It’s been two months since The Bridge, Dallas’s new homeless center, opened, and already there are noticeable results. As Central Dallas Ministries' CEO Larry James points out on his blog this morning, The Bridge has effectively removed hundreds of people from the streets of downtown:
“Driving down Young Street toward City Hall during the day, you can observe the noticeable disappearance of a large number of homeless persons, though a handful persist in camping in their old familiar places. We're also told that ‘criminal activity’ in the Downtown area has dropped significantly. Most of the eliminated offenses are acts of vagrancy that simply have to do with being human. Still, The Bridge provides a place of some respite, support and resources for those who are there.”
Yet for all The Bridge has accomplished, James believes it is doomed to fail unless the city of Dallas builds more affordable housing. James visited The Bridge last week. In his words, he wanted to be there at night, to be inside after the gates closed. Already, James says, the place is overwhelmed.
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“Too many people in need, too little space, staff and resources to meet the demand. ... I came away with one fundamental understanding: as a community, we must develop, build, open hundreds of additional units of housing for the homeless. Additional housing resources will bring the numbers down at The Bridge. Permanent housing units will open the transitional function of The Bridge to the possibility of success.”
Yet despite that need, as we noted last week, the city of Dallas is poised to cut funding to a program that that restored and improved almost 700 homes between October 2006 and June 9, 2008.
“Housing first should become our mantra. Those who need special services can be assisted in finding them, but only AFTER they are housed. We must find ways to break the logjam at The Bridge. To me, the solution is very clear: new determination coupled with a new vision for how we respond to the poorest among us.“
And, no doubt, that is why James this morning is sending out e-mails directing folks to this Central Dallas Ministries Web site containing a video about Destination Home, which gives the homeless a "permanent place to live." And, yes, CDM is soliciting donations for the program. --Jesse Hyde