City Hall’s Tone-deaf Homeless Plan Left Lake Highlands in the Lurch

We wish Dallas City Hall would have been more sensitive to its residents and neighborhoods when it decided to propose transitional and permanent supportive housing for the homeless in Lake Highlands. What’s clear is the city was anything but sensitive when it inexplicably moved ahead with a plan to construct a homeless support facility along Greenville Avenue near Forest Lane without first getting community support. Is it any wonder neighbors balked?Dallas’ homeless challenge requires all of us to help solve it, and the city’s misstep is a major setback. City Manager T.C. Broadnax cited the lack of transparency on his watch for his decision to pull the proposal to provide wraparound services for chronically homeless, families with children and the disabled on the city-owned site. City staff dropped the ball. They failed to provide promised follow-up and outreach to Lake Highlands residents, including City Council member Adam McGough. That fostered neighborhood suspicion and doomed the plan before it began. Finding a site for this sort of project was never going to be easy, but this flawed process represents gross incompetence, bureaucratic arrogance or both on a key issue facing the city. The city had intended to use $20 million from a bond issue as seed money to encourage a developer to provide new permanent, supportive housing units and had estimated that it needs 1,000 such units. Done right, this could have been a good start on answering that need. But it was done oh so wrong.Compare City Hall’s bumbling to the Salvation Army’s recently approved plan to build a $95 million, 20-acre campus along North Stemmons Freeway with private donations that would have provided some housing and other essential homeless services. That proposal initially met with massive resistance. But collaboration won out in the end, to the benefit of all. The Lake Highlands plan would have built upon that commitment to add housing units and services.There is no simple solution to homelessness. Nationally, best practices include providing temporary shelter, permanent housing and support resources tailored to individual needs. Getting people off the streets into a safe environment to treat medical issues and drug addiction is key, and that requires an adequate number of available units.The city must be smart, collaborative and transparent to build community support. And that is what the city failed to do in Lake Highlands. The city now will reset its homeless strategy, hopefully having learned from this tone-deaf mistake.   Continue reading...

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