations with full-color photos and lots of number-laden charts and graphs, supposedly mapping our "progress."
The fact is we need more money, hard cash to really cut into the problems we face in overcoming homelessness in Dallas.
We need more funding for the development of much-needed, additional permanent supportive housing units--new construction and creative renovations.
We need additional funding for leasing existing apartments out in the private housing market of our community.
We need funding for adequate case management. On this one, I believe if we employ Housing First models that include focused case management services (read "concierge" just here) we can have great impact with fewer workers than some social work professionals believe. Our problem is we haven't really given this approach a fair chance as a community.
We need funding to communicate the challenges to our entire community. And, we need funds to authorize a modest amount of research to demonstrate the amazing impact of permanent supportive housing on the overall crisis and relief of homelessness.
On the funding side in terms of sources, I believe we need to include funding for the city's Housing Trust Fund in our next bond issue/election. Before the "crash of 2008," Mayor Leppert was thinking in terms of a $50 million bond fund for this purpose. That would have been a good start. The idea is smart.
We need advocates from our city to press on the state of Texas to begin to develop special new, tax credit financial "products" for developers wanting the deliver permanent housing units to cities like Dallas. Permanent supportive housing units for homeless persons should not be lumped together with other affordable housing finance decisions, but deserve a special, new category all their own.
Finally, when it comes to innovation, I've thought for a long time that real estate closing transactions across the state should include a $.50 or $1.00 filing fee that could fund a state housing trust fund for developers of permanent supportive housing for formerly homeless persons. Real estate folks don't like the idea, seeing it as a "slippery slope" to more and more fees for causes. But the legislation could be styled to restrict such fund development policy to only this purpose.
In general, what's called for is a new community commitment.
People should not be living on our streets or in emergency shelters for years.
We can solve this problem.
But to do so, we must give up on "unsatisfying half measures."