Tuesday, April 28, 2015

A Penny for Your Thoughts...

At today's monthly Continuum of Care (CoC) Assembly meeting, MDHA's President and CEO, Cindy J. Crain, presented and distributed a draft of the Continuum of Care Strategic Work Plan, officially opening its public comment period. You are invited to download and study the plan, and share it with others. We welcome and encourage you to email us your thoughts, suggestions and comments, preferably utilizing this Public Comment Form. (Your feedback is really important to us, so if you prefer not to use the form and just want to shoot us an email, that's OK too.) You may send your form/comments to us at Cindy.Crain@mdhadallas.org or David.Gruber@mdhadallas.org. If "snail mail" is more convenient, feel free to mail your form to us at 2816 Swiss Ave., Dallas, Texas 75204.

Remember, the CoC Assembly meeting, usually held every fourth Tuesday of the month at 9.00am at the Center for Community Cooperation (Oak Room), is open to the public, though only members are eligible to vote. If you or your organization wants to become a member, you can download an application on our website: MDHA CoC Membership Application.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Lack of Political Will

Dr. Joseph Stiglitz
This episode of the Diane Rehm Show from earlier this week is sobering: http://thedianerehmshow.org/shows/2015-04-20/joseph-stiglitz-the-great-divide. Her guest, Nobel Prize winning economist, Dr. Joseph Stiglitz, talks about his new book, The Great Divide. Stiglitz clarifies what we all need to keep reminding ourselves: most of our economic problems, from unemployment to poverty to income inequality are due to a lack of political will. The “market” is not the reason we have these problems; they are the result of failed economic policies. The way out of this morass is to adopt new policies, rather than continuing to flog a dead horse. Unfortunately, we seem to lack the political will to do what it takes.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

A Creative, More Inclusive Use of Texas' RFRA

(Picture from Washington Post, Courtesy of Joan Cheever)
Much has been made of controversies surrounding state Religious Freedom Restoration Acts or RFRAs. Mainly we hear how various establishments wish to use these to deny someone service. A Texas woman recently found a more creative and inclusive use for Texas’s iteration of this type of law.

You may have already heard this fascinating story involving homeless advocate, Joan Cheever, who was ticketed in San Antonio for feeding the homeless: http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2015/04/20/what-happened-when-this-feisty-woman-got-fined-2000-for-feeding-the-homeless/. She is basing part of her defense on Texas’ Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the ruling given in 2013 right here in Dallas regarding feeding the homeless. Check that out: http://blogs.dallasobserver.com/unfairpark/2013/03/federal_judge_dallas_cant_keep.php.

These occurrences in Dallas and San Antonio seem to be cases where government attacks the symptoms created by a problem, instead of solving the underlying problem itself. Our good friend, CEO of CitySquare and MDHA Board Member reminded government officials a few months back that what we really need are real solutions. His op-ed is worth rereading. Check it out: http://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/latest-columns/20141114-larry-james-homeless-spirits-are-already-broken.ece. Wise and compassionate words from a wise and compassionate man!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance Launches New Quarterly “Hard Conversations” Series

This last Friday, April 10, 2015, the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance launched a new quarterly educational series titled “Hard Conversations” focusing on challenging issues related to homelessness. The inaugural conversation, presented in partnership with Austin Street Center was titled “The Victimization Experiences and Health Challenges of Women Who are Homeless”. Jan Langbein, CEO of Shelter Ministries, which includes Austin Street Center, opened the conversation, which was held at Austin Street, and introduced MDHA’s new President and CEO, Cindy J. Crain, who introduced the speakers.

Jan Langbein
Dr. Emily Spence Almaguer of the University of North Texas Health Science Center (UNTHSC) School of Public Health, and Ms. Gabrianna Saks, who earned her Master of Public Health at UNTHSC, presented extensive results of the study they conducted on this important issue. They walked the 110 professionals, funders, volunteers and homeless advocates in attendance, through their research process. This process involved the collection and analysis of detailed quantitative and qualitative data, gleaned from extensive interviews of approximately 150 homeless women in Tarrant County. They elaborated on how the results of the study provide a deep and detailed understanding of the violence and threats experienced by homeless women on the street and in emergency shelter settings.

Dr. Emily Spence Almaguer
The levels of violence and health concerns experienced by these women are eye-opening, with about 1 in 5 of the women suffering rape, and 2 out of 3 experiencing some type of violence or victimization. The levels of victimization amongst these women are many times higher than women in the general population, with four times as many women experiencing domestic abuse and five times as many suffering theft. Their health concerns are also acute, with 45% of the women reporting struggling with shortness of breath, 37% suffering chronic pain, and 27% reporting mental problems.

Spence-Almaguer and Saks presented not only findings but recommendations, some from the homeless women themselves, to address the challenges the study highlights. They also discussed the comprehensive effort undertaken in Tarrant County to follow these recommendations. These efforts involved integrating all of the systems of care that touch these women, from rape crisis centers to substance abuse treatment to homeless services, and using a trauma-informed approach to this issue. Trauma informed care, according to the Trauma Informed Care Project, is “an organizational structure and treatment framework that involves understanding, recognizing, and responding to the effects of all types of trauma.”

In practical terms this meant the community coming together and establishing 24/7 shelter for women, reducing women’s barriers to permanent housing solutions, integrating victim advocacy services with housing solutions, and reducing sources of community endangerment. Spence-Almaguer cited the aforementioned Crain, who until recently served as Executive Director of the Tarrant County Homeless Coalition, as instrumental in implementing many of the changes the speakers discussed. Spence-Almaguer took many questions, and in closing, challenged those present to take replicate what Tarrant County did in the Dallas area under Crain’s new leadership.

Wrapping up the event, Crain thanked Langbein, the speakers and all who attended, and gave a sneak preview of some of the topics yet to come in future “Hard Conversations”.  These will include how a community should deal with tent cities or homeless encampments, challenges specific to LGBT homeless, and how to address sex-offender homelessness. For a full slide show from this presentation click here: http://www.mdhadallas.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/The-Victimization-Experiences-and-Health-Challenges-of-Women-Who-Are-Homeless.pdf  

Monday, April 6, 2015

Think Differently

I love articles that make you think differently about a given issue. These articles hit that nail on its head. Check these out:

Former Miss Colorado USA Blair Griffith Details Her 'Double Life' As A Beauty Queen Who Ended Up Homeless - www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/04/01/miss-colorado-blair-griffith-homeless_n_6985232.html

From homelessness in London to the Dallas Cowboys: Efe Obada's remarkable journey - www.theguardian.com/sport/2015/apr/02/from-homelessness-in-london-to-the-dallas-cowboys-efe-obadas-remarkable-journey

Friday, April 3, 2015

In Collin County Everyone Counts

Yesterday morning I attended the regular monthly meeting of the Collin County Homeless Coalition (CCHC). This important group meets every first Thursday of the month at 9am at the Plano Municipal Center in the Building and Inspection Conference Room. Beginning in June, the meeting will move to the Plano Centre, as the current room can no longer accommodate the growing numbers of professionals, volunteers and concerned citizens who wish to attend.

The group’s chair, Stacy Brown, who is the City of Frisco’s Housing and Grants Manager, and MDHA board member, (and a passionate advocate of the homeless to boot!) distributed and discussed the Collin County Point in Time Count Report. It was a fascinating discussion. I just posted the full report on the CoC page of our website. Here is a direct link: http://www.mdhadallas.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Collin-County-PIT-Report-20151.pdf. You can check out the CCHC’s Facebook page (“Like” the page now, won’t you, please?) here: https://www.facebook.com/collinhomeless?fref=nf

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Homeless Encampments

Dr. Sharon Chamard
One of the most challenging issues related to homelessness is how to deal with homeless encampments. This issue was highlighted once again over the weekend with this AP story carried in the Fort Worth Star Telegram and other Texas papers: www.star-telegram.com/news/state/texas/article16623185.html . One of the reasons this is a challenging issue is that it does not lend itself very well to our “sound-bite, black and white, move quickly on to the next issue” nature of today’s fast-paced media. This is why I found Dr. Sharon Chamard’s thoughtful, objective, long form analysis of this issue, “Homeless Encampments” (Problem-Oriented Guides for Police - Problem-Specific Guides Series No. 56) at www.popcenter.org/problems/pdfs/homeless_encampments.pdf so invaluable. Make sure you check it out.