By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
What, no lawsuit?: Civil rights lawyer Mike Daniel didn't even wait for us to ask a question when he answered the phone. So, he said laughing, the Observer wants to know where's the lawsuit in the fight over Cliff Manor, the Dallas Housing Authority apartment building at the center of a battle over what to do with the homeless.
Call us predictable, but that was our question. We can almost smell litigation on the breeze as the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance and DHA move ahead with projects to alleviate homelessness by providing—get this wacky idea—homes to the homeless.
DHA and MDHA planned to move 100 chronically homeless people into DHA's Cliff Manor apartments, providing them with "permanent supportive housing." These tenants would have caseworkers and care to help them with psychiatric issues or substance abuse recovery. Neighbors objected. City Hall stepped in. Daniel wrote a letter to DHA and MDHA pointing out that local government can't legally deny housing to people because of their disabilities. One compromise later, and now 50 fewer homes are available to the needy at Cliff Manor. That's 50 more homeless people still homeless, and some in Oak Cliff are still pissed.
Do you think it's over? Mike Faenza, director of the MDHA, which runs The Bridge homeless shelter, says his group hopes to find 600 residences for the formerly homeless this year. He also hopes to build community and church support. Buzz, being cynical, sees many NIMBY fights ahead as neighborhood groups push back against sharing their 'hoods with the least among us. So, we called Daniel, who surprisingly wasn't busy preparing a new lawsuit. (He's already litigating one against the state over a tax-credit program to develop low-income housing. Texas tends to locate much of such housing for minorities in non-white neighborhoods. Some might call that "segregation." Others might call trying to zone undesirables out of your neighborhood "redlining.")
Daniel says one problem facing permanent supportive housing is that Dallas lacks truly independent homeless advocacy groups to politick—or litigate—on behalf of the needy. MDHA does good work, but depends heavily on donor and city support. DHA's leadership is politically appointed. That leaves the council to take the lead in accelerating the pace of new housing for the homeless by backing tax credits for new developments and supporting DHA's and MDHA's efforts.
So it's up to City Hall to lend a hand to the needy and stare down neighborhood opposition. Good luck, homeless.