Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Jerry Springer Show Comes to the Cliff

Welcome to the Jerry Springer Show! The only thing last night's Town Hall Meeting in Oak Cliff lacked was chair throwing and hair pulling. For the first time in 22 years, I'm embarrassed to say I live in Oak Cliff. I'm embarrassed NOT because people are against this project, but because of the way they have been allowed to act about the issue. MDHA and DHA have done a terrible job working with Oak Cliff on this issue.....that is crystal clear. There are, however, several things that are NOT clear to me.

Such as:
  • Why did Dave Neumann front load the question line with citizens he knew are adamantly opposed to this project? Those of us who might have had voices of reasons didn't stand a chance and would have had to stay til midnight to get a word in edgewise.
  • Why hasn't Mr. Neumann met with citizens in Oak Cliff who either support the project or at least are not rabidly opposed to it? He has met only with those persons who are railing against the project. I've heard no call or request from him to hear the other side.
  • Why did Mr. Neumann allow the meeting to degenerate so quickly? As facilitator, he had a great opportunity to show his leadership as a representative of Oak Cliff. He failed miserably.
  • Why hasn't MDHA and DHA put together an educational power point showing research outcomes for permanent supportive housing and the impact on surrounding neighborhoods? The citizens of Oak Cliff are badly informed about this and need good, solid, credible information.
  • Why haven't MDHA, DHA, and LifeNet put together a formal presentation on how Cliff Manor will change for the better, exactly what services will be offered (kind, quantity, quality, frequency, etc.) and the impact it will have on the neighborhood? When asked those questions last night, the answers were vague and useless.
  • Why didn't Bob Stimson check his research on the saturation of group homes in Oak Cliff? The saturation in Oak Cliff is from unlicensed and/or illegal group homes, hotels, and flop houses; which I would fight against just as hard as anyone. Cliff Manor is not one of these.
  • If Mr. Neumann knew about this project for a full year, why wasn't he talking about it much sooner?

It's pretty bad when opponents of this project come to the table with more facts and figures (even if they are inaccurate) than the promoters of the project. This is definitely a lesson in how NOT to move permanent supportive housing into a neighborhood.

It is critical for those of us who support these projects to be totally prepared with excellent educational materials, credible facts, information on how the project will improve the surrounding neighborhood, and to be able to second-guess objections and answer them BEFORE the shouting starts. Just because DHA has the ability to move forward with this project without approval from the neighborhood, that is no excuse for inadequate preparation, unconcerned attitudes about neighborhood reaction, and re-iteration of federal law.

On the other hand, just because the introduction of this project has been handled very poorly, that is NO excuse for the behavior of my neighbors that occurred last night. I hold Mr. Neumann partially responsible for allowing it to occur, but ultimately, each citizen is responsible for his or her behavior. I think we need some lessons in manners!

In the end, if we are going to end chronic homelessness in Dallas through permanent supportive housing, which I totally support, we are going to have to do a MUCH better job of educating our neighbors and building strong relationships with ALL the neighborhoods in Dallas. Nobody likes surprises or having something crammed down their throat.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

HELP!!! Keep that Homeless Person Away From My Kid!!

Group seeks to stop plan for Oak Cliff apartments for homeless News for Dallas, Texas Dallas Morning News Oak Cliff News

So, all of a sudden, Oak Cliff folks are screaming about Cliff Manor Apartments housing chronically homeless adults, even though it has been housing very similar clientele forever. One of the primary arguments they put forth is the possible danger to school kids vis a vis the proximity of the apartments to area schools. It's like, all of a sudden, all of the perpetrators in Dallas will be moved into Cliff Manor and swoop down on the kids or sell them drugs or abduct them or god-knows what else. The companion argument is, why not let Cliff Manor continue to house senior citizens and disabled citizens.......as if, once you reach a certain age or if you're disabled, you can no longer be a perpetrator! Sorry folks, but grandpa (or grandma, for that matter) is just as likely to be a perpetrator as is chronically homeless Joe or Jane; and a disability hardly disqualifies you from being a perpetrator.

The folks who will live in Cliff Manor have NO greater chance of being terrible people than the ones already living there. In fact, they stand a much better chance of being productive, contributing citizens, because of the intense support services that will be available to them i.e., counseling, case management, psychiatric services, help finding jobs, etc. There are no such services available to the current residents.

There is also upset about some kind of permit being needed. Why now, when DHA has been operating this apartment building as is for years.....?

So are you really upset about the change in clientele, or is the upset because Mary Ann Russ, CEO of the Dallas Housing Authority, didn't come begging for approval from all 12 neighborhood association presidents who are so up in arms about this? Or, that she dared say that DHA did not require a permit to operate THEIR OWN building?

And, just so you know that I am not pointing my finger from afar, I live AND work in Oak Cliff and have for 22 years. Like all of you, I'm not crazy about this kind of housing, but homeless folks deserve a shot at life just like the rest of us. And this kind of set-up (housing with support services attached) is exactly what can give them that shot.

Here is my question. Would you rather have them living in Cliff Manor, getting lots of help......or in your alley, or park, or on your doorstep?? And, as I've said before, many of the chronically homeless are veterans who, in return for their service to our country, get to end up on the street.

How's that for patriotism on our part???

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Dallas Cowboys score often through charitable work | Sports News | News for Dallas, Texas | Dallas Morning News

Dallas Cowboys score often through charitable work Sports News News for Dallas, Texas Dallas Morning News

We're Crowing!!

Promise House has lots to crow about lately. Like proud parents, we are bursting at the seams with pride over the success of our graduates! Huge congratulations go out to the following teens for their commitment, tenacity, courage, and brilliance in overcoming countless obstacles and challenges to reach their goals:

Lorena - Valedictorian of Carter High School - Attending UT Austin in the fall with FULL scholarship!!

Courtney - Graduated from Duncanville High School and will attend community college in the fall.

Mustaque - Graduated from Grand Prairie High School. He would have been Salutatorian of his class except for the disruption to his classes while he was on the street. He will attend the University of Illinois on FULL scholarship!!

Shanqwuisia - Completed her GED

Ashley - Graduated from High School

Joseph - Graduated from DeSoto High School

Shanita - Graduated from Dental Assistant School

Congratulations go out, also, to the Promise House staff who work directly with these teens every day. It is because of your belief in their promise that each of these teens was able to succeed. I hope you know what a powerful presence in their lives you are.

I've said so many times how much we love these kids. Teens get such a bad rap on so many levels. Yet, here is living proof of the unstoppable spirit and strength of even the most challenged.

We expect great things from each of our teens. And if they stay with us, work the program, do the deal, they succeed beyond their wildest imaginings.

I've often said that we have future astronauts, artists, architects, teachers, actors, and even a U.S. President or two at Promise House. Well, I think Lorena may just end up in the White House as the first female U.S. President. Wouldn't that be something (but no pressure, Lorena!).

Whatever these kids choose for their futures, they will succeed. And most importantly, I know they will lend a helping hand to kids coming up behind them bearing similar burdens, facing similar challenges.

THAT is TRUE success.