Tuesday, September 16, 2014

So, Why Again Should I Give to MDHA on North Texas Giving Day?

Well, by law the only way our community can continue to get almost $17,000,000 of federal funding for housing programs for those experiencing homelessness, is if MDHA continues to exist, nay thrive. And, the federal government foots that very large $17,000,000 bill for those housing programs, but expects the community (that’s you and me!) to fund the much smaller cost of mechanism for getting it, MDHA. Beyond that, just look at what MDHA has accomplished with its partners, a 65% reduction in chronic homelessness, a 1200% increase in permanent supportive housing (PSH - 2000 units now!), and a public investment by DHA in housing 3400 formerly homeless individuals and families at an annual value of $28,000,000, and much much more. And, you know what? You ain’t seen nothing yet. We will add another 1800 units of PSH, and we will end chronic homelessness by the end of 2016; you just wait and see. That is why you should give to MDHA.

Just click here on September 18, 2014: https://northtexasgivingday.org/#npo/metro-dallas-homeless-alliance

or here the other 364 days of the year:

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Defending a Basic Right by Charles Gulley, Vice President of Programs, MDHA

It is unfortunate that time must be spent defending a basic right that belongs to all human beings in the free world, i.e. the right to live where one wishes to live. In Frisco, there are those who believe that developing restrictive covenants or deed restrictions provide protective immunity to practices of institutional classism, making the bold assumption that persons from lower socio-economic strata would lower property values.

This past week, the Dallas Morning News released the 2014 Point-in-Time Homeless Census Count that shows a trend of increasing homelessness among families, women with children, and youth.  Several studies over the past decade and a half have shown the Dallas area lacking affordable housing for low-income households. The lack of affordable housing, coupled with those who would restrict where persons could live, only exacerbates the problem of homelessness. Unless preventative measures are taken like those being exercised by City House, i.e. housing the homeless to improve persons lives, homeless numbers are bound to grow. If HOAs and other communities can deed restrict communities and deed restrict the use of those properties to keep certain groups out, where are people supposed to live? Where will families and young adults live who need to stabilize their living conditions to improve their lives?

The disregard of inalienable rights of human beings being subordinated to the maintenance of property values cast a dark shadow on the HOA and Frisco, leaving way to charges of societal prejudice and class discrimination. Fair housing laws must be invoked to protect the rights of those who only want a place to live. There is no evidence that City House’s action of moving into the Frisco neighborhood has negatively impacted any property values.

Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance stands in support of City House’s right to own and occupy a house in that Frisco neighborhood and any neighborhood of their choice. With increasing homelessness among certain groups and a short supply of affordable housing, restricting where people can live just to protect property values is, first and foremost, humanely wrong. Second, it is not good for the Dallas area if we want to stop homelessness and assist persons to become productive citizens. The legal action being taken by the HOA will only hurt the region’s image and the region’s attempt to overcome homelessness, poverty, and other associated societal problems.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The "Pattonization" of American Life

One of the most fascinating movies ever made is “Patton”. I recently rewatched it, and though the style is a little different than what we are used to today, for the most part it holds up, especially the tour de force performance of George C. Scott. The movie gives a very objective picture of the general, as one of those responsible for the Allied victory in Europe, but also as a greatly flawed man, who himself vacillates between dreams of greatness and awareness of his shortcomings.

The film begins with Patton facing an audience of soldiers, who we never see only hear, as the camera gives a POV shot of the general speaking to the audience. If all you did was watch that speech, you would get the essence of the movie and of Patton, the man. It strikes me, as an American who grew up abroad, and at times looks at America’s character as an outsider, that you get the essence of America’s internal struggle with itself from that very speech, and that that speech and Patton himself is a stand in for America writ large.

One of the most central points in both the speech and the movie, is Patton’s contention that “all real Americans love to fight,” and that we “love a winner,” and “abhor a loser.” It is clear and explicit that he believes that this is true in all instances, at peace or at war. General Omar Bradley, tells him that the difference between them is that while he, Bradley, does what he does because he was trained and he is good at it, Patton does it because he loves war. What we see in the film is that because of this approach, Patton is the perfect blunt instrument in the careful hands of his commanders on the battlefield, but an utter failure in almost every other situation.

Why is this? Why is Patton’s approach so patently wrong? Simply put, it is because except if you are fighting fascism (where ironically war is the lifeblood of society), you really don’t want to “fight”. You really don’t want there to be a winner and a loser. What you really want is to create as many win-win situations for everyone. That is what leads to success and happiness for as many people as possible, which should be the purpose of a democratic civilized society.

What we see today, as opposed to the war and post war period, is that all too often Patton’s erroneous approach is put into practice in our society, particularly in the economic realm. The examples are all around us. Corporate tycoons paying a smaller percentage of their income in taxes than their workers do; companies never getting off the dole, while the social safety net is gradually shredded; a small percentage of our population controlling more and more of the wealth, while on the opposite end of the spectrum poverty grows, and with it another generation laid to waste.

Patton’s old commander, Eisenhower, warned us in his parting words to the nation to beware the military-industrial complex. He told that if we did not pay attention, this faceless menace would overpower us. In fact, much worse has happened, we have adopted a military thinking, that tells us that if others don’t lose, we have not really won. We can do better. We must.

Monday, September 8, 2014

How About You Pick on Someone Your Own Size?!

Remember when you were a kid, and a bully picked on a kid much younger than him? You probably said in an indignant voice, "Hey! How about you pick on someone your own size?" That is what I (David Gruber) want to say to a few of my fellow Frisco residents in this infuriating story from the Dallas Morning News about a homeowners association in Frisco suing our partner, City House: http://www.dallasnews.com/news/community-news/frisco/headlines/20140905-suit-seeks-to-block-homeless-youths-from-frisco-neighborhood.ece

One of the wonderful programs City House has is a housing programs for teens and young adults, experiencing homelessness. These single gender groups live together, learn valuable life skills, and learn or work in the community, all under the supervision of a trained adult, who lives with them. They have been running this program in Plano, with nary a negative comment, for years now.

They identified a need for this program in Frisco too, and have already put in a lot of time and money into opening such a home in Frisco for young women. Now, instead of moving the young women into the home, they must contend with a lawsuit from the homeowners association, where the home is located, who seek to block them from moving the young women in. Fortunately, MDHA Corporate Champion, Strasburger & Price, has stepped up to the plate, and is representing them. We, at MDHA, wish City House and Strasburger & Price the best of luck in defeating this lawsuit.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

76 Fewer Homeless Veterans in Dallas!

Paula Maroney –
DHA and the VA issued VASH (Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing) vouchers to 76 homeless veterans yesterday! Thanks to the Veterans Resource Center for staying open after normal business hours to accommodate the number who attended the event. Plans are to repeat the event on September 18 in order to reach the goal of issuing 100 vouchers this month. Also, a big thanks goes to CitySquare for providing lunch yesterday to the veterans waiting to meet with case workers. This is an example of the Continuum of Care working together to end veterans’ homelessness in 2015!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

DHA and the VA Partner to House Vets Experiencing Homelessness

Paula Maroney, Director of Continuum of Care –

Today the Dallas Housing Authority (DHA) along with the Veterans Affairs (VA) North Texas Health Care System is hosting an event at the Veterans Resource Center with the goal of housing 100 veterans experiencing homelessness. Early today the waiting room was filled with veterans waiting to meet with VA social workers and have their applications quickly processed by DHA. It is encouraging to see two great organizations working together to help end veterans’ homelessness by the end of 2015.


Monday, September 1, 2014

Annual Census Highlights Dallas’s Successes and Challenges in the Fight to End Homelessness

Dallas, Texas - The report on the 2014 federally mandated Point-In-Time Homeless Count and Census, conducted by the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance (MDHA), highlights a number of figures that give Mike Faenza, MDHA’s President and CEO, great satisfaction. “Since 2005, we, in Dallas, have decreased chronic homelessness by 65%, and the number of people sleeping outdoors by about 50%,” said Faenza, in an exclusive interview with the Dallas Morning News.  The federal government defines persons who have been homeless for a year and have a disability, as chronically homeless. “We accomplished this through increasing permanent supportive housing (PSH) units by 1200% to over 2000 units in that same time frame,” Faenza said, “PSH works, and through this evidence based solution, we will end chronic homelessness here in Dallas.”
MDHA, perhaps most well-known for launching and operating The Bridge, a $28 million homeless intake center in Dallas, before spinning it off as a separate non-profit at the end of 2011, is an alliance of non-profit organizations devoted to ending homelessness in Dallas and Collin Counties. It facilitates about $17,000,000 of annual federal funding, coordinates services and through the use of a sophisticated software system, drives improvement in more than 45 different housing programs, run by over 20 different non-profit and local government grantees. Its momentum is felt well beyond these specific programs. “Due to our partnership with MDHA, we prioritized the housing of those experiencing homelessness, and have so far housed more than 3400 formerly homeless individuals and families,” said MaryAnn Russ, President and CEO of the Dallas Housing Authority and a MDHA board member. “In monetary terms, with an average rent of $700 per month, our investment tops $28,000,000 annually. This would not be happening, if not for Faenza and MDHA’s forward thinking.”

The Count
Every year, across the nation, at the end of January, organizations like MDHA count the people experiencing homelessness in each and every community. Here in Dallas, partner agencies and MDHA grantees count guests and residents in shelters and housing sites, while more than 200 community volunteers, with the help of Dallas police officers locate and count those living outdoors. Similar counts are conducted by the Collin County Homeless Coalition and by the cities of Garland, Irving and Mesquite. The cost of this huge operation in Dallas is subsidized by the Real Estate Council Foundation.

The Data
Those experiencing homelessness are asked to fill out surveys to gather important information to help assess their needs, and better serve them. This information complements data MDHA gathers and analyzes all year round from each federally funded homeless program, through a Homeless Management Information System (HMIS). Each provider, as well as the continuum as a whole receives a monthly letter grade, based on this data. This system has allowed MDHA to improve PSH services by over 30% in just two years.

Britton Banowsky, Commissioner of Conference USA, and Chair of the MDHA board, is cautiously optimistic, but mindful of the challenges ahead, “Our goal is simple. We want to find an adequate housing solution for all homeless people in our community. We continue to make great progress, but we have a long way to go and need everyone's help to get there.” The report echoes Banowsky’s note of caution, and emphasizes a number of trends, which come as no surprise to MDHA staff, including an increase in the total number of people experiencing homelessness, including families with children, and an unacceptably high number of veterans experiencing homelessness. MDHA works with a number of programs that specifically target families and veterans, and in 2015 will begin facilitating funding for some Rapid Rehousing programs. Rapid Re-Housing programs are designed to quickly re-house those families and individuals about to experience homelessness, or who have recently begun to experience homelessness, before the effects resulting from homelessness can negatively impact them.

Faenza emphasizes that the fight against homelessness is just a piece of the puzzle. “Dallas still has some of the highest poverty rates in the country, affordable housing is scarce, and the mental health provider reimbursement system is dismally underfunded. We firmly believe we can lower the rate of chronic homelessness to zero, but that will not make these larger problems go away.”   

Strategic Stewardship
As the steward of the largest source of funding for those experiencing homelessness in Dallas, MDHA is strategic and frugal regarding the funds it brings to Dallas and Collin Counties. “Carefully spending federal money on evidence-based programs is ultimately better for everyone, including the American taxpayer,” said David Gruber, MDHA’s Development Manager, “Obviously, this is a moral issue, first and foremost. However, if you are concerned about government spending, you will want to support these programs even more. Research shows that the most cost-effective solution to homelessness is putting people back into homes, and that leads to less, not more, government spending.” MDHA intends to add another 1800 PSH units by the end of 2016, and through that end chronic homelessness in Dallas and Collin Counties.