Monday, October 27, 2014

Leader in the Fight to End Homelessness Set to Retire, As Agency Prepares to Build on His Legacy

Dallas, Texas – Michael M. Faenza, President and CEO of the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance (MDHA), and a national leader in the area of mental health for the past 35 years, announced his retirement last week, effective January 1, 2015. He will remain with MDHA in a consulting role, as the agency searches for his successor. MDHA is an association of organizations devoted to ending homelessness in Dallas and Collin Counties, by putting people into homes. In order to end homelessness, it facilitates over $16,750,000 of annual federal funding, coordinates services, and drives improvement in more than 45 different transitional housing (TH), rapid rehousing (RRH), and permanent supportive housing (PSH) programs. 

Faenza, a distinguished alumnus of the University of Texas at Arlington Graduate School of Social Work, was a fixture of the Dallas social service scene from 1979 to 1993. He was the first vocational coordinator for Dallas County Mental Health Mental Retardation (MHMR), Executive and Clinical Director of the Letot Center for runaway youth, within the Dallas County Juvenile Department, and Executive Director of the Mental Health Association (MHA) of Greater Dallas. He was then elevated to President and CEO of the National MHA in Washington, D.C., a position he served in for 14 years.

Faenza returned to Dallas in 2007 to serve as the President and CEO of MDHA. Under Faenza’s leadership, MDHA took The Bridge, Dallas’ state of the art, $28 million homeless intake and service center, from a mere idea on paper to a fully functioning institution, that today serves as a model for other cities around the country. The Bridge was spun off as a separate non-profit three years ago. Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, then the Dallas “Homeless Czar”, reminisced fondly about that period, “Mike came to be my partner as we put together our long term vision to service the homeless many years ago. I enjoyed working with him and never have I met a man that has a bigger heart for those that don't have a voice.”

Larry James, President and CEO of CitySquare, and a MDHA board member emphasized Faenza’s decisive impact on Dallas, beyond The Bridge: “Working with the community to bring $17 million annually back to Dallas from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for use in providing permanent supportive housing, while creatively adding hundreds of units of housing for the homeless in partnership with the Dallas Housing Authority, Mike has distinguished himself as a fierce and innovative leader. MDHA wishes him only the best while acknowledging that he will be missed.” During his tenure at MDHA, Faenza oversaw an increase in PSH units of about 350%, from 600 to 2050, a continued drop in chronic homelessness to 65% below where it was in 2004, and an improvement of more than 30% in PSH services in just the last three years.

MaryAnn Russ, fellow board member of James, and President and CEO of the Dallas Housing Authority, echoed these sentiments earlier this year: “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. 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.”

Faenza has continuously emphasized that the fight against homelessness is just a piece of the puzzle, in the general fight against poverty. Earlier this year he stated, “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.” Indeed, throughout his tenure, it has been important to Faenza to remind the community that ending homelessness, will not make these larger problems go away.

Britton Banowsky, Commissioner of Conference USA, and Chair of the MDHA board, was effusive in his praise of Faenza, saying, “Mike's contribution to the homeless in our community cannot be overstated. His passion for the cause and years of dedicated service are a great example for all of us. MDHA and our many partners that support and provide service to the homeless are grateful for Mike's leadership. Our work is already underway to find his successor, who we expect to build on the great foundation in place and take the organization to an even higher level of service.”

Perhaps the most important indicator of Faenza’s success is how his staff feels upon his retirement. David Gruber, MDHA’s Development Manager, summed it up, saying, “I know I speak for all of us, when I say that Mike is not just a leader, but a true friend and a great inspiration to each one of us. His model of leadership is one, where the absolute focus is always on those who need help, giving a voice to the voiceless, without compromise. As a tribute to him, we will carry on his vision, and continue the fight to end homelessness in our community.”

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