[Hpn] Homeless assistance shelter delays in Dallas

William Charles Tinker wtinker@metrocast.net
Fri, 21 May 2004 22:08:36 -0400


www.dallasnews.com

For homeless, more waiting for solutions

City can't decide on location, delays census and long-term plan

Friday, May 21, 2004

By KIM HORNER / The Dallas Morning News

It's been a year since Dallas voters approved $3 million in bonds for a
homeless assistance center. But a facility won't be opening any time soon.
And that's frustrating news - or lack of it - to some hoping for faster
solutions to Dallas' growing homelessness problem.
"They can't even decide where to put something," said Dallas resident Scott
Swoverland, who volunteers at the Stewpot downtown. "I'm very angry."
And the city has delayed making other decisions affecting the homeless.
A joint census by the city and the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance, a
coalition of people involved in homeless issues, which was to give more
detailed homeless figures, has yet to be released, though the results of the
Jan. 20 count originally were expected to be completed in February.
Officials with the homeless alliance have said that the delay is based in
part, on difficulty in compiling the information because of a small, mostly
volunteer staff. It is unclear when the numbers - which can affect how much
money the city receives in federal aid for the homeless - will be finalized.
In addition, a City Council vote on a proposed 10-year plan to end
homelessness also has been delayed. Although a draft of the plan was
introduced in February, Mayor Laura Miller wants to coordinate the final
vote with an announcement of a civic leader, a "hometown hero," who will
help raise additional money for the proposed homeless assistance facility,
said Crayton Webb, Ms. Miller's chief of staff.
The city postponed a vote on the homeless facility in February after three
suggested sites - in Deep Ellum, northwest Dallas and near the Lew Sterrett
Justice Center downtown - drew heavy opposition. Now the city is working to
identify a location that fits a new criterion: at least 1,000 feet away from
single-family homes and public or private elementary or secondary schools,
and at least a half-mile from any overnight shelter. The proposed facility
also would be within walking distance of public transit under the
recommendation.
City Council member Lois Finkelman, chairwoman of the council's Health,
Environment and Human Services Committee, which addresses homeless issues,
said the new guidelines may rule out some of the previously considered
sites.
"The realization is we will not find a single site that is going to be
acceptable to everybody," Ms. Finkelman said Friday. Some cities have had a
site donated to them, which made the site selection easier, she said.
Homeless advocate James Waghorne hopes the city will take action on the
homeless assistance center as soon as possible.
"Where are we now? We're probably a year and a half away," he speculated.
No date for the decision has been set.
As the homeless population continues to increase, city officials say the
city's small Day Resource Center downtown, which provides showers and some
social services, is leaning toward overcapacity. The city department that
deals with homelessness plans to request $78,000 in the 2004-2005 budget to
rent a temporary site to alleviate the problem. The city also plans to ask
for an additional $187,090 in the same fiscal year to hire four additional
outreach caseworkers.
Many homeless people sit in front of City Hall and other downtown spots
every day because the shelters don't allow them to stay there during the
day. The idea is to encourage them to find work, but often no one will hire
them. An estimated 51 percent of the city's chronic homeless - people who've
been on the streets for more than a year and often have substance abuse and
mental health problems - have criminal records that keep them from getting
jobs or apartments, according to a draft of the city's proposed 10-year plan
to end homelessness.

E-mail khorner@dallasnews.com