Dallas Must Include Faith-based Groups in Its Policy to Help Homeless People During Inclement Weather

The inclement weather policy recommendations from the Citizens Homelessness Commission is a great template. However, there is one glaring omission that will have a negative effect on the city. By disqualifying churches and religious organizations (the faith-based community) from participating, the city is not only eliminating a wealth of opportunities, this recommendation would be introducing discrimination into city policy.The faith-based community started the four largest emergency shelters in Dallas, including the Union Gospel Mission, Dallas Life, Salvation Army and Austin Street Center. Even the city's own shelter, the Bridge, which remains secular for good reason, was funded and built by city leaders committed to their faith.In recent times of inclement weather, it has been churches and religious organizations that have opened their doors to address these needs. These faith-based organizations have the staff, appropriate facilities, and countless volunteers to operate emergency shelters at a moment's notice.The new recommended policy does not allow any location that is located within 1,000 feet of a church to apply for this special-use permit to provide emergency shelter services. This illogical condition creates a category for discrimination in providing services for our most vulnerable citizens.At OurCalling, we share the same zoning as every church in this city. Our new facility has been running for over two years, and we have kept our doors open after-hours on any night when the temperature fell below freezing. Our open door policy has provided a warm alternative to hundreds of individuals, including many senior citizens and veterans. This is the right thing to do and we have a moral obligation to provide emergency services, even though we were issued a code violation.   Continue reading...

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