Support and Opposition for New Dallas Homeless Facility

New $95 million Salvation Army facility planned on I-35E

Dallas City Council members Monday voiced support for a $95 million Salvation Army homeless facility proposed on Interstate 35E at Regal Row -- but some neighbors are not pleased.

The 20-acre location would replace the current Salvation Army shelter on Harry Hines Boulevard that opened more than 30 years ago.

"We have been over capacity since the day we opened," said executive director Blake Fetterman. "This facility was originally designed for 470 people each night and today we are sheltering 600 on a good weather day."

Fetterman said the old building was worn out, but still operated around the clock so renovation and repair would be extremely difficult.

The new facility would allow the Salvation Army to serve 1,000 more homeless people each year.

"But it's not just the beds that's important. It's the additional services that we're investing in, to help lift people out of homelessness, the jobs training, the medical care, the mental health care, the child care," Fetterman said.

Dallas City Council Members praised the plan at a Human and Social Needs Committee Briefing Monday.

"We issued a challenge and Salvation Army stepped up to the plate and accepted the challenge," committee chairman Casey Thomas said. "So we appreciate this. This is exactly what we need."

Tomima Edmark runs Andra Group, a firm with offices and warehouse space adjacent to the proposed Salvation Army site. Her firm is the parent company of online businesses HerRoom and HisRoom.

"Let's put our brakes on a little bit and really get a thoughtful and good solution here," she said.

Edmark has more than 100 employees in the neighborhood. She said documents she obtained from city records suggested past contamination problems at the site.

"If we're going to bring a homeless population up to this neighborhood, as well as my employees, we should know what that land contamination is," Edmark said. "I think there should be complete transparency."

Fetterman said all of the environmental issues had been thoroughly studied and there was no problem. The results were available to the Dallas Plan Commission which strongly endorsed the zoning change needed for the project on March 7.

"There is no perfect place, but this gets as close as we can," Fetterman said. "It's an industrial area. It's away from residential neighborhoods and we are very, very sensitive to the property owners around that area."

The Salvation Army promised walls and security to protect neighbors. Those measures pleased city council member Mark Clayton, who served as co-chairman of the mayor's poverty task force.

"I think it's smart to have it walled for a lot of reasons," Clayton said. "I think this thing will be a model for what success can be if you do that."

A full Dallas City Council vote on the zoning change is scheduled for April 10.

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