Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Lost in America - Join Us for a Must See Film

Lost in America Trailer
Every now and then, you come across a film so thoughtful, so compelling, so moving, that you become an evangelist for an issue. When my good friend, Chey Reynolds, Director of Development at our partner, City House, reached out to me about Lost in America, I had the feeling this might be one of those films, because she spoke so passionately about it. Then I saw it. Wow! I immediately texted Rebecca Cox, our Vice President, that she had to see it. I became an evangelist for it too! And, Rebecca had the same reaction. We both agreed with Chey, that it was vital that we bring this film to our community.  

It is our pleasure, therefore, City House and MDHA, to invite you to an exclusive fundraising and awareness event to see this phenomenal 97 minute documentary, that promises to take film festivals, this year, by storm, as well as inspire you to act on behalf of
homeless youth.  

Lost in America

Who: Rotimi Rainwater, the film's director and producer, will be in attendance, and there will be post-screening meet and greet and photo opportunities. 

When: Wednesday, February 22, 2017, 7.30pm

Angelika Film Center - Dallas, 5321 E. Mockingbird Ln., Dallas, TX 75206

Purchase tickets and read a full description at: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/lost-in-america-tickets-31497462759 (Your ticket price is a tax deductible donation, and proceeds will benefit homeless youth in Dallas and Collin Counties.) 

As Senator Patrick Leahy, a champion of homeless youth in Congress, says, "To make change, the public needs to know not just numbers, but faces and stories behind those numbers. 'Lost In America' is doing just that." This film is not for the faint of heart. It is real. It is raw. It inspires. And, YOU need to see it.  

We Knew We Could Count on YOU!

Wow. So THAT happened! That being the 2017 Homeless Count - the largest one in Texas history! We currently estimate that in Dallas County alone we had about 1,125 volunteers. (That means that about 86% of the 1,300 that registered showed up. My wedding planner friends tell me that 10-15% is, indeed, a typical no-show rate.) That does not include Collin County, or about 100 Dallas police officers, who escorted many of our teams.

There are so many people to thank. Thank you, first and foremost to each of our volunteers, and each of your organizations. We are overwhelmed by your generosity of spirit, and your giving of your time and energy. And a special thank you to our aforementioned brave men and women in blue!

Thank you to Rev. Linda Roby, her team and
First United Methodist Church Dallas, and Rev. Heather Mustain, her team, and Wilshire Baptist Church for hosting the main Count sites, for investing significant time and resources in making us feel like family, and for being indispensable in pulling off such a smooth dual site operation.

Thank you to Angela Lang, Ashley Brundage and everyone else at United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, who helped us with recruitment, publicity and coverage of this event.

Check out these great media pieces about the Count:

WFAA - Ashley Brundage Interview

Volunteers Will Count Homeless

Dallas Morning News - Tasha Tsiaperas
Street by street, alley by alley, volunteers count Dallas' homeless

Dallas Morning News - Robert Wilonsky
Once a year, Dallas' homeless count reminds us this is bigger than any of us can fathom - or bear

You can watch Facebook Live videos from the Count too, courtesy of United Way of Metropolitan Dallas:

Getting Ready
Tonight's the Night
Someone Lives Here 

Now, please mark your calendars for next year's Homeless Count, on Thursday, January 25, 2018. #dallascounts2018.  

Thursday, January 26, 2017

2017 Homeless Count Day is Here, by Cindy J. Crain, MDHA President and CEO

Some 1,300 volunteers will deploy throughout Dallas and Collin Counties tonight to conduct the 2017 census of persons experiencing homelessness.  This overwhelming volunteer response will represent the largest point in time count ever within one Continuum of Care in Texas.

Those kinds of numbers give us an opportunity to inform individuals on the nature and extent of homelessness first hand.

We go out to count the number of people who are experiencing homelessness at the same time we take an inventory of the housing we have available for them. 

These facts will allow us to articulate the extensive housing crisis that people in poverty, with disabling conditions, or a history in the criminal justice system face in Dallas and Collin Counties.

We will report out our findings on March 9 at the State of the Homeless Address and give the community a clearer picture of the nature and extent of the barriers people face in trying to secure a stable home.

As we go out tonight and look under bridges, along sidewalks, and in vehicles, we must resist the inclination from the encounter that the living condition is merely some defect of character or decision making.  We must understand that there are real institutional and economic forces that create disparities in access to resources of housing and healthcare which create a population of people who no longer have homes.

Can we change the hearts and minds of enough residents to resist the tendencies towards NIMBYism that all too often hold back the development of safe, quality, accessible and affordable housing?

Can we compel more to action that they will demonstratively give their local elected representatives the political backing they need to make the housing decisions that are the solutions to homelessness?

This is our opportunity to inform 1,300 volunteers and the public who watch, listen and read of the homeless count that Homelessness is what a housing crisis looks like.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Pointers and Reminders, with the 2017 Homeless Count upon Us

With the Homeless Count tomorrow night, we thought several general pointers and reminders might be appropriate.

First and foremost, what is the mission of the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance (MDHA)? We lead the development of a homeless response system that will make homelessness in Dallas and Collin Counties rare, brief and nonrecurring.
Second, under that mission, what is our role or roles in the community? We really have five different roles, shared by our equivalent organizations in every American community:

         Facilitate federal funding for homeless services programs totaling about $16.5 million annually

         Administer the Homeless Management Information System that drives improvement in federally funded homeless services programs, serving about 10,000 persons annually

         Maintain count of persons experiencing homelessness

        Unsheltered – That is what our volunteers will help us with Thursday night!
         Maintain inventory of housing and shelter beds for the homeless and formerly homeless

         Develop and quarterback an effective unified homeless response system, where all homeless services programs work together to make homelessness rare, brief and nonrecurring
Third, what are some dos and don’ts for social media Thursday night?

         Please post on Facebook referencing @MDHADallas and Tweet at @MDHA2 – the more the merrier!

         Please use hashtag #dallascounts2017

         Please use pictures of you and your team. They are each worth 1,000 words, after all!

         Please do NOT use pictures, names or any other identifiers of our friends who are experiencing homelessness.
Fourth, what can YOU do to help us end homelessness?

         Donate to MDHA

         Donate to the MDHA Flex Fund

         Volunteer for the Homeless Count every year

         Host Room in the Inn Allows houses of worship to not just help the homeless, but help end homelessness 

         Advocate for what works – low/no barrier shelters, permanent supportive housing, affordable housing and more

Thursday, January 5, 2017

The Story of Homelessness in Dallas Keeps Coming Back to One Simple Truth

It is my privilege to tell the story of the incredible work my twelve MDHA colleagues are doing, and beyond that the story of all those who play a part in our homeless response system. These include funders, policy makers, organizational management, case managers, and those experiencing homelessness themselves. Every time I write, from social media to grant requests, and every time I speak, from a one on one conversation to an invocation in front of hundreds, I try to tell the story of homelessness, and how we are working to make it rare, brief and nonrecurring. And every communication includes a call to action, be it implicit or explicit.

Now, this one overarching story of homelessness has many facets. Consequently, making homelessness rare, brief and nonrecurring, rarely involves silver bullets; it is usually all about silver buckshot. However, the more you carefully analyze the different facets of the problem and its solutions, the more you see that the same ideas, themes and challenges show up again and again.
Logo of United Way of Metropolitan Dallas
I noticed this again these last few days. I am currently working on a grant request we will be submitting shortly to United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, within the scope of their Basic Needs funding stream. We are seeking to renew their existing grant that provides funding for the MDHA Flex Fund.

If you know me, you know that I constantly talk about and write about the Flex Fund, which pays for minor but impactful expenditures that can help folks end their homelessness. We track every one of these expenditures in the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS), and we break them down into 16-17 different categories. This helps us better understand exactly what the current needs are. That way we, from the system level down to the case manager level, can better address those needs.

For the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas Basic Needs grant application, we are asked to produce detailed information not only regarding the individual solutions the Flex Fund provides, but also detailed demographic information about the population that is helped through the Flex Fund. Our HMIS team pored through the records, and gave me this demographic information, and one thing immediately jumped out at me.

The Flex Fund helped 129 persons or families during the second half of 2016, and here is their breakdown by race:
American Indian: 1
Asian: 1
Black: 87
Two or More Races: 5
White: 34
Unknown: 1
Without even calculating percentages, the number of persons of color, in general, and African-Americans, specifically, is immediately noticeable. When you actually do the math, and divide 87 by 129, the result is shocking yet eerily familiar – about 67%. If you are familiar with our previous posts on Racism and Homelessness, you have seen this percentage before. When we look at the homeless population, in Dallas County, as a whole, we find exactly the same percentage of African Americans!
Logo of the Unite Dallas Relief Fund
No matter what angle or facet of this problem we analyze, the story of homelessness in Dallas keeps coming back to one simple truth: Homelessness in Dallas, to our shame, is inextricably tied to race. Without addressing this, we won't be able to make homelessness rare, brief and nonrecurring. This is why United Way of Metropolitan Dallas' Unite Dallas Relief Fund awarded us $32,700 late last year to partner with the Center for Social Innovation and nine other cities to address Racism and Homelessness. Through this research and action program, we will begin to gain a better understanding of this problem, while we act to tackle it. That is the only way we can, in the words of United Way, lay “the foundation for a successful, just and united future in North Texas.”