City Hall

The Good and Bad News Contained Within MDHA's "2011 State of Homelessness" Report

Leslie's at Dallas City Hall at this very moment, where Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance is announcing the formation of the Greater Dallas Homeless Policy Alliance, a partnership with the city and Dallas County intended to, among other things, find a way to get 1,800 permanent supportive housing units built by 2015 in a city where residents often balk at the prospect of living next to the formerly homeless. (See: Cliff Manor. Or: the St. Paul Apartments.) Today's presser,which will also introduce council member Jerry Allen as the alliance's chair, is no small affair: Mayor Mike Rawlings, the city's former homeless czar, is attending, along with council members, county commissioners, judges, Dallas Housing Authority higher-ups. Leslie will be along later with the thoughts of those in attendance.

This morning, MDHA is also releasing its 2011 State of Homelessness report, a copy of which follows. It's filled with news good and bad: Says the report by year's end there will be 2,000 permanent supportive housing units online, with 350 of them having opened in 2011 alone; and a new, bigger and better PSH plan is "ready to review with policy makers." But it also cites a Brookings Institution report, released two months ago, that notes a significant rise in the "suburban poor population" in and around Dallas:

Between 2000 and 2010, 85 of the nation's largest metro areas experienced a significant increase in their suburban poor population, and in 16 metro areas, including Atlanta, Austin, Dallas, Indianapolis, and Milwaukee, the suburban poor population more than doubled during that time. The recession merely served to accelerate the trend, as suburbs added 3.4 million poor from 2007 to 2010 -- 1.4 million more poor individuals than cities.
Per the MDHA, Collin County saw homelessness there increase by 106 percent last year, with many of those coming to Dallas to seek relief. Hence, says the report: "The Dallas area is in serious need of a regional solution for the planning, development and delivery of programs leading to recovery from homelessness." And the headers throughout the report speak for themselves: "The Shortage of Affordable Housing," "Cutbacks in Human Services," "The Challenge of Newly Homeless Individuals and Families," "Iraq/Afghanistan Veterans are Returning."

Then, there is the data itself, culled from the agency's "Point in Time Count" census: Per MDHA, 6,151 people in Dallas and Collin Counties combined were identified as being homeless on a single night -- January 27, 2011. "In Dallas County, 48 percent were women with children," says the report. "A total of 823 children were counted." That number has remained "fairly static over the last several years," says the report. But it's "high," too high, even with 2,000 formerly homeless living in permanent supportive housing.

Last night, president and CEO Mike Faenza told Unfair Park that the release of the report today, during this collaborative announcement, marks "a historic opportunity" that exists in large part "because of the momentum created by the establishment of The Bridge, a new recognition at the federal level and locally of the needs of homeless children, and the fact we have a mayor who's the former homeless czar and we have a group of elected officials who believe the homeless shouldn't be discriminated against in housing options."

Says Faenza, "We've learned to develop permanent supportive housing models here that have been successful across the board for individuals with disabilities and families where parents have mental disorders or addictions. The major challenge, if I had to name just one, is the fact our supportive housing programs -- and, really, the ongoing care for people with mental illness and addictions who are homeless -- come from a system that needs reform for us to be able to succeed.

"Our goal is to overtake chronic homelessness by 2015 and allow for stability. But our public mental health system is at the center of the question: Are we going to do something special in Dallas? That's where my highest anxierty is. I think we will overcome the stigma that comes with homelessness when it comes to housing. Our data is too strong, and we are building cadre of citizens who realize permanent supportive housing does not harm neighborhoods and can, in fact, add stability."

On that, more to come. Till then, the report is below.

MDHA 2011 State of Homelessness Report