Monday, June 29, 2015

Stop Shaming and Blaming the Poor

I found this recent article on Slate tremendously edifying: The Church of Self-Help, by Helaine Olen. She really hits the nail on its head in that many of us attribute our success to our hard work, with not an ounce of luck thrown in. Now, that is definitely delusional, but probably does not hurt anyone aside from ourselves.

However, many of us take it a step further, and assume that the poor are where they are not because of circumstances or luck or other factors beyond their control. Oh, no. Since anyone in the good ‘ol U.S. of A can pull him or herself up by their bootstraps, the poor must be lazy and morally deficient. It is their fault that they are in the situation they are in. Of course, the “great” thing about this conclusion is that we don’t really need to, nay shouldn’t help those down on their luck. They don’t deserve it. It will only exacerbate their moral and financial failure.

How any of us, especially following the economic crisis of 2008 can still hold on to this view is mind-boggling! Two good reads that clarify this in a really clear way are Hand to Mouth and the Wealth of the Poor.

By the way, here is an interesting aside for fans of the Hebrew Bible:

In a way this is analogous to the Book of Job. It is very human of us to want to explain away everything in way that lets us feel comfortable. Job’s friends tell him that if indeed he has suffered all of the tragedies that have beset him, it must be because he has sinned to God. Job, on the other hand, says he has not. Just because bad things have happened to him, does not mean he did anything wrong. After many days of arguing, so goes the biblical story, God appears, says Job is right (and says a bunch of other things too), and commands the friends to repent and ask for Job’s forgiveness. Just because bad stuff happened does not mean it was his fault. QED. No wonder the Talmudic Rabbis state that this book was written by Moses himself…

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Hard Conversations - Coping with Tent City

MDHA presents Hard Conversations: Coping with Tent City, co-sponsored by CitySquare.
What: Over the past 15 years US cities have witnessed a resurgence of large durable homeless encampments, commonly called tent cities. While the policies leading to the emergence of homeless tent cities are largely identical across localities, the actions taken by communities and local governments in response to their persistence have varied widely.  Drawing on interviews with city officials, homeless advocates, service providers, and homeless campers in over a dozen West-Coast municipalities with tent cities, this session will provide lessons for Dallas as it copes with its own homeless encampments.
When: Friday, August 7, 2015, 12.00-1.30pm

Chris Herring, MA
Who: Mr. Chris Herring, a doctoral candidate of Sociology at the University of California Berkeley, and an editor of the Berkeley Journal of Sociology. He has a specific interest in the issue of tent cities, and has conducted illuminating research in this particular area.
Where:  United Way of Metropolitan Dallas (Citigroup Room), 1800 N. Lamar in Dallas. Water, and coffee will be provided, and attendees are encouraged to bring a brown-bag lunch. (No dark colored juices, please.) Space is limited. RSVP to David Gruber, MDHA Development and Communications Director, at 469-222-0047 or

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

A Hard Conversation That Is Making a Real Difference for LGBT Youth

This last Friday MDHA presented its second installment in its series titled Hard Conversations. As Cindy Crain, MDHA’s President and CEO, explained it is part of MDHA’s role to facilitate conversations on difficult issues, and bring these to the forefront. For this session, MDHA’s co-sponsor was Transpride Initiative.

In this session, titled “One Organization's Journey Toward LGBT Competency”, Dr. Sean Allen and Alan Schonborn of ACH Child and Family Services in Fort Worth described the process their organization has been going through since they discovered in 2012, that the word on the street was that they were not a safe place for gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender youth. They wanted to be a safe and welcoming place for all homeless and runaway youth, so they began a hard conversation, first amongst their staff, and then involving all other relevant stakeholders. 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. Allen and Schonborn were extremely frank about the fact that though they had had some great successes, there still was work to be done.

Dr. Sean Alllen (Courtesy of Bill Zeeble, KERA)
Perhaps the key takeaway was that many obstacles may be overcome in this process, if the focus is on outcomes. They shared cutting edge research from Dr. Caitlin Ryan and her colleagues at the Family Acceptance Project, that has guided and continues to guide ACH in their process. This research, “has linked health, mental health and well-being – including risk for suicide, substance abuse and HIV, and positive outcomes such as self-esteem – to behaviors that parents and caregivers use to express acceptance and rejection of their children’s LGBT identity.” Allen shared key facts from this research about how rates of suicide, substance abuse and HIV drastically drop, if families and caregivers eliminate rejecting behaviors, and accept youth for who they are. Since these are desired results for families and caregivers, regardless of personal beliefs regarding sexual orientation and gender identity, this focus has greatly helped ACH make progress, and Allen feels this would be key for any other organization embarking on a similar journey.

You may listen to and/or read an excellent piece about this session, by our friend, Bill Zeeble, on the KERA website:  How A Fort Worth Homeless Shelter Changed To Help LGBT Teens

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Dallas and Collin Counties Point in Time Homeless Count Report

Every year, one night during the last ten days of January, in accordance with U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requirements, we and our partners count those experiencing homelessness in the official Point-In-Time (PIT) Homeless Count and Census. We report the numbers to HUD, and produce a comprehensive report.

The 2015 MDHA PIT Count Report, which came out today, includes the numbers for both Dallas and Collin Counties: 2015 Dallas and Collin Counties PIT Count Report

The Collin County Homeless Coalition also produced a separate report earlier in 2015:

You may also access these reports, as well as past reports for comparison, on the Continuum of Care page of our website:

Monday, June 1, 2015

2015-2016 Continuum of Care Strategic Work Plan Building an Effective Homeless Response System

We are pleased to present you with the final version of this important document. The Continuum of Care Strategic Work Plan was developed from an examination of the January 2015 census and survey of persons experiencing homelessness, an inventory of housing availability for such persons, a system needs assessment survey of homeless service providers, and input received during committee meetings and a public forum. The Work Plan gives the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance and Continuum of Care leadership a road map to build a responsive and effective system of care to reduce the number of persons experiencing homelessness, length of stay and returns to homelessness. MDHA will report quarterly on the progress in completing the plan.