Friday, May 22, 2015

The State of the Homeless Address

On Tuesday evening, May 19, 2015, MDHA held a VIP reception on the eve of the State of the Homeless Address. About 60 MDHA board members and staff, city and county elected and appointed officials, foundation and non-profit agency leaders, and MDHA Champions, were treated to a preview of the State of the Homeless Address in the Pecan Room at Old Parkland, courtesy of the Dallas Foundation. On Wednesday morning, May 20, 2015, MDHA held the State of the Homeless Address, under the auspices of the Dallas area Continuum of Care. More than 110 professionals, volunteers, consumers and concerned citizens gathered to take part in this important conversation, at Goodwill Industries.

In both sessions, Cindy J. Crain, President and CEO of MDHA, walked the assembled through key results of the 2015 Point-In-Time Homeless Count, conducted in late January. She spoke about how all people of good will working to end homelessness needed to band together into a true homelessness response system. She elaborated on the demand for housing (showcased through the Count), the supply of housing, the needs highlighted by consumers and the gaps shown through a survey of providers.

Cindy J. Crain, MDHA President and CEO
Courtesy of Rose Baca, Dallas Morning News

Cindy discussed the detailed the strategic work plan that MDHA will use to guide its work, and highlighted four “Big Needs” as paramount moving forward:

1) Single open Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) – We can’t know anything meaningful about the true nature of homelessness if we don’t have unsheltered and emergency sheltered data in the system;

2) Quality training for case managers;

3) Flexible “Fund of Last Resort” – This fund would pay for the “little things” that help people self-resolve their homelessness, such as critical documents, bus passes, certification exams, food handlers licenses, security deposits, car repairs, mattresses and more;

4) Coordinated Assessment/Access System – This system would divert those who do not need housing and can self-resolve, and it would be integrated into the HMIS system, include standardized assessment, client prioritization and placement into housing expeditiously.

For the full Power Point presentation of Cindy’s address, click here: SOHA Presentation 5-20-2015

For the second draft of the CoC strategic work plan, distributed at the address, click here: CoCSP 2015-2016 DRAFT V2 Final

For a Dallas Morning News piece on the State of the Homeless Address click here:

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Group Homes

One of the forums I learn the most from is MDHA's Alliance Homeless Forum. Why is that? Because if you want to learn about homelessness... ask those who are/were homeless! This forum is organized by Ryan Dotson, Claire Nilson and Ricky Redd, with the able assistance of Shavon Moore, our Continuum of Care Program Coordinator.

During the last meeting, Ricky, a consumer and MDHA board member, shared his experiences and perspective on group or boarding homes. This was very enlightening to me personally, as I did not know a whole lot about this type of living arrangement. He explained that this type of home is usually most appropriate for those who have a disability. The home typically provides each person a bed, and a place to store belongings. It has communal areas for meals and sometimes for recreation. The residents pay a few hundred dollars in return.

Ricky pointed out that not all group homes are "created equal," and recommended a general "buyer beware" approach. Obviously, Ricky warned, one should never stay at an unlicensed home. Claire pointed out that closing down a home or revoking a license due to legal violations, usually necessitates a proactive complaint to the city. She has been active in visiting homes to help out with this, and courageously managed to bring about the closing of a few sub-par homes.

Ricky further warned, that many licensed homes do not provide adequate food, and many more provide few recreational opportunities. One more important recommendation he had was to not allow the group home to be a representative payee for social security or other types of benefits. The only specific home Ricky felt comfortable recommending by name was the aptly named Friendly Manor.

To learn more about the Alliance Homeless Forum, feel free to email Shavon at It is usually held on the second Friday of every month on the 5th floor of the Central Dallas Public Library.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance Announces Next Installment of “Hard Conversations”

On April 10, 2015, the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance (MDHA) launched a new quarterly educational series titled “Hard Conversations” focusing on challenging issues related to homelessness. The inaugural session, presented in partnership with Austin Street Center was titled “The Victimization Experiences and Health Challenges of Women Who are Homeless”, drew more than 110 professionals, funders, volunteers and homeless advocates. MDHA is pleased to announce its next installment in this series. 
Sean Allen
 “Hard Conversations: One Organization's Journey Toward LGBT Competency” – In 2012 ACH Child and Family Services in Fort Worth started a hard conversation among its leadership and staff. They wanted to be a safe and welcoming place for all homeless and runaway youth, but why was the word on the street that they were not a safe place for gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender youth? They took a long hard look at themselves as an organization, reviewed the research, and initiated a change process that shifted their culture from one of LGBT-rejection to one of LGBT-acceptance. In this presentation, Sean Allen, Ph.D., and Alan Schonborn of ACH will describe the change process, share some key successes and give a frank assessment of the work that remains to be done.
Alan Schonborn
This session, presented in partnership with Trans Pride Initiative, will be held on June 19, 2015, 12.00-1.30pm, in the Oak Room of the Center for Community Cooperation, 2900 Live Oak St., Dallas, Texas 75204. Water, tea, and lemonade will be provided, and attendees are encouraged to bring a brown-bag lunch. (CCC requests that lunch not be delivered, and dark colored juices not be brought in.) Space is limited. RSVP to David Gruber, MDHA Development Manager, at 469-222-0047 or

Sunday, May 17, 2015

De Facto Discrimination - Not an Accident

This episode of Fresh Air reminds us that de facto housing segregation and racial wealth disparity today is not an accident: Rather, it is the result of de jure government policies at every level. The implication is clear. The government (read: us) "broke it", and so we "bought it". We just lack the political will to do it.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Dallas Public Library - First Annual Community Forum: Re-Defining Community: One Conversation at a Time

Wow! This was an incredible program, organized by the Dallas Public Library's H.E.L.P. Homeless Engagement & Leadership Program. We, at MDHA, were privileged to be one of the co-sponsors. 

H.E.L.P. is a robust initiative, that conducts an array of library programs for those experiencing homeless. They promote social interaction and inclusion, and provide individualized assistance with information, referral, resume writing and job applications. You can't miss the H.E.L.P. desk on the first floor of the central branch.

I love origin stories of individuals and organizations. The origin story of H.E.L.P. is beautiful and simple. When Jo Giudice became the Director of Libraries a little more than two years ago, she was of course cognizant of the many interactions libraries have with the homeless. She just decided they should be positive! So, she led the library in doing just that. It started with simple Coffee &Conversation. It now includes Game Day, Throwback Thursday Movies, Music Classes, Urban Photography and even the popular Street View Podcast. The main thing, though, is just the positive proactive welcoming approach.

After Jo welcomed everyone, Shavon Moore, our Continuum of Care Program Coordinator, spoke eloquently about homelessness in Dallas, our annual Point in Time Homeless Count, and how MDHA is ending homelessness. The keynote was "We Are All Homeless" delivered by artist and SMU professor, Willie Baronet. He passed out signs he has been buying from folks standing on street corners, and showed art he had created from some of these. He discussed, at length, an extensive 7620 mile road trip to buy more signs, and a documentary he is creating about this experience, the folks he met along the way, and what he learned from them. You can learn more about this at

Next was a very meaningful community panel, a lunch and group discussion, and a ribbon-cutting for the new community exchange area on the first floor of the Central Library, and its centerpiece a beautiful mural. Check out this article in the DMN for more about this: Don't forget to visit, admire and engage, when you have a chance!