Despite Delays, Dallas Homeless Project Has First Success Story

Each day on his way to his construction job, Markeith passes the city's homeless.

He walks right past tent city to a development just as ambitious as the Dallas skyline. The Cottages of Hickory Crossing are a housing-first option to tackle the city's homeless population. When complete, the village of houses will provided a permanent home for 50 homeless people.

"We're going to be able to take 50 individuals off the street and give them a safe place to live and return the integrity and dignity that they so much deserve," said Keith Ackerman, director of the Cottages of Hickory Crossing.

Markeith is one of many construction workers committed to seeing the project finished.

"There's a lot of people that need a place like this," said Markeith. "It's going to help a lot of people."

Once complete, it will house the city's most vulnerable and most at risk of dying on the streets and provide them with on-site medical care, psychiatric care and more. The goal of the nearly $7 million project is to help people and save money in the long run by keeping this critical population out of Dallas County emergency rooms and jail.

Repeated rains and delays in construction materials have pushed back the move-in date to next year, but already the project has one success story: Markeith.

Markeith has lived in a tent just down from the development over the last three years. He once had a home and steady work, but drugs and bad decisions led to prison and life on the street until one day he walked on the construction site and started talking.

"I didn't want to just keep panhandling or asking people for something," he said. "I really wanted a job."

"When I first met him I could just tell he had a good heart," said contractor Johnny Arnold. "People get down on their luck and everybody deserves a second chance."

The construction crew gave Markeith that chance and, for the last six months, he's shown up every day eager to work.

"They tell me every day, 'We're doing this for you, so you can give back to someone else,'" Markeith said. "And I hope to do that one day."

What Markeith did not know — and what our NBC 5 crew did not know — is the men who gave him a job were ready to welcome him home.

On the morning NBC 5 came to shoot a story on the project, the crew received a critical phone call letting them know Markeith had been approved for housing and, for the last few weeks, the crew had been collecting items to furnish Markeith's future home.

The news brought tears to every guy wearing a hard hat.

"God is good," Markeith said. "Can't believe I'm going to get off the street."

The Cottages at Hickory Crossing are expected be complete in February. Once finished, Markeith will have a full-time maintenance job and wants to serve as a mentor to others in need.

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